With a petrol engine and electric motor that can work together in the Ioniq Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid, performance is pretty good – both are quicker than the Toyota Prius and similar to many regular diesel hatchbacks, but slower than, say, the Volkswagen Golf GTE.
Whereas many hybrids, such as the Prius, are fitted with a single-speed CVT gearbox, which both versions of the Ioniq Hybrid get a standard six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that’s quieter and less hesitant than CVTs tend to be. The Ioniq Hybrids can still be hesitant off the line but, once you’re up and running, the gearbox changes swiftly and slickly through its ratios. You can also take control manually using paddles, enabling you to hold onto a gear for better engine-braking on steep descents.
Not surprisingly, the Ioniq has been set up to handle well in urban areas and its steering is light and easy to manage. Get the Hybrid out on faster B-roads, though, and it still feels in its element. Its steering remains a little on the light side, but is accurate and provides enough resistance as you turn to help you place the car easily. There is a Sport mode, but this takes things too far the other way and adds too much weight to the steering.
Lots of cornering grip and good body control add to the Ioniq’s virtues, as do its smooth brakes. Despite offering regenerative braking – which takes energy that would otherwise be wasted and uses it to charge the battery – its brakes aren’t as grabby as on some other hybrids and driving smoothly in stop-start traffic is no effort at all. You can change how vigorously energy is harvested from the brakes, too.
Around town, the Hybrid rides a little more firmly than a Prius, but not to the extent of being uncomfortable. The payoff is a settled ride at faster speeds, especially if you encounter a road with long, wavy dips and troughs. The Plug-in Hybrid and EV versions are less agreeable in this regard – a failing that can be attributed to their bigger, heavier batteries. The extra weight makes both cars less agile through turns and more punishing over patchy road surfaces.
The Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid will pull away in near silence on electric power alone. You need to tread gingerly on the accelerator to avoid the petrol engine cutting in, although the transition is smooth when it does, the only tell-tale sign being some background engine thrum. If you put your foot down hard, though, the drone from the 1.6-litre petrol engine quickly begins to grate. It’s disappointing, too, that even after manually selecting pure-EV mode on the plug-in model the engine will cut in on anything more than a slight incline.
The EV model is quicker off the line than either of its hybrid counterparts. Thanks to its electric motor’s instant response and pulling power, it sprints away from the lights sharply and with barely a sound. In town, where it’s designed to be used, the Ioniq Electric is very relaxing to drive. Like most EVs, its response begins to feel more pedestrian beyond 50mph, although it will still cruise at motorway speeds with minimal stress.
The Electric obviously doesn’t have any roaring engine noise, but you can hear the whine of its electric motor as you accelerate around town. At motorway speeds, all versions keep wind and road noise to a minimum, although you are more aware of these disturbances in the EV model due to the absence of background engine noise.