I'd rather look at a memorable car than a boring one, something that makes an impression even as it divides opinions, and it's been a while since I've seen something quite so polarizing as the Ioniq 6. This is Hyundai's latest EV, a computer-sculpted ode to aerodynamic efficiency and yet another effort by the South Korean manufacturer to ensure that not a one of its cars looks anything close to humble.
I'm just back from driving a pre-production model on home roads around Seoul and am happy to report that not only has the company created yet another memorable design, but it also has another winner on its hands.
|2023 Hyundai Ioniq 6
|Two Permanent Magnet Synchronous
|321 Horsepower / 446 Pound-Feet
|77.4 Kilowatt-Hours Lithium-Ion
|382 Miles (WLTP)
Gallery: 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 6: First Drive
I'll level with you: Korea isn't a great place to sample a new car. Traffic is generally miserable, roads are generally forgettable, and limits are low, enforced by an army of speed cameras ready to catch any indiscretion. Limits of just 30 kph, or 19 mph, are common on secondary roads.
Suffice to say I did not challenge the handling of the Ioniq 6 on my day in the Korean countryside, but I had more than enough time to sample the overall comfort and character of the car. Smooth is the name of the game, with relaxed steering and a comfortable, quiet ride. Even on the 20-inch wheels, the car soaked up separation joints on the concrete highways and climbed cleanly over the innumerable speed bumps, some of which seemed to sneak up on me.
With 321 hp and 446 lb-ft of torque in the dual-motor car I drove, the Ioniq 6 can definitely move when you dip into that throttle. While I didn't get much opportunity to sample that power, I can confidently say it will not disappoint anyone with a need for speed. Meanwhile, true one-pedal driving will keep many EV purists happily regenerating their way to a stop at every light.
The Ioniq 6 has its roots in the Prophecy concept, set to be revealed at the ill-fated 2020 Geneva Motor Show. That impossibly slick, jet-black design almost looked like it bubbled up from the very asphalt it would travel on. It was somehow mean despite being sculpted to go gentle on the wind, and that design has transitioned quite faithfully to the production Ioniq 6.
The Hyundai Prophecy Concept
Few mass-market machines live up to the purity of the design concepts that birthed them but, other than a rather different wing hanging off the rear, there's really not much between Prophecy and production. The nose is pert to an extreme, looking almost mismatched to the volume of this 16-foot long, 74-inch wide sedan. But it flows up and around to form the body of the car before reversing course and tapering abruptly in a classic, teardrop shape.
Mullet-like, the front of the Ioniq 6 is classy and inoffensive, while the rear is much more of a visual party. There's that big wing, which Hyundai designers said was actually inspired by the tapered style of the Supermarine Spitfire. Yes, the World War II fighter. The spoiler hangs off the skinny, sharply angled rear deck, while a diffuser-like treatment sweeps upward, a pair of vertical highlights on either end encasing LEDs and rear fog lights.
Scattered throughout are the same sort of pixel elements that festoon the Ioniq 5, but while they give that car a sort of retrofuturistic, almost cyberpunk vibe, here they serve as a contrast to the extremely organic, flowing shape. Taillights, turn signals, and even the rear-view camera are broken up into the small, square symbols in a way that is perhaps a little visually disorienting, but again, very interesting.
Better Range Through Aero
While the little styling details are fun, the bulk of the car's shape exists in pursuit of extremely good aerodynamics. Hyundai says the Ioniq 6 scores a 0.21 coefficient of drag in the wind tunnel, just .01 off of the slippery Mercedes-Benz EQS and matching the Tesla Model S and Lucid Air. That’s some impressive, expensive company. To get that score, Hyundai had to go to some lengths.
Beyond that divisive – but inherently slippery – shape, Hyundai carved out vents in the front bumper to channel wind around the front wheels, smoothing air over the side of the car. Powered radiator covers only open when temperatures demand, door handles sit flush, and yes, that rear wing actually does help temper air that peels off the back of the machine.
Sadly, we in the US of A won't be seeing one of the more notable aerodynamic devices: digital side-view mirrors. The cubic cameras on stalks you see in the photos here will be used in many international markets, but we'll have to make do with traditional, reflective ones. Hyundai says this will have a minor impact on efficiency, but as you'll see in a moment, that cost comes in exchange for better visibility.
The net result is a car that, in rear-wheel-drive trim, is rated for 614 kilometers on the European WLTP cycle. That equates to a whopping 382 miles, but don't get too excited just yet. The EPA testing cycle used to rate EVs in the US is far more challenging, so expect a rating closer to 315 miles on the sticker when this thing shows up in US dealerships early next year.
That's still a mighty impressive figure, especially considering that the Ioniq 6 is mechanically almost identical to the Ioniq 5. Built on the same E-GMP platform, the same 77.4-kWh or 53.0-kWh battery packs power the same single- or dual-motor drivetrain. That the Ioniq 5 manages 107 fewer kilometers on the same test cycle, or 66 miles, is testament to the power of aero.
While the Ioniq 5 and 6 share more than a little DNA under the skin, the family lineage is more apparent on the inside. That's most visible in the display layout, a pair of 12.3-inch panels integrated into a single bezel that sweeps from gauge cluster all the way past the center of the dashboard.
It's through the touchable, right display that you'll control much of the Hyundai's functions, with only HVAC-related controls earning physical knobs and buttons below. Blissfully, there is still a volume knob.
The interface is clean and easy if basic, but Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both on offer if you prefer – and I'm guessing you will. Controls on that oddly shaped steering wheel are again the same as the Ioniq 5, making it easy to toggle on Hyundai's Highway Driving Assist 2.
So much so familiar, but look beyond the dashboard and everything else has seen a significant reboot. Between the center seats, where the Ioniq 5 offers an unnecessarily sliding cubby thing, the Ioniq 6 instead offers a long, generously sized trough for storing phones, purses, notepads, and baguettes.
On a second tier above is where you find the controls for locks and windows, relocated here to clean up the front door cards. There's another cubby with Qi wireless charging and a rubberized mat to keep your new, $1,400 iPhone from going flying when you sample the 446 pound-feet of torque on offer.
Those door cards are backed by curious ridges stamped from hard plastic, interesting to look at but unpleasant to touch. They're designed to catch the bi-level, multi-color LED lighting. Pick your choice of 64 colors for both the top and bottom of the interior, then go on if you like to configure those lights to change with the speed of the vehicle or even flash to warn about the approach of one of South Korea’s omnipresent speed cameras.
In the rear seats your feet will have all sorts of room, but your head, sadly, will be a little more cramped. That dramatic roofline comes at a cost payable by anyone stuck out back. I stand 6 feet tall with short legs and I couldn't fit back there without adopting either an extreme slouch or head tilt.
I'll definitely need some more time behind the wheel before I can deliver a true verdict here but, assuming the car delivers on its range promise, there's little doubt the Hyundai Ioniq 6 is going to be yet another winner in a family of cars punching above their collective weight. It's really only that styling and absence of rear-seat headroom that will prove a bitter pill for some.
While I don't exactly love the look, I appreciate the design. Where most car models choose form or function, this is a rare case of a remarkable form shaped by aerodynamic function, and for that the Ioniq 6 has well and truly earned my respect.
2023 Hyundai Ioniq 6