The Hyundai Ioniq is a sporty hatchback. It was designed to fit in with Hyundai’s mainstream line-up of vehicles—like the Elantra and Sonata. Unlike the quirky BMW i3, Nissan LEAF and Chevy Bolt—the Ioniq’s chief all-electric competitors—Hyundai did not try to make the Ioniq stand out as being exceptionally green or high-tech. From our perspective, the Ioniq is the best looking affordable electric car on the market, along with the Volkswagen Golf Electric.
The success of the Ioniq’s design is how it manages the industry’s leading aerodynamics while keeping a handsome and athletic appearance. You would never suspect that the Ioniq’s drag coefficient is a slippery 0.24.
The EV version of the Ioniq doesn’t need the open grille found in the hybrid variants. The flat black fascia provides a clean appearance—with a visual accent from the LED low-beam front headlamps and rear combination lamps. There’s a solid and sturdy feel in back, thanks to the spoiler’s integration with the rear glass hatchback.
The Ioniq is slightly longer than the Nissan LEAF—and a full 12 inches longer than the Chevy Bolt.
Power from the Ioniq’s 88-kW (118 horsepower) electric motor is on par with most of the EV competition. All electric cars across the board have zippy torque from a standstill, so if you’ve driven a LEAF or similar small electric hatch, you probably have a sense of the Ioniq’s performance. Put the Ioniq until Sport mode—as we did on drive through the hills around Santa Barbara, Calif.—and you’ll be impressed by the car’s acceleration.
Don’t be misled when comparing the power specification with the Chevrolet Bolt. On paper, the Bolt’s maximum 200-horsepower motor is a lot more powerful than what’s provided in the Ioniq. But in back-to-back drives in the two EVs, the feel behind the wheel was not that different. In fact, there were times in the Bolt that the power was mismatched to the car’s tall and short platform. The Bolt felt somewhat jittery (and easily broke traction when pushed hard) compared to the Ioniq’s planted feel. The critical factor is not total power, but the total package—how the powertrain and vehicle dynamics work together to provide dynamic yet confident handling.
As we have argued, what makes an EV a great-driving vehicle is not so much how it accelerates, but how it brakes. The Bolt’s single regen-on-demand lever on the steering column—which can bring the car to a stop more quickly—is useful. But the Ioniq’s two paddle shifters that allow the driver to adeptly switch between four levels of regen braking provides much more control (and fun).
In a true innovation in the EV market, a breakthrough of sorts, the touchscreen on the Ioniq allows the driver to determine which of those four levels of regen braking are used in the Normal, Eco and Sport driving modes. In other words, if you want sporty acceleration and the most aggressive amount of braking in Sport mode, then you can save those settings. The driver can then set the Eco mode to have gradual acceleration and minimal regenerative braking. This is smart stuff, giving the driver the ability to configure the drive feel as desired.
Hyundai did a great job of blending regenerative and friction brakes. The transitions are smooth and unnoticeable.
In all driving modes, the Ioniq provides forward “creep” from a standstill. (True one-pedal EV driving would have the car remain stationary with no feet on the pedals.) Nonetheless, the combination of paddle shifters (for changing regen levels on the fly), configurable drive modes; a capable motor providing a lot of zip particularly in Sport mode, and a low center of gravity makes for a good time on the road and plenty of control to maximize range.
The Ioniq has an official driving range of 124 miles—more than any other electric car in its price range except for the Chevy Bolt, which has a whopping 238 miles of range on a single charge. This where the question of how much range a driver wants (versus needs) gets interesting.
There’s no doubt that more range is better than less range. But at what price? The Bolt’s 238 miles is almost double the Ioniq’s 124 miles of range. Hyundai makes this argument: In the same way that owners of conventional cars want to max out on horsepower or towing capacity but almost never use those capabilities, the driver of a Bolt will rarely drive 238 miles in a single day. In fact, about 98 percent of drivers have no intention of ever traveling more than 100 miles in a day—and the average daily commute is about 43 miles according to AAA.
Why pay more for an electric car with less cargo space, fewer features and styling that you don’t love? Hyundai says that if you compare features—such as the quick charging port that is standard on the Ioniq—the Hyundai EV costs $7,000 less than the Bolt.
