Hyundai Ioniq: First Look at the Electric Car Triple Threat

SKOREA-AUTO-HYUNDAI-IONIQ

JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

The Hyundai Ioniq is a unique car for a number of reasons. Start with its three green powertrains, including a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid, and an all-electric vehicle. This triple threat is the first of its kind for any nameplate, and it’s also the first alternative-fuel car the automaker has designed from the ground up. At the Ioniq world premiere in Seoul, Hyundai showed off the hybrid production model it says will best the Toyota Prius in fuel economy.

While the plug-in models remain under wraps until later in 2016, the hybrid model arrived with published specs and ambitious sales goals for the coming years. Along with 138 horsepower and 195 pounds-feet of torque, this new model comes with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. As in the Sonata Hybrid models, the Ioniq will have SPORT and ECO modes for drivers to choose from in the course of a ride.

160114_IONIQ Hybrid Breaking Hybrid Stereotypes (2)

Source: Hyundai

Hyundai’s company statement makes the claim of “class-leading fuel efficiency” several times, and we wondered how that would be possible considering the new Prius’s remarkable economy. Well, the Ioniq should get a combined 57 miles per gallon (per Reuters), a mark that would indeed top Toyota’s hybrid star once they both arrive on the U.S. market.

The day before its Seoul debut, Hyundai officials set bold sales targets for the Ioniq hybrid, saying it would move 77,000 models in 2017 after its staggered rollout this year. (According to Reuters, the automaker sold fewer than 43,000 hybrids worldwide in 2015.) Hyundai’s pricing of the Ioniq in Korea gives an idea of how the goal could be met.

IONIQ A Leap Forward for Hybrid Vehicles (3)

Source: Hyundai

According to multiple reports, the Ioniq is entering the South Korea market at a starting price of $19,145, which is a few hundred dollars lower than the Prius C’s MSRP in the U.S. We are still awaiting pricing of this first Ioniq in world markets. Next on the agenda is the release of the EV model, followed by the plug-in hybrid Ioniq. Aggressive pricing (as is Hyundai’s wont) in any of these models could cause a market shakeup.

By laying claim to a “fun, responsive drive” experience in the Ioniq Hybrid, Hyundai is taking the approach Ford used when it unveiled its C-MAX hybrid and Energi lines years ago. No one raves about the feeling of being behind the wheel of a Prius, and the Korean automaker clearly sees an opening in this department.

Stylistically, the Ioniq stays in line with the Elantra and other small cars in the automaker’s lineup (we definitely see Veloster in the rear end), so there is no risky design for consumers to embrace here. The decision will come down to fuel economy, value, and the performance of the new Prius competitor. We can’t wait to get inside one when it lands in New York this April.

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