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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Review: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq SEL

      A real challenger to the Prius?

    Can any automaker out-do the Toyota Prius? Some have tried and ultimately have failed in one way or another. But the latest challenger, the Hyundai Ioniq, appears to be a formidable opponent. On paper, the Ioniq boasts higher fuel economy figures than the Prius. It also features a design that will not scare people away. We spent a week in the midlevel SEL to find out if the Prius needs to watch its back.

    The Ioniq’s design appears to be heavily influenced by the second and third-generation Prius. This is shown in the overall profile and rear tailgate design. The front end comes with a large hexagonal grille, raked projector headlights, and deep cuts in the bumpers enclosing a set of LEDs. The only downside to the Ioniq’s design is the plastic rectangle around the Hyundai emblem on the front. It looks out of place, but that houses the radar system needed for the automatic braking and adaptive cruise control systems.

    “It seems quite normal,” will be thought of many when they come inside the Ioniq. There is no futuristic design, joystick controller for the transmission, or endless acres of white plastic trim. This is an interior you might expect to find in the Elantra compact sedan. Material quality is similar to what you’ll find in a Toyota Prius - a mix of hard and soft plastics. The control layout is simple and is within easy reach for those sitting up front. The SEL comes with cloth upholstery and a power driver’s seat. Finding a comfortable position isn’t too hard with the power adjustments and a tilt-telescoping steering wheel. But the Ioniq’s front seats do falter on long trips. I found myself squirming around the seat after driving the vehicle for an hour. The back comes up slightly short in terms of head and legroom for taller passengers. For example, I’m 5’9” and my head was touching the headliner.

    A 7-inch infotainment system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is standard on all Ioniqs. A larger 8-inch system with navigation is only available on the top-line Limited trim. Hyundai offers one of the better infotainment systems with an easy-to-understand interface, quick performance, and having physical shortcut buttons to various functions. The only thing I wished Hyundai would do is making the 8-inch screen standard. This would make it easier to read the information at a quick glance.

    Hyundai employs a 1.6L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder engine, a 32 kW electric motor, and a Lithium-ion Polymer battery for the Ioniq’s hybrid powertrain. Total output is rated at 139 horsepower, 18 more than in the Prius. Around town, the Ioniq is noticeably faster than the Prius. I had no problems with keeping up with the flow of traffic. Sport mode does sharpen acceleration, but it will eat into fuel economy. Like the Prius, the Ioniq does struggle with getting up to speed on the freeway. The six-speed dual-clutch automatic didn’t exhibit the hesitation to drop down a gear or the clunky gear changes that I experienced in the Kia Niro. It delivered smooth and quick shifts.

    The EPA rates the 2017 Ioniq SEL at 55 City/54 Highway/55 Combined - better the 54/50/52 for the Prius. My average for the week was a disappointing 45 mpg. Some of this can be explained by the extremely cold temps that hit the Detroit-area only a couple days into my loan. This caused the gas engine to run constantly to keep the vehicle warm. 

    Like the Prius, the Ioniq is surprisingly fun to drive. There is little body roll and the vehicle quickly transitions from one turn to another. Steering has decent weight when turning, but is devoid of feel, something common in the class. The Ioniq comes up slightly short in terms of ride quality. On rough roads, the Ioniq lets in more bumps than the Prius. There is also a fair amount of tire roar that comes inside when driving on the freeway.

    Pricing is a strong point for the Ioniq. The midlevel SEL trim begins at $23,950. With the optional tech package (adds adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning) and floor mats, the as-tested price comes to $25,910. Taking into account what you get for the price, the Ioniq continues Hyundai’s reputation of delivering a lot of car for the money.

    As my time with the Ioniq was coming to a close, I found myself stumped between choosing the Ioniq and Prius. The Ioniq has the less outlandish design, better performance, higher fuel economy figures (on paper), and value. But the Prius can hold its own as it has a better balance between ride and handling, slightly larger back seat, and impressive real-world fuel economy figures. Plus, the Prius name holds a lot more recognition than the Ioniq.

    Despite the positives, the Ioniq finds itself between a rock and hard place.

    Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Ioniq, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2017
    Make: Hyundai
    Model: Ioniq
    Trim: SEL
    Engine: 1.6L GDI Atkinson Cycle Four-Cylinder, Electric Motor
    Driveline: Six-Speed Dual-Clutch Transmission, Front-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 104 @ 5,700 (Gas), 43 @ 0 (Electric), 139 (Combined)
    Torque @ RPM: 109 @ 4,000 (Gas), 125 @ 0 (Electric)
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 55/54/55
    Curb Weight: 3,031 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Ulsan, South Korea
    Base Price: $23,950
    As Tested Price: $25,910 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge)

    Tech Package - $1,000.00
    Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00

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    3rd Paragraph, first sentence

    You wrote:

    “It seems quite normal,” will be thought of many when they come inside the Ioniq.

    I think you need a "by" after of written as such:

    “It seems quite normal,” will be thought of by many when they come inside the Ioniq.


    OUTSTANDING, Thank you for referencing your height in regards to the back seat. That really is important I believe to shoppers.


    Last Paragraph,  2nd sentence you have an extra "the":

    You wrote: 

    The Ioniq has the less the outlandish design, better performance, higher fuel economy figures (on paper), and value.

    I think this "the" needs to go:

    The Ioniq has the less the outlandish design, better performance, higher fuel economy figures (on paper), and value.


    overall good read, enjoyed it. 

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    The Ioniq does look more like a normal hatchback, it lacks the Prius' distinctive weirdness.   One odd detail I noticed on one at the auto show Saturday is the door handles and bright trim around the side windows was a dull silver, rather than shiny chrome, which is different...

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    We've had a few back in the shop already for substantial warranty work.  One had the engine out of it and most of the interior.  Not a fan, but I like the looks of it.  It will never penetrate the Prius' armor though.

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    On 2/27/2018 at 10:19 AM, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    The Ioniq does look more like a normal hatchback, it lacks the Prius' distinctive weirdness.   One odd detail I noticed on one at the auto show Saturday is the door handles and bright trim around the side windows was a dull silver, rather than shiny chrome, which is different...

    Maybe it's just me, but  I like the simple look.

    Starting to think this may become the next battleground car....as I expect gas prices to shoot up at some point....

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    gas prices some day going up, is why we have cruzes and mid size cars that post mpg north of 35 these days......even if they don't sell well when gas is 2.50 and people buy trucks and SUV's again, they are ready to go when gas shoots up again.

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    U.S. oil inventories are down still because major refineries in Texas were doing a lot of overhauls and maintenance.


    I couldn't believe it, oil hovering around $60 a barrel and gas selling for $1.30 CAD per litre. 4L is a little more than 1 gallon, so we were paying like $5.10 per gallon. And we still are. Well, atleast Europe is more brutal for gas than even Canada.

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