The EV market swings like a pendulum. Two decades ago, the most popular electric vehicles were dorky, frumpy econocars leased to dorky, frumpy trust fund hippies – the main public need not apply. One decade ago, the most popular EVs were expensive, attractive status symbols that, again, were out of reach for all but the beautiful people.
But in the last few years, the clock seems to tick a bit less dramatically, as there are now several stylish and spacious electric vehicles that occupy the middle of the spectrum: practical EV range mixed with pricing that’s only a bit higher than average. Two such vehicles are the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 and 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5, a pair of family-sized all-wheel-drive crossovers with about 250 miles of range, priced somewhere between $40,000 to $60,000 with a variety of options and trim levels to suit one’s budget.
As compact crossovers, both the ID.4 and Ioniq 5 fight at the heart of the automotive market, but they do so in very different ways. The happy, VW-appropriate styling and mostly conventional interior of the former will appeal to those looking for an easy transition to EVs, while the Hyundai’s retro-synthwave exterior and airy, minimalist cabin is an offbeat choice for folks who prefer to clap on 2 and 4, instead of 1 and 3. Director of Video Clint Simone recruited me to help decide which is best, and unusually for the two of us, we found ourselves in near-unanimous agreement. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Hyundai: Somehow, the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 looks both ultra-contemporary and retro, with an overall shape that recalls Hyundai’s first passenger car, the 1975 Pony hatchback. That’s evident in the beveled C-pillar, with a steeper rake to the hatchback than the door glass, as well as in the quad square headlights and rectangular, full-width taillight panel. Of course, those touches are undeniably modernized on the Ioniq 5 courtesy of pixelated LEDs front and rear, and the bodysides feature the kinds of geometric forms that would feel totally alien to 1970s sensibilities.
And then there’s the size of the thing. While the Hyundai Ioniq 5 looks like a small hatchback in photos, it actually has a longer wheelbase than even the three-row Palisade SUV. Short front and rear overhangs give it a planted stance, especially with the all-wheel-drive Limited’s 20-inch sawblade wheels – the rear-drive Limited and all other trims get less impressive 19s. A short, sloping hood should look ungainly, but the Ioniq 5 takes such delight in bending your mind that it instead looks modern and sporty.
The cabin is similarly fashionable, though much less polarizing. The Ioniq 5’s modular electric platform features a totally flat floor, which gives it an airy, expansive-feeling interior. Facing the driver is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, and a matching-size center touchscreen display shows up in the same glossy, white bezel. Touch-sensitive climate controls and a strip of hard buttons appear on the center stack, and there’s a small cubby at the base of the dash. There are yet more pixel graphics inside, showing up on the door panel trim, the seats, and the two-spoke steering wheel’s airbag cover.
The literal and figurative centerpiece is a sliding center console between the front seats. With an armrest, spacious storage cubby, and pair of cupholders, it helps keep stuff organized and front-row passengers comfy. But it also slides back along a series of detents, opening up more and more space on the front floor to splay your knees and relax. You could even go full-1970s and slide across to exit the car on the passenger side if you wanted to. The only problem with this layout is that a wayward plastic bottle could easily roll from the passenger side to the pedal box – pack your stuff carefully and you’ll love the airy design.
Volkswagen: The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 we tested is a trim, good-looking machine. With a grinning front grille panel and narrow headlights with eyeball-imitating LEDs inside, the VW ID.4 looks like a villain, but in a not-at-all-scary “Saturday cartoons” kind of way, like it’s about to break out a crate of Acme-brand dynamite. Apart from the wily front end, the ID.4 is handsome enough, and our tester’s black-painted roof and 20-inch wheels – part of the Gradient styling package – help it look lower and leaner than it is.
However, the somewhat bland Scale Silver paint let the design down, removing the contrast between the bodywork and the bright-finished roof arches. Luckily, Volkswagen offers far more exuberant Kings Red and Dusk Blue colors for those who’d like to stand out a tiny bit more. Paint color notwithstanding, the ID.4 is perfectly inoffensive and attractive, even if it blends into the background quite a bit more than the bold Ioniq 5.
Inside, the ID.4 is fresh and modern, with a skinny 5.3-inch digital instrument cluster and twist-style gear selector resting atop the steering column. Mounted high on the dash in its own binnacle is a 12.0-inch infotainment display running VW’s latest infotainment software. Just below the screen is a thin strip of touch-sensitive temperature and volume sliders, with another button panel beneath that to provide quick access to on-screen functions like climate, drive modes, and vehicle settings. While both Clint and I have issues with the functionality of those buttons, we agreed that the setup looks clean and simple.
