What if there were a pure electric Prius? What if Toyota’s famed hybrid delivered on green driving with more of a “normal car” vibe? The Hyundai Ioniq aims to answer those questions and more. At the New York International Auto Show, the three electrified Ioniqs made their North American debuts, offering unique solutions to gas guzzling that will appeal to drivers turned off by that signature Prius style.
Our earlier estimations on range for the Ioniq plug-in hybrid and EV were accurate: over 25 miles for the PHEV and 110 miles for the gas-free model. Visually speaking, both hybrids share the same hexagonal grille, while the EV model goes chrome-free at the nose. Otherwise, all three cars are largely the same once you get past headlight and powertrain differences — something that has never been done by an automaker.
The appeal comes in the Ioniq’s ability to project low-key style while delivering superior economy. Though Hyundai did not quote what the miles per gallon figures were expected to be at their launch, executives have gone on the record saying the hybrid will beat Prius in both standard and Eco modes once they make it to dealerships. Meanwhile, the Ioniq EV will top every model currently available outside of the Tesla Model S and X.
In the plug-in hybrid department, there are fewer claims of superiority. Chevy Volt now gets 53 miles in EV mode, while even the Sonata plug-in variant gets an EPA-estimated 27 miles before switching over to the gas engine. Another curveball came when the Prius Prime plug-in opened the New York Auto Show boasting 22 miles of range and a segment-best 120 MPGe. But driving character counts, too.
Prior to the arrival of the 2016 Prius, performance was not a selling point for Toyota’s economical tour de force. In fact, performance was very much the unmentionable, a trade-off for a car that kept you away from the gas station for weeks at times. Reviews suggest the worst days are over for Prius in this department.
Nonetheless, Hyundai thinks its electric triple-threat will bring in customers who want more pep in their commute via a dual-clutch transmission (as opposed to a CVT). The Sport mode deployed to such great effect in the Sonata Hybrid has gotten inside Ioniq as well. We’ll have to reserve judgment until we get behind the wheel of one.
By the simplicity of the interior, especially in the control panel, it appears Hyundai wants to appeal to a broader range of consumers than Prius or Volt ever did. It will be interesting to see how the market takes to these cars. Between the ever-sluggish adoption rate for pure EVs and the hurt cheap gas prices have put on hybrids, American consumers largely shunned green cars in the past 12 months. (Even Prius saw double-digit sales dips.)
Maybe the Ioniq lineup will find that sweet spot in price and marketing that can put such a car over the top. Reviews touting its performance bona fides wouldn’t hurt, either, but our first impressions suggest the green car scene has three new contenders.