First Drive

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in review

The delayed Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in promises eyebrow-raising fuel economy at an appealing price. We drive it on UK roads

Words ByWhat Car? team

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Price from Β£27,495 (before Β£2500 plug-in car grant) Release date On sale now

The Hyundai Ioniq, new to showrooms only last year, has been rightly proclaimed unique among environmentally friendly family hatchbacks because it’s the only car on the market available as either a standard hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or a full battery-only electric option.

Unfortunately, one of the climate-champion triumvirate has been absent from the stage so far: the plug-in hybrid version, which would have led the field on claimed fuel economy and emissions if Hyundai had got it on sale before Toyota’s Prius Plug-In. Instead, it was delayed by battery supply hold-ups.

Now here, the third Hyundai Ioniq derivative is much the same as the lesser hybrid but does have a larger and more powerful lithium-ion drive battery and requires the β€˜Type II’ electrical charging socket to charge it from the mains. The battery’s capacity is 8.9kWh and the Ioniq Plug-in charges from a typical 16-amp driveway wallbox charge in a little more than two hours. Petrol power comes from a 104bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine and, on the road, electrical and piston power are juggled through the front wheels via a six-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox.

Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in on the road

Well, it’s not very exciting. But the Ioniq Plug-in isn’t quite designed to match sportier PHEV hatchbacks such as the Volkswagen Golf GTE either on performance or dynamism; it is designed to bring plug-in hybrid technology to a wider audience at a cheaper price tag. Still, even after you’ve tempered your expectations, the Hyundai is functional rather than fun.

The car can be driven in EV, Hybrid and Sport modes, but the first of those proves disappointing. Its punchy instant pull is welcome and so is the fact that progress is, of course, near-silent. But the fact that the Plug-in can't scale even moderate hills without its engine firing up to help out is poor. A Golf GTE's EV mode will remain just that, no matter how hard you stamp on its throttle.

Select the Sport mode and it tries to show its burly and entertaining side, but makes a bit of a hash of it. The car’s steering becomes heavy and cumbersome, the gearbox is slow-witted when you’re using lots of power, the wooden ride becomes coarse when cornering fast and the car’s rather slight reserves of grip don’t go very far.

Sticking to Hybrid mode is your best bet – it's certainly where the car feels more comfortable in its skin. That said, there is still very little connected feel from the steering, as well as the usual artificial feel to the brake pedal, which makes executing smooth stops trickier than it needs to be.

Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in interior

Space for a couple of tall adults in the front seats is good and the driver is treated to generous adjustment at both the seat and the steering wheel. Furthermore, lumbar adjutsment is standard, so drivers of all shapes and sizes shouldn't have an issue getting comfy.

It isn't such good news in the back. Although two tall adults will find their knees free from the front seatbacks, they might also find their heads brushing against the Ioniq's low-slung ceiling. This isn't a problem they will have in the back of a Golf GTE.

Hyundai has come a long way in terms of interior quality and the Ioniq is one of its best attempts yet. There are sections of soft, dense plastic and its switches feel nicely damped but, once again, the Golf GTE feels more premium inside.

An 8.0in colour touchscreen infotainment system comes as standard and includes DAB radio, Bluetooth, USB connection and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It's very simple to use but lacks the visual crispness or responsiveness of the best touchscreen systems – and that includes, again, the Golf GTE's.

Verdict and specs >

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