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Used hybrid test: Hyundai Ioniq vs Toyota Prius

The Hyundai Ioniq has always been one of our favourite hybrid cars, but how does it stack up against the iconic Toyota Prius as a used buy? We have the answer...

Used test: Hyundai Ioniq vs Toyota Prius

The Contenders

Hyundai Ioniq 1.6 GDi Hybrid Premium

List price when new £21,795
Price today £14,000
Available from 2016-present

The Ioniq looks good value, but is it a better used buy than the better-known Prius?

Toyota Prius 1.8 VVT-i Hybrid Active

List price when new £23,600
Price today £15,000*
Available from 2016-present

Well made, economical and practical, it's easy to see why the Prius is popular

*Price today is based on a 2016 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

Ask people to name a hybrid car and, even though there are now many such models on the market, the chances are they'll say the Toyota Prius.

Toyota Prius front static

That's not so surprising. After all, the Prius had a head start over much of the competition, having been on sale in various forms since 2003. And like all pioneers, it had time to build up a bit of a reputation, eventually becoming a green goddess and a Hollywood heartthrob to boot. 

To buy one new still requires quite a lot of money, because technology costs, even when it's wearing a mainstream badge. But seek out a six-year-old example like the one we're testing here, and you'll net yourself a very handsome saving indeed.

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid 2019 rear tight tracking

As we mentioned, though, the Prius no longer has the hybrid sector all to itself, with stiff competition coming from the Hyundai Ioniq. Launched in 2016, it was the first car available with three different forms of electrification: conventional hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric.

Here, we're pitting the former against an equivalent Prius. Both combine an efficient petrol engine with an electric motor, and both have advanced recuperation systems that harvest electricity to recharge their batteries. Finally, they both seat five and are practical hatchbacks, but which one of the two is the best used hybrid to buy? Read on to find out.

Used Toyota Prius rear

What are they like to drive? 

Do these hybrids match a regular VW Golf diesel for pace? Broadly, yes: they both have relatively sprightly performance. The Ioniq sometimes hesitates for a moment when you step on the accelerator pedal to pull away, but once it’s on the move, it picks up pace smartly and gets to motorway speeds with ease. The Prius isn’t quite as nippy from a standstill or when building speed for an overtake.

If you tickle the accelerator of either car when there’s charge in the battery, it will pull off and keep up with city traffic on eerily silent electric power. When you push the accelerator further, the petrol engine kicks in (you can’t feel this, but you can hear it). It creates a background hum at a cruise, but this rises to a monotone drone during acceleration.

Used Hyundai Ioniq

This noise is more prevalent in the Prius due to its CVT automatic gearbox. As you accelerate, it suddenly sends the engine revs soaring and they stay high until you lift off the accelerator, which is a bit irksome. The Ioniq’s six-speed automatic ’box slips through its gears just as smoothly but, unlike the Prius, it gives you the option of shifting gears manually too.

The Prius’s brakes are grabbier, making it harder to drive smoothly in stop-start traffic, and there’s more road noise. At motorway speeds, wind noise in the Prius is as well contained as it is in the Ioniq.

Used Toyota Prius

You won’t have your fillings rattled out in either car. The Ioniq is a touch firmer, handing the softer Prius the laurels for smoothing out scruffy road surfaces and speed humps. The Ioniq feels better tied down, though, and bounces around less over dips and crests.

The Ioniq is also much more agile. Its stiffer suspension helps it to stay flatter through corners, and the steering delivers more feedback, building a good amount of weight so you can measure your steering inputs with greater accuracy. That said, by class standards, the Prius is still a tidy handler, and its slightly lighter steering makes it a little easier to park.

Next: What are they like inside? >>

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