Hyundai Ioniq starts at $22,400, gets up to 55 mpg

Emma Jayne Williams
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The 2019 Ioniq Hybrid’s low-resistance design aids in fuel efficiency that the EPA rates at up to 55 mpg.

Hyundai made automotive history for 2017, introducing three electrified hatchbacks based on the same design and chassis — the Ioniq Hybrid, Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid and Ioniq Electric — and offers new and broader applications of active safety features, and enhanced voice recognition for the 2019 model year.

Driver attention alert and high beam assist are now available; navigation using natural-language voice-recognition is optional; and automatic emergency-braking, lane-keep assist and smart cruise-control are added to the sel trim.

The driver-attention feature visually alerts the driver if distracted driving is detected, indicating the need to take a break. Smart cruise maintains a constant speed and following distance without input from the driver, and cancels automatically when speed drops below 5 mph.

The basic Ioniq Hybrid is available in three trims, with prices ranging from $22,400 for a very basic Blue model to $24,950 for the SEL, and $28,550 for the well-equipped Limited.

I drove a Limited Hybrid riding on distinctive 17-inch Eco-Spoke alloy wheels, with wide, flat “V” spokes featuring solid-black inserts, wearing low-rolling-resistance, high-silica tires for better all-around performance.

Ioniq (a name derived from lithium-ION polymer battery and uniIQue) is the most aerodynamic hybrid, with a sleek profile, integrated rear spoiler, wheel air curtains and underbody cover. The Ioniq uses significantly less kWh annually and features very low operating cost per 25 miles driven, at just under $1.

Its low-resistance design aids in the incredible fuel efficiency and includes an active air flap that adjusts to driving conditions — open for greater airflow for engine cooling in stop-and-go traffic, closed for better aerodynamics at cruising speed. EPA ratings are 55 mpg city/54 highway/55 combined. Driving mostly in the neighborhood, I managed 53 mpg, according to the on-board computer.

In the hybrid, a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, working with a 32kW electric motor, produces 139 combined horsepower, which is delivered to the front wheels by a six-speed EcoShift dual clutch transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and drive mode select to be nimble through traffic and a smooth ride at highway speeds.

Sport mode holds the lower gears longer and combines power from the engine and electric motor for maximum performance. Eco mode optimizes gear selection for efficiency, upshifting earlier to achieve class-leading fuel economy.

Depending on the mode selected, the digital instrument cluster shows a vibrant changing color palette and dynamic graphics that monitor vehicle performance. For example, driving style will be rated as Economical, Normal or Aggressive. When Sport mode is selected, a tachometer is shown and colors change to red to reflect the sense of sportiness. Normal mode is blue and Eco mode is green.

Ioniq uses the gasoline engine and degenerative braking to add charge to the advanced 240-volt lithium-ion polymer battery with hybrid starter generator, which is designed to be one of the most compact and efficient batteries available. This charge can later be transferred from the battery to the electric motor to the wheels for acceleration when needed.

The battery pack is under the rear passenger area, thus lowering the vehicle’s center of gravity, helping reduce energy loss due to inertia and, along with the hatchback and 60/40 split-folding rear seats, allowing more room and versatility for passengers and cargo.

This is the first time a 12-volt car battery has been consolidated with a high-voltage hybrid battery. The 1.56 kilowatt-hour hybrid battery can be used to self-charge the integrated 12-volt battery in the event it is run down too low to start the car — simply press a “battery reset” button. A traditional jump start can still be used if the self-start does not succeed. Both batteries are covered by a lifetime failure warranty for original owners.

Ioniq is powerful with excellent ride quality, attractive and comfortable for daily driving, and very economical.