However, we diverged when addressing the interior’s color scheme. Breaking up the otherwise relentlessly black faux-leather upholstery were a few swaths of peanut butter-colored soft-touch trim – the dash top and door panel inserts all get the stuff. I found the pop of color to be nice, while Clint thought it all looked out of place. Those who agree with him might like the ID.4 Pro S’ other interior color, which gets light gray seats and dark gray accents in a black interior. Unfortunately, neither option covers up the hard plastic door panels and console sides, disappointing in light of how well the Hyundai hides its cheaper interior bits.
Hyundai: With 20-inch wheels and rubber-band sidewalls, we expected a brittle ride from the Hyundai Ioniq 5. Instead, we were greeted with on-road behavior that smothered small imperfections and took the edge off of large ones, as well as well-hushed wind noise and tire roar when traveling at speed. The Ioniq 5 defaults to softly sprung comfort over body control, so there are some ocean motions when driving over undulating pavement, but aside from that, the cabin is a very comfortable place to spend some miles.
The wide front bucket seats don’t offer much bolstering for corners, but they’re supportive and accommodating for a long highway trip. What’s more, the driver’s seat on this Limited has a reclining lounge function with a deployable leg rest, good for catching a quick catnap at the DC fast charger. The rear seats are, to borrow Clint’swords, “heroic,” thanks to the aforementioned flat floor, and they slide and recline to prioritize passenger comfort or cargo. Speaking of, the Ioniq 5 offers an adequate 27.2 cubic feet of luggage room with the seats up or 59.3 with them down. There’s also a small, 0.8-cubic-foot frunk under that sloping hood.
Volkswagen: With a firm, well-damped ride, the 2021 VW ID.4 puts its Teutonic roots on full display. The ID.4 is much less isolated than the Ioniq 5, with good body control over most road surfaces (and some unfortunate crash-through on others). There’s also a bit more tire noise on the freeway, and the firm seats start to feel a bit squirmy after an hour or so. The rear-seat passengers make do with a fixed seatback, although there’s plenty of head and legroom to adjust and stretch out.
The spacious, 30.3-cubic-foot cargo area is wider and deeper than that of the Hyundai. It expands to 64.2 cubes with the rear seats folded, perfect for the sort of active lifestyles that VW is courting with the ID.4. But neither Clint nor I are luggage, and we found ourselves much more comfortable in the Hyundai than the Volkswagen.
Hyundai: Like most Hyundais, the Ioniq 5 comes standard with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and matching 12.3-inch touchscreen display, both linked together in the same rectangular monolith atop the dash. The infotainment software has logical menu layouts and two reconfigurable hard buttons for quick access to your favorite functions, and the Ioniq-specific color scheme (white, gray, and light blue) is attractive and contemporary. There are also additional display modes for the digital cluster, including one that has plenty of EV-specific information to help you maximize your efficiency.
For reasons unknown, however, Hyundai continues to box out wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from its 12.3-inch screen. And if you want to use smartphone mirroring, be sure to have a USB-A cord handy – the Ioniq doesn’t have USB-C jacks anywhere. Those omissions are surprisingly dated for a vehicle that’s otherwise very futuristic.
Volkswagen: First, the good news. The ID.4 has wireless smartphone mirroring, USB-C ports, and a wireless charging pad that makes getting in and connecting to the outside world a much easier process. The design of the new infotainment software is likewise very attractive and high-definition. Of particular interest to yours truly is the zone-reconfigurable color scheme of the infotainment and ambient lighting. Such a playful feature is a perfect fit for a brand that tries to be as youthful as Volkswagen does.
Unfortunately, the rest of the infotainment package doesn’t hold up. The screen’s touch response is laggy, resulting in the dreaded double-press if you’re not patient enough. The menus feel haphazardly laid out as well, making seemingly simple tasks like adjusting the radio a multi-step affair. At least the system is capable of over-the-air updates, and VW is listening to consumer feedback to solve those problems.
Less easy to fix and very, very annoyingly, the trio of touch-sensitive sliders below the screen aren’t backlit, so it’s all but impossible to use them to adjust the audio volume or climate control temperature at night. When will automakers learn that physical buttons and knobs are always better for single-use functions like these?
