(Contributing Editor: George Straton)
2017 is over. Whew! Generations from now it will be remembered as a time when tradition was stood upside down on its head.
Drivers of those future generations will remember 2017 as the year when another tradition fell: the Traditional Gas-Electric Hybrid car.
You know. The kind where the nose looked like the tail and vice versa? Where the gauges were located in all the wrong places? Which responded to driving inputs with un-conventional motions? Which made you feel like a tree hugger among a sea of lumberjacks?
Korean automaker Hyundai is determined to be recognized by future generations of drivers as the brand which fought the “Godfather of Green” and launched the first volume “Un-Prius”, compact hybrid family car:
The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq hatchback.
And Ioniq is just a tease of Hyundai’s ambitions to launch twenty-six (26) electrified models by 2020.
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WHAT: All-new 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited gasoline electric hybrid sub-compact hatchback car, sharing platform with all-new Kia Niro hybrid/ BEV sportback.
Standard Power: 1591 cc Atkinson cycle, dual VVT-i DOHC 16V I-4 cylinder gasoline engine: 104 hp/ 109 lb-ft; 104 kW (139 hp) net hybrid
parallel to: 1 x 240V synchronous AC traction / regenerative charging motor: 32 kW, 1 x 240V synchronous AC Hybrid Starter Generator: 8 kW
electric supply battery: 64 Lithium Ion Polymer cells, 240V, 6.5 amp hr, 1.56 kWh;
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: A hatchback borrowing elements of the Elantra GT: there’s a variation on the trapezoidal grille, with fully darkened vertical slats feathered towards the wrap-around headlamps; More prominent and slatted inwards-canting boomerang LED DRLs are at the lower corners;
Inward lower door scooping forms integral body-skirts; More acute roof arch with longer C-pillar;
Gentler sloping hatch liftgate terminates in a taller bisected vertical tail window, suggesting “Notchback”; Boomerang wrap-around taillamps evoke Ford Fusion’s; Bumper is clad in contrasting grey with vertical corner reflectors;
WHY: Not as polarizing as Prius
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Spring 2017
WHERE: Hyundai new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Ulsan, South Korea
WHERE TO: Anywhere up to 610 miles of road between fill-ups leads to
HOW ROADWORTHY: Hyundai’s stated goal for Ioniq is a “Non [traditional] gas-electric hybrid” [read “Toyota Prius”] driving experience.
Powertrain and dual clutch gearbox work best under a relaxed throttle; The quick clutch slippage masks the electric-to-gas mode hand-off; In normal drive, the DCT leaps to the highest gear; Selecting “Sport/ Manumatic” mode, holds the gears longer, feeling friskier than any Prius while hitting fuel economy; Absent: a regenerative braking drive mode.
Ioniq’s 4-link fully independent suspension deals with less weight than cousin Kia Niro delivering a more compliant ride; A lower center of gravity permits softer springing while ballasting against body roll and pitch; Michelin Primacy tires offer usable grip in combination with steering whose heft is on the light side: Road feel is improved but sparse; E-motor regenerative slowing is unobtrusive yet won’t improve pedal response of the all-disc brakes. +1 Wind & road noise isolation; -1 Interior hatch area rattle.
HOW FAR: 47 combined miles per gallon = 17% < 2017 Toyota Prius Eco Two (Cold weather caused 14% poorer showing than EPA estimates.)
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ Ioniq’s wheelbase = Gen. 4 Prius Two Eco, but has shorter length overall; √ Cabin area larger than Prius Two Eco in nearly every measurement, including +3″-inches rear legroom; √ +13% cargo space > Prius Two Eco; -1 160 lbs. > Prius Two Eco.
HOW USEFUL: √ Low load floor w/ 60/40% split 2nd Row seatbacks; √ Low front cowl, short hood overhangs, minimally obtrusive side pillars, lower taligate window = +1 outward visibility; -1 Seat cushion comfort wanes after 90 minutes; –1 Heavy liftgate action; -1 No liftgate grab ledge or release switch; √ Generous front & rear door pocket storage; Tow Rating: Not Rated.
HOW SAFE: √ 7 airbags; √ Rear camera; sonar front & rear Park Assist √ Blind spot, rear cross traffic warning, √ Partial adaptive cruise control, Lane change assist √ Autonomous emergency braking -1 Lane departure warning has difficulty sensing lane markings;
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: √ Heated driver/ front passenger seats; √ 10-way power driver’s seat; √ Driver’s seat & wing mirror 2 position memory; √ Front pax seat includes height adjustment; √ D-shape leather steering wheel with precision finished & distinctively shaped spoke-integrated controls; √ HVAC ducts – 2nd Row.
Cool Gizmo(s): √ Dual-zone automatic climate control with energy saving “Driver Only” mode; √ TFT 7″ multi-chromic gauge cluster & configurable systems/ trip display
Details Done Right: √ Matte-black metallic tipped center stack infotainment, climate switch arrays; tipped door switchgear; √ Exposed stitch padded gauge binnacle cover; tinted vent bezels; √ Piano gloss black appliques; √ Cool blue night switch backlighting.
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Hard plastic grain; -1 Leather feels fake & lacks hide scent; -1 Steering wheel heating switch hidden from view; -1 Sparse velcro padding of cargo shade mounts;
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ 8″ matte capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; √ +1 Large icons; Voice command hands-free communications; 3-D SD GPS navigation; √ BlueLink Remote telematics includes Park Minder, Geo-fencing, Remote unlock; √ Infinty Clari-fi HD-radio audio w/ 8 GB juke box; Apps: Android Auto, Apple Car Play, Google Local Search, destination import, Siri-Eyes, Pandora, SoundHound, Yelp;
√ Subscription based: Sirius XM TravelLink Sports, Weather, Traffic; Fueling; Cinema (90 day trial); Blue Link Connected Care, Remote & Guidance pkgs. (3 year trial, $99 / yr. / pkg. after)
√ USB x 2, 12V x 2; Qi inductive wireless device charger; +1 Generous lower center stack mobile device connectivity/ storage;
HOW MUCH: $31,335 = fully loaded 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited
WHAT’S MISSING: Less transmission jerk; Progressive brake pedal; E- parking brake w/ auto hold; Native SMS messaging app; Heated rear seats / Cooled front seats; Heads-up display; 2nd Row power supply.
BOTTOM LINE: Transitioning from a conventional ICE hatchback car to Hyundai’s first ground-up gas-electric hybrid is less shocking than to Toyota Prius, with an undeniable value factor.