It should come as no surprise that Hyundai’s new Ioniq hybrid hatchback overachieves in a big way. In its rookie year, it’s right in the game with the the longtime champ of the fuel-sipping hybrids, the Toyota Prius.
Our 2017 Ioniq Hybrid Limited was a little more expensive than the Prius Prime we tested recently, at $31,460. The top-of-the-line Prius Four Touring starts at about the same price. The Ioniq has a roomier interior and more cargo room, and it beats the Prius’ commendable 54-mpg rating by a single tick. The Ioniq’s interior seemed more refined than the Prius’ and was more conservative, with fairly unobtrusive dials and gauges distinguishing its dashboard display from those of non-hybrid models.
We had no complaints about the hybrid power system, which included a 104-horsepower inline 4-cylinder engine and 32-kilowatt electric motor powered by a 240-volt lithium-ion polymer battery. The Ioniq had plenty of pep, and the transitions between electric-vehicle mode and hybrid power were nearly seamless. Unlike some hybrids we’ve driven, the regenerative brakes didn’t have that odd inconsistency and unpredictable response common to some hybrid models.
The Ioniq is also quite functional, with more than 50 cubic feet of space behind the front bucket seats when the rear seats are lowered. The Ioniq seats five.
Our only beef with the driving experience was the feel of the rear suspension, which administered jarring blows to driver and passengers when going over frost heaves and expansion joints. Otherwise, the Ioniq rode smoothly and quietly, and handled fairly crisply. The impression given off by the suspension on rough pavement was that Hyundai’s best engineers designed the front MacPherson strut system, while the second team handled the multi-link setup in the rear.
Less well-executed hybrid models practically shout out their lightweight credentials, and indeed, the Ioniq is light, at 3,115 pounds. But weight-reducing materials can seem, and sometimes actually are, cheap. The Ioniq’s materials may have been light, but they felt substantial.
The base Ioniq Blue starts at $22,200. In Limited trim, the Ioniq basically is a near-luxury hybrid, with push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, satellite radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change assist, rear-view camera and leather upholstery. Without options, the Ioniq Limited had a sticker price of $28,435. Our test car was equipped with the $3,000 Ultimate package, which added automatic emergency braking, smart cruise control, lane-departure warning, rear parking sensors, navigation system with 8-inch touchscreen, Infinity premium audio, wireless smartphone charging device, and other extras.
The Ioniq also is available as a plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicle.
Government crash-test results are not yet available, but the Ioniq has been rated a Top Safety Pick Plus by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
In addition to its 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, Hyundai provides lifetime coverage for hybrid batteries. Toyota’s battery warranty is eight years and 100,0000 miles. Replacement hybrid batteries can cost up to $6,000.
2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited
Engine: 1.6-liter inline Four with permanent magnet synchronous motor, 139 horsepower combined
Transmission: 6-speed EcoShift dual-clutch automatic
Weight: 3,115 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 17-in. Eco-Spoke alloy
Tires: P225/45R17 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 26.5 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 53.1 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 11.9 gal.
Fuel economy: 55 mpg combined
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.