Hyundai: In all-wheel-drive form, the Ioniq 5 gets an electric motor on each axle, producing a total of 320 horsepower and 446 pound-feet. If you’re not expecting that much punch off the line, the Ioniq 5 will surprise you with a strong shove to the lower back as it accelerates to 60 in less than 5 seconds. The acceleration doesn’t let up at speed either, with the quick passing and merging performance we’ve come to expect from modern EVs.
The robust I-Pedal regenerative brakes are another shocker, as they provide plenty of deceleration when lifting off the accelerator. If such strong energy recuperation isn’t your cup of tea, paddles on the steering wheel step through three lighter levels of regen, or switch the system off completely. I-Pedal is easy to get used to though, with gradual, linear action as you ease up on the accelerator – this is one-pedal driving done right.
The Ioniq 5 isn’t much of a handler, with light and numb steering removing any semblance of fun on a curvy road. It’s competent, no doubt, with plenty of grip and a slight proclivity toward safe understeer, but there’s not much joy in caning a Hyundai EV crossover around a corner. If the rumored Ioniq 5 N shows up next year, I bet it’ll solve that paltry little issue.
Volkswagen: Like the Hyundai, Volkswagen’s ID.4 gets a two-motor layout with all-wheel drive, giving the EV a total of 295 hp and 339 lb-ft. VW says that’s good for a 5.4-second sprint to 60 mph, which is more than adequate for a family crossover – if down a bit on the speedy Ioniq 5. Still, the ID.4 is a capable, confident machine to drive in traffic, with good power delivery when merging into traffic or overtaking a left-lane hog.
Rotating the shift toggle forward twice engages the VW’s extra-regen “B” mode, which has progressively more deceleration the longer you leave your foot off the skinny pedal. Unlike the Hyundai, there isn’t a full one-pedal drive mode – the ID.4 will slow to a crawl, but it’ll never stop completely. That’s a shame, as many EV drivers insist on such technology nowadays, but we suspect that Volkswagen’s approach will feel more intuitive to first-timers.
Luckily, the ID.4 has nippy handling to make up for its slightly weaker energy recuperation. Driving a bit like a plus-size GTI, the Volkswagen EV has heavier steering than the Ioniq 5, as well as better balance in corners. The firm ride pays off with a planted, secure feeling on the road, and the ID.4 is possibly the most fun vehicle in its class, save perhaps the athletic Ford Mustang Mach-E. There you have it. We picked the slower car.
Hyundai: The base Hyundai Ioniq 5 comes standard with Highway Driving Assist (HDA), comprising adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane centering. The SEL and Limited trims have HDA II, which uses both surrounding cars and lane markings to help the car determine the safest place in the lane (rather than defaulting to the center). HDA II also provides lane-change assistance. When you activate the turn signal, the car waits for a gap and then gently steers into the adjacent lane when it’s safe. The system is among the best hands-on Level 2 driver-assist suites out there, and it works very well.
Neither the IIHS nor the federal government has tested the Ioniq 5 in their battery of safety tests. However, the European-market Hyundai EV got a five-star rating in the EuroNCAP test, which is very similar to NHTSA’s.
Volkswagen: Every variant of the ID.4 comes standard with Volkswagen’s IQ.Drive suite of active safety and driver-assistance technologies. Among them is Travel Assist, a Level 2 semi-autonomous system that bundles adaptive cruise control and lane centering to reduce driver fatigue on the freeway. Also included is Lane Assist, which provides blind-spot monitoring and will actively countersteer if the driver attempts a lane change when there’s a vehicle already there. Operating these functions is seamless.
The IIHS gave the Volkswagen ID.4 a Top Safety Pick+ rating, indicating the SUV’s excellent crashworthiness and ability to avoid rear-end collisions and reduce the severity of pedestrian and cyclist collisions. Likewise, the feds gave the ID.4 a five-star overall safety rating. Both the Hyundai and Volkswagen fare square in terms of safety.
Hyundai: The single-motor 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 can go 303 miles per charge if you believe the EPA, but going with dual-motor all-wheel drive chops that number down to 256 miles. When using a DC fast charger, the Ioniq 5 can recharge at a peak rate of 240 kilowatts, replenishing its 77.4-kilowatt-hour battery from 10 to 80 percent in 18 minutes. On a more traditional 240-volt household wall box, the Ioniq 5 goes from 10 to 100 percent charge in 6 hours and 43 minutes. The EPA rates the Ioniq 5 at 98 miles per gallon equivalent combined.
