Not many people have actually driven the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid yet. Recently, Autocar got the opportunity to pilot one in and around the City of Seoul, Korea. Its tester came away impressed with the car, which he called “probably the most normal-feeling small hybrid yet.”
Yes, the Ioniq is pleasantly styled and nicely outfitted inside. It is comfortable and competent. In other words, it is a perfectly fine car for mainstream drivers. What is perhaps most important is that the average driver will feel right at home in it immediately.
The Ioniq Hybrid is intended to compete head to head with the Toyota Prius, the car that most people think of when they think of a hybrid car. As good as the Prius is, it has a few quirks that can be unsettling. For one, it has a regenerative braking system that takes some getting used to.
When the driver lets off the gas pedal and applies the brakes, the electric motor becomes a generator, converting some of the car’s kinetic energy back into electricity which is then stored in the battery. Only when the brake pedal is pressed harder do the conventional mechanical brakes begin to operate.
Some clunking sounds come from the front of the car and the amount of braking force applied to slow the car is not always linear. Many people find regenerative braking unsettling, at least at first. That means the Prius does not feel completely “normal.” Autocar says Hyundai has eliminated much of that clunkiness from the regenerative braking system used in the Ioniq Hybrid. That’s one reason the car feels much like any other car. More “normal,” in other words.
The Prius and most other hybrids use a constantly variable transmission, or CVT. Originally developed for snowmobiles, these devices are very good at maximizing fuel economy. But many drivers dislike them because they feel like the engine is connected to the rest of the car by a large elastic band. There is no sense of a transmission changing gears as it accelerates. In other words, it doesn’t feel “normal.”
Hyundai has elected not to use a CVT for the Ioniq. Instead it uses an electronically controlled dual clutch 6 speed transmission. Autocar praises it for its smooth operation and for how it makes the car feel like any other car. In other words, it goes a long way toward making the Ioniq feel “normal.”
Prices for the Ioniq have not been announced yet, but Hyundai has worked hard to keep the costs of its components down. Autocar expects it will be priced nearly the same as a traditional diesel powered car in the UK market. In other words, even the price will be “normal.”