Record-setting fuel economy. Flexible infotainment system. Reasonably priced.
Tepid performance. Bland exterior styling. Budget interior on the Blue trim.
- Bottom Line
If you're looking for segment-topping hybrid fuel economy over thrilling performance, the Hyundai Ioniq Blue is a very good value.
Hyundai has offered hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) in variants of the Sonata and Optima sedans. But with the introduction of the all-new 2017 Ioniq, the Korean car company goes all in by offering the hatchback as a hybrid, a PHEV, and a pure electric vehicle (EV). While the EV version is currently only available in California and the PHEV goes on sale this fall, the hybrid is the mass appeal, competitively priced version—and the one gunning for a piece of the market dominated by the Toyota Prius franchise.
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The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq surpasses the Prius in fuel economy: The Blue trim we tested has an EPA rating of 58mpg combined, topping the 2017 Prius Eco's 56mpg. This not only sets a new fuel economy benchmark for a non-plug-in hybrid, the Blue is also the entry-level model and least expensive vehicle in the Ioniq lineup. It's characteristic of Hyundai's long-term strategy to grab market share from Japanese competitors by offering comparable vehicles with more features, better value, and a longer warranty. The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq mostly accomplishes these goals and offers the opportunity for more mainstream car buyers to purchase a hybrid, making for an attractive alternative to the Toyota Prius.
Pricing and Design
The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq comes in three trim levels, all with a 1.6-liter 104-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission that powers the front wheels. A lithium-ion battery drives a 32-kilowatt electric motor to supply an additional 43 horsepower and is recharged by the gasoline engine and regenerative braking.
The entry-level Blue trim that we tested starts at $22,200 and comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, active grille shutters, a rear spoiler, body color side mirrors, automatic projector headlights, daytime running lights, and door handle approach lights. It also has a driver's blind spot mirror, dual automatic climate control, power windows and doors, six-way manual front seats with driver-side lumbar support, cloth seating, 60/40-split fold-down rear seatbacks, steering wheel audio controls, and keyless entry and ignition.
Standard in-cabin tech includes Bluetooth for phone and audio, AM/FM HD Radio, satellite radio, USB and aux-in jacks, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 7-inch in-dash touch screen with a rearview camera. There are no options available for the Ioniq Blue, and the only add-ons on our tester were $25 carpeted floor mats. With a $835 inland freight and handling charge, the total sticker price came to $23,160.
The SEL trim starts at $23,950 and adds LED daytime running lights and taillights, heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, exterior chrome accents, heated front seats, a 7-inch LCD instrument cluster, a 10-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a rear center armrest, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Front-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning are available as part of a $1,000 Tech Package option.
The top-of-the-line Limited trim starts at $27,500 and adds 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, chrome door handle accents, premium door sills, a sunroof, leather seating, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED interior lighting, and Hyundai's Blue Link telematics system. An optional $3,000 Ultimate Package bundles the features of the SEL Tech package with adaptive headlights, rear parking sensors, driver seat memory, wireless device charging, an eight-speaker Infinity sound system, and an in-dash 8-inch touch screen with navigation system.
Compared with the pointy appearance of the Toyota Prius, the exterior styling of the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq is conventional to the point of being bland, which might appeal to people not looking to showcase their green-driving sensibilities. The interior is equally dull and, on the base-level Blue trim we tested, the cabin looks and feels almost utilitarian. But the Ioniq has more rear cargo room than the regular Prius; only the Prius Two Eco has slightly more space.
Interface and Connectivity
While the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq is entirely new, the infotainment interface is borrowed from sibling vehicles, which isn't a bad thing. We've praised the larger version of the in-dash display in the Sonata; the 7-inch touch screen in the Blue trim is simply a slightly scaled-down edition with the same excellent qualities.
The touch screen has large icons, and a row of hard buttons underneath allows for quick access to most of the main features. The interface also provides a wide range of customization, including the ability to choose the three main menu items displayed at the bottom of the screen, and a My Menu feature that lets you move any infotainment feature into a favorites bucket.
The Ioniq doesn't provide as much variety in the form of apps and connectivity, although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow access to each platform's native apps for phone, messaging, music, maps, and more, as well as for popular streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify. SiriusXM Travel Link supplies cloud-based information on weather, movies, stocks, sports, and fuel stations, but it's subscription-based. Surprisingly, Hyundai's BlueLink telematics system isn't available on the Blue trim.
The hybrid portion of the interface is also familiar from our tests of other Hyundai and Kia hybrids. It displays the usual triptych of current fuel economy, energy flow, and eco driving score. Press any of these three icons and you get more detailed info. While the Blue trim doesn't have the upgraded 7-inch LCD instrument cluster that's standard on the other two upper versions, we were impressed with the info it does show. A display on the right side keeps tabs on the battery charge status, while another on the left shows whether the hybrid battery is charging and if you're driving in an eco-friendly way or relying on the gasoline engine. Another small LCD can also show a wealth of info, including a rating of your driving style by percentages of Economical, Normal, and Aggressive.
Performance and Conclusions
While no one expects a budget hybrid to blow the doors off in terms of performance, the Ioniq is poky and plodding in everyday driving, and acceleration is lethargic unless you floor it. Handling is also unimpressive, and the small hatch lumbers like a larger and heavier vehicle. A performance bright spot is the use of an automatic transmission instead of a continuously variable transmission employed in many other hybrids, which is typically harsh and noisy during hard acceleration. And we easily achieved an average of 53.2mpg without really trying.
Despite the performance drawbacks, the Hyundai Ioniq's low price and improved fuel economy over the Prius make it an attractive alternative. For a bit more money, the SEL and Limited trim levels add more creature comforts and, with an EPA-estimated 55 mpg in mixed driving, still beat the standard 2017 Prius by 3mpg. So if your main goal is segment-topping hybrid fuel economy and great value, the 2017 Ioniq is hard to beat.
By Doug Newcomb Columnist
Doug Newcomb is a recognized expert on the subject of car technology within the auto industry and among the automotive and general media, and a frequent speaker at automotive and consumer electronics industry events. Doug began his career in 1988 at the car stereo trade publication Mobile Electronics, before serving as editor of the leading consumer magazines covering the topic, Car Audio and Electronics and Car Stereo Review/Mobile Entertainment/Road & Track Road Gear, from 1989 to 2005. In 2005 Doug started his own company, Newcomb Communications… More »
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