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Hyundai claims its Ioniq will deliver class-leading economy

PROS

  • Promises to be the most efficient hybrid on sale
  • Hybrid, plug-in and pure electric versions expected
  • Bodywork is less polarising than the Prius’s

CONS

  • Interior looks very conventional
  • Doesn’t break stylistic ground

Verdict

This is the Hyundai Ioniq, the Korean marque’s first foray into the purpose-designed eco-car market.

You’d be forgiven for assuming this would be a tentative toe in the water for Hyundai, but not a bit of it.

Not only will the Ioniq be sold as a petrol-electric hybrid to rival the Toyota Prius, there’ll be a plug-in hybrid version to compete against the likes of the Volkswagen Passat GTE as well as a pure-electric alternative to the Nissan Leaf.

Styled for aerodynamic efficiency

Looks-wise the Hyundai Ioniq breaks little new ground, with a teardrop profile and a hatchback featuring a split rear window. It follows the ‘hybrid look’ introduced with the second-generation Toyota Prius in 2004, which was also employed for the Honda Insight.

Elsewhere there’s a derivation of the Hyundai family-look trapezoidal grille design, with the number plate at its centre and bodywork free of stylistic gimmickry. It looks contemporary without being bland.

Some body panels are even designed to flex at higher speeds to improve aerodynamic efficiency down to a drag coefficient of 0.24, making it one of the best cars currently on sale in this respect.

It’s a similar story inside the Ioniq, which looks far more conventional than the Prius: analogue-style instrumentation on a seven-inch screen sits ahead of the driver in a binnacle, while the dashboard’s central element is topped with a touchscreen for the infotainment system. Build quality is expected to be excellent.

All-new powertrain and underpinnings

Hyundai has yet to release any performance or efficiency details for the hybrid and plug-in derivatives of the Ioniq but its stated aim is for it to be the most economical petrol-electric car on sale.

What is known is that the conventional engine will be an all-new 1.6-litre unit which, together with the electric motor, produces 139bhp and 265Nm of torque.

Hyundai’s taken a sideways swipe at Toyota’s insistence on fitting hybrids with CVT automatic gearboxes, citing its six-speed dual-clutch (DCT) automatic eliminates the ‘rubber band-like’ high engine speed under acceleration.

As with its rivals, the Ioniq features three driving modes: Normal, Eco and Sport; the latter holding onto engine revs longer and combining more petrol and electric power to boost acceleration.

Located under the rear seat, the lithium-ion polymer battery stores the electrical energy ready for deployment. Hyundai claims it’s more efficient at charging and discharging than nickel-metal hydride alternatives.

Those mechanical components all sit within a new, purpose-designed hybrid-specific architecture, destined to underpin other models including the Kia Niro crossover.

Eco-friendly features

There are a number of intelligent features among the equipment available in the Hyundai Ioniq including an efficient climate control system which can be switched to driver-only mode to minimise wastage.

Additionally, many of the interior plastics as well as carpets and headlining are rich in recycled materials, while the sat-nav is linked to ECO-DAS (Hyundai-speak for Eco Driving Assistant System) which uses the prevailing traffic conditions and topography to decide in advance upon how best to deliver the greatest efficiency.

When can you buy one?

Hyundai is yet to reveal prices for its all-new Ioniq range but expect them to be lower than the Toyota Prius when the car’s available to order in the middle of 2016.

We’ll be putting this fuel-efficient family hatch to the test later this year when we discover if the all-new Hyundai Ioniq will shake up the hybrid market.

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