With its sights set squarely on the Toyota Prius, the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq proves the Korean carmaker isn’t afraid to shake things up. In aiming for the segment leader, the Ioniq Hybrid and Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid have leapfrogged a number of competitors, although in terms of interior space, the Ioniq still lags behind the Prius. The Ioniq’s biggest advantage over the Prius is its price point, and yet Hyundai doesn’t ask customers to sacrifice style, features or fuel economy in return. The Ioniq further extends its green footprint by using a number of recycled and natural materials as part of its interior construction. It also comes standard with a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty.
The Ioniq’s fuel economy numbers are quite impressive, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) giving the most efficient Ioniq trim scores of 59 miles per gallon on the highway and 57 mpg in city driving.
What’s New for 2018?
For 2018, the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid joins the standard hybrid and electric versions, offering up to 29 miles of electric range and a possible 650-mile total range if driven gingerly. Paddle shifters are now available on the Ioniq Hybrid SEL and Limited, while the optional lane-departure warning feature gains lane-keep assist. See the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq models for sale near you
What We Like
Great fuel economy; high-quality interior materials, fit and finish; low entry price; lots of standard features; great warranty
What We Don’t
Limited legroom and headroom; vague steering allows the car to wander; odd split rear window impedes rear visibility; no rear wiper/washer; lots of interior road noise
Hyundai’s 2018 Ioniq uses a 1.6-liter Atkinson-cycle version of Hyundai’s Kappa engine mated to a 32-kilowatt electric motor for a total output of 139 horsepower. Unlike most hybrids, the Ioniq shuns the use of a CVT automatic in favor of a traditional 6-speed automatic. The plug-in hybrid uses the same setup but with 104-hp engine and 44.5-kWh electric motor, plus a larger 8.9-kWh lithium-ion polymer battery.
The EPA rates the Ioniq Blue at 57 mpg city/59 mpg hwy. All other Ioniq hybrid trims earn a slightly lower 55 mpg city/54 mpg hwy. During our brief test drive over highways and some winding back roads, we saw an average of around 45 mpg. The Ioniq plug-in hybrid attains 119 mpge/52 mpg and a total all-electric range of 29 miles.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq hybrid comes in three trim levels: Blue, SEL and Limited. The Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid comes in two trims: Hybrid and Hybrid Limited.
The Ioniq Blue ($23,085) includes proximity key entry and push-button start, a 7-in color touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a rearview camera, Drive Mode Select (Eco or Sport settings), active grille shutters, a tilt-telescopic steering column, Bluetooth, cruise control, 15-in alloy wheels, driver’s blind spot monitoring, power windows, power locks, power side mirrors, auto headlight control, dual-zone automatic climate control, 60/40-split folding rear seats, manually height-adjustable driver’s and passenger seats and a rear window defroster.
The Ioniq SEL ($24,885) adds blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, heated side mirrors, additional exterior chrome molding, aero-type wipers, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, a 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, heated front seats, a 7-in LCD instrument cluster and a folding rear armrest.
The Ioniq Limited ($28,435) includes all the SEL’s features plus 17-in alloy wheels, a power sunroof, HID headlights, leather seats, Blue Link Connected Car Services and telematics and LED interior illumination.
The Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid ($25,835) features a 29-mile all-electric range, a 7-in color touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, a rearview camera, heated front seats and dual-zone climate control.
The Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid Limited ($29,185) adds blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a power driver’s seat with lumbar support, leather seating and console mounted second-row air vents.
The SEL can be equipped with the Tech package ($1,000), which adds automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning. The Limited trim offers the Ultimate package ($3,000), which brings all the features of the SEL Tech package plus adaptive headlights, rear parking sensors, an 8-in color touchscreen with navigation, an 8-speaker Infinity Premium Audio system, a wireless charging pad, the Blue Link Guidance package (3 years, enrollment required), driver’s seat memory, rear console-mounted vents and a cargo cover. The Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid Limited’s Ultimate package adds a power sunroof.
The 2018 Ioniq comes with a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty and a lifetime battery warranty (original owner only) that covers the battery in the event of a complete failure, but not necessarily diminished capacity over time.
The Ioniq comes equipped with a full set of required safety features, including electronic traction and stability control, antilock brakes, a tire pressure monitor, a rearview camera and a full complement of airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag. Optional equipment includes front and rear parking sensors, automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the 2018 Ioniq its best score of Good in every crash test and a Superior in the crash avoidance and mitigation test. IIHS also lists the Ioniq Hybrid as a Top Safety Pick.
Behind the Wheel
We sent Aaron Gold, one of our editors, to spend some time behind the wheel of a 2018 Ioniq Limited. Here’s what he had to say:
"Unlike Honda and Toyota’s hybrid systems, which use some variation of a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Ioniq uses a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic. Hyundai says they chose this transmission because it drives like a traditional automatic, a sharp contrast to CVTs that allow the engine speed to rise and fall freely. One of our complaints about dual-clutch automatics is a lack of low-end acceleration when paired with a small engine, but the Ioniq’s electric motor solves this nicely: It delivers plenty of low-end torque, so the Ioniq moves off smartly from a stop.
"We have little complaint about the Ioniq’s suspension, which rides smoothly and evenly. We didn’t have many tight, twisty turns on our press preview drive, but what curves there were the Ioniq handled well. Our big complaint is one we’ve made about other Hyundais: the steering. On the open highway, the Ioniq darts to and fro, requiring constant tiny corrections that can make long drives a real chore.
"We also noticed quite a bit of road noise making its way through the floor in the Ioniq Limited we sampled. We assumed the culprits were the Michelin Energy Saver tires, which are designed for maximum fuel economy and longevity (they have a 65,000-mile tread-wear guarantee), but then we discovered that the Limited has Michelin Primacy MXM4 tires — the same model fitted as original equipment to many nonhybrid cars. Oddly enough, the Ioniq Blue, which does have the Energy Savers, struck us as being a bit quieter.
"For all the things we like about the Ioniq, we do have areas to criticize. First is the back seat: Even with the front seats adjusted for our tester’s short 5-foot-6 frame, leg room was limited, and headroom wasn’t overly generous. And while the trunk looks good on paper — 26.5 cu ft. — the Ioniq’s low roof line limits space for bulky cargo.
"Speaking of the roof line, the back window is split into two pieces, with a large bar running between them. It makes for an odd view out the rear window. There’s no rear wiper — a victim of cost and aerodynamics, we suppose — but the Ioniq could use one."
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Toyota Prius C — The Prius C is less expensive than that Ioniq, but it’s also smaller, less powerful and not as well-optioned. The Toyota also has a shorter standard warranty.
2018 Kia Niro — The Kia Niro uses the same basic mechanicals as the Ioniq, but in a more useful package, with better interior space and a more attractive SUV-like design.
2018 Ford C-Max — The C-Max costs about the same as the midlevel Ioniq SEL but offers more interior volume, a more upscale interior and a few more luxury options. There’s also a plug-in hybrid version, although the C-Max’s fuel economy figures are not as high as the Ioniq’s.
Used Toyota Camry Hybrid — A used 2012-2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid will give you great fuel economy, a lot more interior room and excellent reliability and resale figures.
With its combination of features, options and price, we think the SEL with the Tech package is the best deal in the Ioniq lineup. We love the extra features found in the Limited’s Ultimate package, but the $31,000 price tag pushes the Ioniq out of the "affordable hybrid" category it’s looking to conquer.