Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Electro-hatch’s three-pronged plan to socket to ’em

JOHN CAREY

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE IT’S NOT quite the Ludicrous mode of a Tesla Model S, but the Sport button in the centre console of the Hyundai Ioniq does make it quite a bit more lively. The five-door hatch accelerates with real eagerness, and near silence.

On the broad and modern roads of Songdo, east of Seoul, the Ioniq usually leads the charge when traffic lights turn green.

Slowing for reds I experiment with the Hyundai’s driver-variable regenerative braking.

Even though it has a singlespeed transmission, there are paddle shifters behind the Hyundai’s steering wheel. Tapping them toggles up or down through four levels of regenerative braking.

Increasing the regen feels very much like shifting down through the gears of a dual-clutch or torque-converter auto.

Joining the tollway towards Incheon Airport I leave Songdo behind. The Ioniq Electric is limited to 165km/h, but acceleration above 100km/h or so is fairly leisurely. To preserve charge I try the other modes heading up and over the suspension bridge and long causeway to Seoul’s main international air hub. Normal is fine, but range-boosting Eco kills the Ioniq Electric’s spirit.

While the official range is 280km, testing by credible outfits in Europe indicates the real-world distance is more like 180-200km.

Worth noting, too, is that the Ioniq Electric can accept 100kW DC fast charging. This means an 80 percent charge can be delivered in less than 30 minutes. Too bad that Australia lags much of the developed world in installing electric vehicle infrastructure.

The Hyundai rides reasonably well and its steering is more consistently weighted than that of the Ioniq Hybrid I’d driven two days earlier. But, even on these unchallenging Korean roads, the Electric’s handling is obviously nothing special.

But there’s plenty to admire.

Despite the bulky 28kWh lithiumion polymer battery beneath its rear seats and cargo bay, the luggage compartment holds 350 litres. The interior is good; nice instrument panel, good wheel, sweet seats, and outstanding centre screen clarity.

That screen is one of the reasons the Ioniq hasn’t made it here earlier. Hyundai won’t have an infotainment unit for the Ioniq that works in Australia until late this year, just before RHD production of the Ioniq Plug-in begins.

Hyundai Oz thinks launching all three versions (EV, Hybrid and Plug-in) at the same time will deliver maximum impact, with an early 2018 launch anticipated.

The expected price tag around $37,500 would make the Ioniq the least ludicrous electric in the land.

Mit gas

A 77kW petrol 1.6 with a sixspeed dual-clutch auto joins a 32kW electric motor in the Ioniq Hybrid. Maximum system output is 104kW.

Though this is more than the heavier battery-only Ioniq, the Electric is the (slightly) quicker car. The Ioniq Plug-in hybrid uses the same engine and gearbox as the regular Hybrid, but a more powerful electric motor and, obviously, a larger battery pack.

PLUS & MINUS

Responsive and quiet, with decent range; cabin finish and cargo space Fast-charging not an Oz reality until our infrastructure catches up