Hyundai’s Prius-fighter, the Ioniq

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

New York – Look out, Toyota Prius, you have company.

Hyundai's 2017 Ioniq HEV

On Wednesday, Hyundai introduced three battery-powered Ioniq compact sedans aimed directly at the Prius family which has long dominated the compact-electric segment. Based on a new platform designed from the ground up for battery-powered drivetrains, the Ioniq family will come in hybrid, plug-in and pure electric guise. Hyundai claims it will best the Prius both in mpg (58 EPA combined for the Ioniq hybrid vs. 56 for the Prius hybrid) and in plug-in range (25 miles on battery-only for the Ioniq vs. 23 for the Prius plug-in).

In a press conference heavy on automakers’ responsibility to address global warming, the Ioniq was introduced by billionaire environmentalist David de Rothschild, heir to the Rothschild banking fortune, who proclaimed that “Hyundai’s vision is for a better world for us all.”

Hyundai's 2017 Ioniq HEV

“People want to make the right choice for the environment,” said Rothschild who has circled the world preaching the importance of changing our lifestyles to prevent catastrophic climate change. But he said that the Ioniq would achieve “zero emissions with zero compromise” by offering attractive styling, a comfortable interior and digital connectivity including Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

The Ioniq, says Hyundai North America CEO Dave Zuchowski is also about meeting looming federal and California fuel economy mandates at a time when customer demand for EVs is declining amid high costs and low gas prices.

Hyundai's 2017 Ioniq HEV

“The government demand that cars get 54.5 mpg by 2025 isn’t changing, so we need the product to get our fuel economy to that level,” said Zuchowski. “We have to create demand where is doesn’t exist.”

Zuchowski says that EVs have to be more than just a “just a way to save on gas” – they have to be “about our kid’s futures. When we got to market we focused on changing the world with no compromises. This car is nimble, it’s quick, it’s spacious in the way we package the batteries.”

Hyundai's 2017 Ioniq HEV

The Ioniq chassis was built to put its lithium-ion batteries underneath the seats – with the pure EV version replacing the 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine under the hood (in both hybrid and plug-in) with a 120-horsepower electric motor. Nissan hope the threesome will offer customers a wide verity of mobility options in order to increase sales volume. That volume, says, Zuchowski, is of paramount concern as California requires a percentage of sales to be “zero-emission” EV or hydrogen by 2020.

The pure-electric Ioniq and Hyundai Tucson hydrogen fuel-cell are the brand’s key compliance vehicles since “the hybrid vehicle doesn’t really count toward zero-emissions.”

The Ioniq welcomes you with a large, full-fascia version of the brand’s signature hexagon grille that provoke comparisons to Audi. With a sleek, sport-coups shape, the Ioniq sedans boast a best-in-class 0.24 drag coefficient. While attempting to broaden EVs’ appeal beyond eco-geeks, the Iconic also makes a nod to green enthusiasts with a dash made of compound resin derived from lava stone.

Hyundai's 2017 Ioniq HEV

In a SUV-mad world, Hyundai Vice Chairman Eui-son Chung hopes that the Ioniq sedan will appeal to buyers with a vision for “freedom from anxieties about pollution, congestion, and traffic. It’s about driving comfortably in a world where environmental hazards are not the norm.”

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Reach him at Or Twitter: @HenryEPayne