Volkswagen: For 2021, the EPA rates the most efficient ID.4 variant at 260 miles, but our ID.4 Pro S AWD was rated at 240 miles. Unfortunately, the higher-rated 2022 ID.4 wasn’t available at the time of testing, but an equivalent model to our subject would be rated at 250 miles. In our 2021’s case, the EPA rates it at 93 mpge combined. The Volkswagen recharges at a rate of 125 kW at a DC fast charger, good for a 5 to 80 percent charge in about 38 minutes according to Volkswagen. At a home wall box, the ID.4 can go from empty to full in 7 hours and 30 minutes.
Owing to its much faster-charging rate and longer overall EPA range, we have to acknowledge the Ioniq 5 on this one.
Hyundai: The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 SE starts at $44,000 plus $1,245 destination, but our tester was a fully loaded Limited AWD example with a $1,000 coat of matte paint and some floor mats. With an as-tested price of $56,920, the Ioniq 5 certainly isn’t cheap, but Hyundai does give you a lot for the money. The aforementioned Highway Driving Assist II safety features come standard on the Limited (and the mid-tier SEL), as do snappy 20-inch wheels, remote parking assistance, 80s-chic LED projector headlights, and the all-important sliding center console inside.
The Limited also gets some neat segment exclusives, like vehicle-to-load charging that allows you to use your car like a massive battery backup and a lounge-style front seat to help recharge the driver while recharging the car. And a head-up display, ventilated seats, Bose premium audio, and Hyundai’s NFC digital key are only available on the flagship Ioniq trim – none of which are available on the ID.4. Nearly 57 grand is a lot of money, but the Ioniq 5 Limited is a lot of car.
Volkswagen: With a starting price of $41,230 plus $1,195 destination, the Volkswagen ID.4 is priced right at the heart of the crossover EV market. At $50,870 as tested, the Scale Silver ID.4 S AWD we drove had but one box ticked: the purely cosmetic Gradient package and its black roof panel, 20-inch alloy wheels, and bright front and rear bumper accents. That price is more than $6,000 less than the rival Hyundai, and it’s not like the ID.4 is exactly stripped either.
Heated leatherette seats, an illuminated front Volkswagen logo, a panoramic glass roof, and a hands-free power liftgate come standard on the S trim, which also gets the Level II autonomous Travel Assist function that’s found on all ID.4s. The wireless smartphone integration and USB-C connections of the ID.4 are pretty great features as well.
All that said, the VW might be less expensive, but it also feels cheaper. Interior materials are half a class down from the Ioniq 5, and that’s before getting into the Hyundai’s more advanced electrical architecture, longer range, and faster charging speed. Adding to the Ioniq 5’s victory is the existence of the well-equipped SEL trim. With all-wheel drive, its price is within a few hundred bucks of the ID.4, while offering a similar level of comfort and convenience to the Pro S model, as well as all the fast-charging chops of any other Ioniq 5.
There’s no denying it. As nice as the Volkswagen ID.4 is at most daily-driving tasks, it was clear early on that the Hyundai Ioniq 5 would carry the day. Although considerations like range, charging speed, and performance were most important to the decision, the Hyundai backed up its superlatives in those areas with more qualitative wins – primarily its chic styling, rulebook-ripping proportions, and slick interior.
That said, many EV shoppers will purchase a VW ID.4 and have no issues whatsoever, especially those who have charging accommodations at home. Its 240-volt charge time is well within the constraints of cheaper off-peak electricity, and with 240 miles of range, some owners may go a week or two without juicing up. But even with that caveat in mind, Volkswagen’s cheaper-feeling interior and infuriating infotainment and climate controls made it feel a bit less polished than its South Korean rival.
Hyundai has a hit on its hands with the 2022 Ioniq 5. With a lounge-like interior, unusual-but-lovable styling, a user-friendly range rating, and quick recharging at home or on the go, the funky Ioniq 5 is a winner.
|2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 Limited HTRAC
|2021 Volkswagen ID.4 Pro S AWD
|Dual Permanent-Magnet Synchronous
|Dual Permanent-Magnet Synchronous
|320 Horsepower / 446 Pound-Feet
|295 Horsepower / 339 Pound-Feet
|DC Fast Charge Rate:
|DC Charge Time: 10-80%:
|AC Charge Time, 240V 10-100%:
|6 Hours 43 Minutes
|7 Hours 30 Minutes
|27.2 / 59. 3 + 0.8 Cubic Feet
|30.3 / 64.2 Cubic Feet
|$44,000 + $1,245 Destination
|$41,230 + $1,195 Destination
|Trim Base Price: