2017 Hyundai Ioniq is an Electrification Trifecta

From low, to lower, to no emissions

Hyundai's three-pronged green car approach — hybrid, plug-in, pure electric on the same platform is a world first.
Hyundai's three-pronged green car approach — hybrid, plug-in, pure electric on the same platform is a world first. Hundai Motor America

After more than two months of teasers, spy photos and leaks about drivetrains, the Hyundai Ioniq trio of electrified cars — gasoline-electric hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric — were introduced to the world at the Geneva Motor Show.

The Geneva show is known for being stuffed with cars, both European volume models that never reach our shores, and a huge number of high-priced, high-performance supercars, whose posters will soon adorn young boys’ bedroom walls.

Hyundai’s three-pronged green car approach is a highly aggressive move. Introducing a hybrid car wouldn’t be a big deal, nor would a plug-in electric hybrid. But launching both of those vehicles alongside a battery electric is not only a big deal, it’s a bold move by the Korean automaker: The Ioniq is the first vehicle offered with all three powertrains by a global automaker.

Mixed among all the high-end eye candy, it’s really no surprise that the three Ioniq models didn’t receive the media buzz they might have if they had been introduced in, say Los Angeles, or even in New York in three weeks.

The Ioniq is a dedicated model, meaning there is no gasoline-only equivalent. The three cars ride on a specially developed platform adopted from the 2017 Hyundai Elantra. It is specifically engineered to house onboard lithium-ion batteries. Weight has been kept down by using high-strength steel and aluminum, and the Ioniq’s shape has been designed for aerodynamic efficiency.

We already knew there would be three electrified powertrains and that each would have the same exterior and interior. Now with the official unveilings in Geneva, we can bring you fuller details of the Ioniq compact notchbacks.

 Ioniq Hybrid

The Ioniq Hybrid came first, and Hyundai has been outspoken that the car will be a fierce competitor of the Toyota Prius. It features a gasoline engine the company says is tailored for the hybrid application.

The new Kappa 1.6-liter direct injected four-cylinder produces 104 horsepower. Combined with a 43 horsepower electric motor, total system output is 139 horsepower, outgunning the Prius 121-system-horsepower. The motor is linked to a 1.56 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery.

An engine feature is a thermal efficiency of 40 percent, the world’s highest according to Hyundai. That’s thanks to a long-stroke design, with a head and block split for separate cooling and cooled gas recirculation. That gives something in the neighborhood of three percent mile-per-gallon gains alone.

A big difference between the Hyundai and Toyota is the Ioniq’s use of a six-speed dual clutch transmission, rather than the Prius’s continuous variable transmission (CVT). Hyundai is bullish about the six speeds benefit of on-road road performance. A spokesperson said it gives the Ioniq “dynamic driving ability.... a CVT doesn’t have any dynamics.”

Hyundai is anticipating an EPA fuel economy rating in the same proximity of the 2016 Prius and says it expects a better highway rating than the Toyota.

Pricing for the Ioniq Hybrid will be announced later this year.

Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid

When the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid arrives sometime in early 2017, it will use the same Kappa four-cylinder engine and six-speed dual clutch transmission as the hybrid model. But the formula changes from there. The electric power is increased to 63 horsepower and to extend its electric-only driving capabilities the battery pack is significantly enlarged 8.9 kilowatt-hours.

The changes result in a 31-mile electric driving range on the European driving cycle, which would be a competitive 20-something in the U.S. Important for Europe, the plug-in reduces CO2 emissions by more than half compared to the Hybrid, to as low as 32 grams per kilometer.

Ioniq Electric

The Ioniq Electric has an electric motor that makes 218 pounds-feet of torque and 118 horsepower. A single-speed reducer transmission is added to the driveline to give the car a top speed of 102 mph, which is comparable to the two hybrid models.

An interesting feature is steering wheel-mounted paddles that drivers can use to regulate regenerative braking when their foot is off the brake pedal. Sensibly used, this will help extend the driving range.

In terms of range, the Ioniq Electric relies on a 28 kilowatt-hour lithium battery, which Hyundai says delivers 250 kilometers or 155 miles. But that’s using the European test cycle and is not a U.S. EPA number. The detail that should be focused on is the 28-kilowatt-hour battery.

The 28 kilowatt-hours are 2-kWh less than the 2016 Nissan Leaf’s updated 30-kWh battery, which is EPA rated at 107 driving miles. So, expect the Ioniq Electric’s range to be somewhere slightly higher than 100 miles.

In South Korea, where it launches first, the Ioniq Electric starts at $32,000. If that price carries over to the U.S. the car will be a tough sell against the 2017 Chevrolet Volt. When it arrives before the end of the year with a more than the 200-mile range, it will have a sticker price of $37,000, including delivery and before any incentives.

Ioniq Styling

All three Ioniqs have the same high-tailed notchback with a coupe-like roofline silhouette. This is more of a conventionally styled car than the extrovert Prius, but what stands out is Hyundai’s large, hexagonal grille.

The two hybrids are identified by blue exterior accents. The Electric can be identified by a blanked-off grille, copper-colored details and, of course, the lack of tailpipes.

Like the exterior, the cabin is otherwise conventional with an uncluttered dash, with the two hybrid versions getting console-mounted gear shifters and the electric model offering push button for gear selecting.

The cars on display in Geneva featured a 7.0-inch central touchscreen in the dashboard with the promise of integration with both AndroidAuto and Apple CarPlay. There’s also a reconfigurable instrument cluster and an inductive charging pad for compatible smartphones.

The Korean firm has also put together a safety tech package for all three cars that include blind spot warning, lane-keeping assist, autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.

Final Word

Hyundai has become a very aggressive company, and the rest of the auto industry views it as a fierce, formidable global competitor in light of how far they have come with each generation of vehicles it has offered. It has stated it wants to get where Toyota is as quickly as possible.

To achieve that, Hyundai wants to become the second-largest seller of green cars by 2020. To achieve that it has committed to design, engineer and produce 12 hybrids, six plug-in hybrids, two electric vehicles, and two hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles by the end of this decade.

While it’s chasing Toyota, Hyundai should be aware that there may be other auto manufacturers who might just have a similar goal, but they aren’t talking about it.