There are extenuating factors. If you live in place with very cold weather, the range can drop by 30 percent or more on freezing days. So the Ioniq’s range could drop to below 100 miles in frigid weather. If you live in a warmer climate or have a short commute, that’s not an issue.
One thing’s for certain: The Ioniq is very efficient while offering a long list of features and desirable attributes (rather than achieving its efficiency by stripping content out of the car). Its EPA rating of 136 MPGe makes it the most efficient vehicle on US roads, even beating out the BMW i3, which was championed as an ultra-efficient, lightweight and aerodynamic car.
At the end of the day, if you like the Bolt’s looks, creature comforts and interior space, then the value of its 238 miles of range is beyond question. But if you prefer the Ioniq’s style, want a slightly bigger vehicle, can do with 124 miles of range—all while saving a few thousand dollars—then take a test drive of both vehicles to compare.
The Hyundai Ioniq’s charging times are standard in the marketplace. You can add about 25 miles of range per hour using Level 2 240-volt charging. The Ioniq also offers 100-kW public Quick Charging via the SAE combo cord for refilling the battery to about 80 percent in 20 to 30 minutes.
The Ioniq offers a generous amount of interior space. It’s larger than every other affordable plug-in vehicle, including the C-Max, which is considered a small utility. The Ioniq offers five more cubic feet than a Prius liftback.
We walked between the Ioniq and the Bolt—and there’s no comparison. The Ioniq is significantly bigger. But the Ioniq also beats the Bolt in terms of dashboard layout and the quality of materials. Some shoppers might designate the Bolt as the winner based on its larger dashboard touchscreen, but from our perspective, the Bolt feels cheaper and its storage spaces are more scattered and weird. Meanwhile, the Ioniq uses classier softer materials metal accents, has a thoughtful layout and is offered with a sunroof option.
It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as wireless charging of smartphones. Driver info is displayed via seven-inch high-resolution dashboard screen. The list of luxury touches includes memory power seats that make it easy to get in and out of the car.
The Ioniq has not yet been tested for safety. The list of advanced safety features includes emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Hyundai sells the Ioniq electric car for $29,500, which after a federal tax incentive, drops the price to $22,000. That sticker price—for an all-electric vehicle officially rated to go 124 miles on a single charge—handily beats chief competitors on economics, driving range or both.
The top-of-the-line Ioniq begins at $32,500. All Ioniq electric models are equipped with a standard 100-kW DC quick charger and come with lifetime warranty on the battery pack. In California, the Ioniq EV will also be offered on a subscription model that bundles the vehicle lease, maintenance and charging (even home charging) in a single monthly payment.
For comparison, the price of the Nissan LEAF, offering 107 miles of range, begins at $34,200. In other words, the 30-kWh LEAF sells for nearly $5,000 more than the 28-kWh Ioniq, with the Nissan EV getting a range rating that’s 17 miles lower. There are other electric cars—most notably the 100-mile Ford Focus Electric—with a price that’s similar or slightly lower than the Ioniq, but don’t offer as much range. The luxury BMW i3 provides 114 miles of range in an upscale package, but with a price tag above $40,000.
The biggest competition for the Ioniq will likely be the all-electric Chevy Bolt. Consumers will need to consider the difference between the Hyundai Ioniq EV, with its net price of $22,000, versus the 238-mile Chevy Bolt at $30,000 (after a federal tax credit).
As discussed above, the Bolt's vast range advantage will immediately win over many EV buyers. But if you look beyond range to the entire package of features and attributes, then arguably the right comparison is the Ioniq Limited at $32,500 versus the Bolt Premiere at $40,905. The Ioniq Limited comes such features as a sunroof, premium audio, LED lighting, a bigger touchscreen, emergency braking and lane departure warning.
The Ioniq Electric is available in all 50 states, but dealers will carry inventory only in some states. Other locations will require the vehicle to be ordered. The special all-inclusive three-year subscription is only available in California. For the subscription, Hyundai will use the vehicle’s telematics to determine how many miles you travel and use that data to offset your electric fuel costs based on average electric rates (which might represent a savings to drivers who have lower utility rates based on time-of-use or solar pricing).