Breaking all the rules

BY Kelly Taylor . Sep 01 04:00 am

Hybrids have been on the market since the first Toyota Prius arrived in 1999, but in those 18 years, few have earned the adjective likable.

The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq is an exception.

Smartly designed, stitched together very well and — despite not being the most powerful hybrid on the road — fun to drive.

Perhaps the best thing about the Ioniq is it doesn’t beat you over the head with its greenness the way some do with their polarizing styling, unique shift levers or intrusions into cargo and passenger space.

Sit in the Ioniq and its hybrid nature might escape you, at least until you turn on the power and see the battery-level indicator on the dash.

As with the best of its rivals, the Ioniq is purpose-built to be a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and an EV. That’s allowed designers to integrate the bulky battery into the car and minimize its impact on interior space.

The dashboard is attractively designed. The Controls are intuitively placed.

Seats are comfortable and the vehicle’s leg, head and shoulder room are all excellent, with each sacrificing only a bit for rear-seat passengers.

The 750 litres of cargo space in the trunk is larger than the Prius (unless a Prius buyer orders the tire repair kit instead of a spare tire).

Just about the only concession you suffer with the Ioniq is if you move up to the EV — in that car, the size of the drive battery is such that it mandates losing the independent rear suspension in favour of a space-saving, coupled torsion-beam design.

In the other varieties, you get a multi-link rear suspension to help keep the rear planted in spirited driving. You might find yourself doing that a lot — the low centre of gravity and the distribution of weight from front to rear make the Ioniq a fun car to toss around.

Notice I haven’t mentioned fuel economy yet? That’s because fuel economy isn’t the main entrée of the story — it’s the gravy on the side. But it’s pretty good gravy.

The official numbers beat the Prius, with Natural Resources Canada pegging the hybrid at 4.2, 4.0 and 4.1 litres per 100 kilometres of city, highway and combined driving, respectively. In that way, the Ioniq is an outlier among hybrids, which typically get better fuel economy in the city — where you get more regenerative braking and electric propulsion — than on the highway.

The Ioniq hybrid features a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine, running in the Atkinson cycle. It sacrifices power density at the altar of fuel efficiency — an acceptable trade-off when you have the power of an electric motor to add torque.

The electric power comes from a 32-kilowatt, permanent magnet electric motor and a 1.56-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion polymer battery. The plug-in uses a 45-kilowatt battery and 8.9-kilowatt-hour battery, while the EV, currently limited primarily to the three rebate-providing provinces (Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec), uses an 88-kilowatt motor and 28-kilowatt-hour battery providing 118 horsepower.

The Ioniq starts at $24,299 and comes fairly well-equipped at the base price, with heated seats, rear-view camera and a seven-inch touchscreen display. For $2K more, you add keyless entry and start and heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel. The Limited features autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, leather seating surfaces and wireless phone charger. Its price is $29,749.

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