By on June 7, 2019

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid SEL

1.6-liter four-cylinder/ 32 Kw electric motor (139 net horsepower)

Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive

55 city / 54 highway / 55 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

4.3 city, 4.4 highway, 4.3 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $24,000 (U.S) / $26,499 (Canada)

As Tested: $26,010 (U.S.) / $26,499 (Canada)

Prices include $885 destination charge in the United States and $1,805 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

As much as I’d like to write every review the instant a loaner car leaves my site, sometimes travel or other duties take precedent and the review gets back-burnered for a while. Sometimes, a long while.

That’s usually okay – I take notes and have a pretty good memory for each vehicle. But on rare occasions, a car starts to fade from memory before the taillights even disappear from sight.

That’s usually a bad thing. Usually. But I get the sense that sometimes a certain car is engineered to be unmemorable.

That appears to be the case with Hyundai’s Ioniq Hybrid. Arguably the most mainstream of the Ioniq family – which also includes plug-in hybrid and pure electric versions – this car goes about its business relatively quietly, without the shouty “I’m a hybrid!” attitude of the venerable Toyota Prius (something I also dug about the Honda Insight hybrid).

Pairing a 1.6-liter four-cylinder to a 32 Kw electric motor, Hyundai lists the net horsepower at 139. A six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission gets that power to the front wheels.

You’ll note that’s not even close to an eye-popping horsepower number, but this is a car more concerned with sipping fuel than supplying grins. Fast, it is not.

Other specs also scream “fuel-saver,” such as the 15-inch wheels (17s are available) or the lack of a full-size spare tire. Par for the hybrid course.

No one expects a hybrid dedicated to passing fuel pumps to be a “driver’s car,” and the Ioniq most definitely is not. Besides been adequate at best in terms of acceleration, the Ioniq isn’t particularly a blast to drive, although the steering is better than one expects from a gas-saver, and the ride is just fine for urban commuting.

The hatchback bodystyle gives Ioniq owners a little extra dose of practicality. Go ahead, stuff this thing with groceries and pass a bunch of fuel pumps. The MPG rating is 55 city/54 highway/55 combined for SEL trimmed cars like my tester.

It wasn’t just the “polite suburban dad” manners of the Ioniq I found myself mostly fond of. The price was right, too. A Tech package ($1,000) added lane-keep assist and automatic emergency braking, along with smart cruise control. Other than carpeted floor mats ($125), the SEL was otherwise unadorned with options, and the total price, including destination ($885), was $26,010.

This included standard features such as keyless entry and starting, body-color mirrors and door handles, LED DRLs and taillights, automatic headlights, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, leather steering wheel with paddle shifters (not that anyone is gonna use them), UBS, Bluetooth, satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

All that for a reasonable base price of $24,000.

With the exception of its odd name, the Ioniq doesn’t really stand out in the crowd. Prius buyers are immediately stereotyped, while anyone who buys an Ioniq will just blend into the background.

That’s not just an observation of character – the Ioniq’s styling doesn’t even stand out. Yes, the big front grille is noticeable, and the wheels are giveaway that you’re driving a hybrid, and the rear is a bit bulbous. But the overall package is still far more subtle than the Prius. Commoners won’t know that the Ioniq is a “green” car – it just looks like a generic compact hatch.

That continues inside, with a control layout that’s plain, simple, and not particularly sexy. It just works, and that will have to be enough.

For a variety of reasons, I don’t foresee a hybrid being on my next new-car shopping list. But if I decided to go green and wanted to do it well without breaking the bank, the Ioniq would get a long look. Honda’s Insight offers a bit more in terms of content and coddling, but some of the features available on the Ioniq SEL I tested would require a purchase of the pricier Insight Touring if you went with the Honda.

If you want a green car without a side of smug at a value price, the Ioniq, along with the rival Insight, is a compelling option. It will come down to content choices and budget. If you select the Ioniq, you’ll be motoring in the background, contentedly.

[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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29 Comments on “2018 Hyundai Ioniq Review – Fading Into the Background, Gracefully...”

  • avatar

    When a manufacturer tries to cover all the vehicle segments you predictably get slimy loss-leading filth squeezing into whatever sliver of market share is left.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, and I’m no fan of Hyundai myself.
      But a co-worker of mine has had an Ionic for about 6 months and genuinely loves it. It’s a lot of car for the money, even with the useless paddle shifters. And so far I haven’t noticed any slime on it.

  • avatar

    The reason this is fading into the background is because corporate cousin Kia Niro is blowing it out of the park. Same specs but a little taller. Also doesn’t scream “hybrid.” And the suspension and steering are tuned to be a tiny bit more euro. In the meantime, Hyundai is rushing to create a Kona Hybrid so they can catch up.

  • avatar

    My oldest daughter and I tried one of these out not too long ago – it’s a relaxed, comfortable car. Rear visibility is awful, though.

    • 0 avatar

      The rear is a mess… what where they thinking? Or, like a Prius is this the result of some aero related MPG assist.

      15″ wheels?!? I didn’t think anyone offer such small rollers these days. So much sidewall – its pretty much the opposite of most vehicles.

      • 0 avatar

        Probably is related to MPG, as you suggest – it’s a Kammback-type design. But it ruins rear visibility.

        Shame, because as Tim notes, the thing drives quite nicely. It was a revelation compared to the Prius C she tried out the same day.

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        I like lots of sidewall. Such tires provide a more pleasant ride.

    • 0 avatar

      I like these. The boringness is part of the appeal. Gauges where they belong, hatchback utility, no drama. If only it were more boring, with a beige or “stone” interior option. I hate black interiors.

  • avatar

    I’m still not convinced that the DCT employed by the H/K hybrids is superior to the CVT or “no transmission” setups used by Toyota and Honda.

    • 0 avatar

      Might not necessarily be “superior” but I definitely like it better. Might not be infinite ratios but there’s a wider range of gears and less parasitic loss in a DCT than a CVT. The electric motor soaks up the roughness in first gear, and the rest of the time it feels like a normal automatic.

      • 0 avatar

        Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive uses a planetary gearset with an electric motor controlling the relative rotation of a ring gear. There isn’t the sort of parasitic loss associated with a belt-variator CVT. What has the greatest range of ratio spread comes down to choices made by the engineers. With the high torque of electric motors from zero RPM there isn’t much point of a wide ratio spread though. Unlike any DCT, HSD has a proven track record of lasting half a million miles or more in taxicabs. In my experience, van Doorne CVTs are relatively inexpensive when they fail. DCTs are similarly short-lived while being uneconomic to repair even in eight to ten year old Porsches.

        • 0 avatar

          The problem is that hybrids don’t JUST have high torque electric motors. They have gasoline engines that have relatively narrow powerbands in comparison, and need gears to take advantage of it. And a DCT is still going to have less parasitic loss than any sort of planetary gearset. More gears = more friction after all.

          • 0 avatar

            The idea of parallel hybrids is that the electric motors are able to compensate for holes in the ICE’s power band. You don’t need torque multiplication because you have the perfect tool for low speed acceleration in the electric motor. That’s why Honda’s recent hybrids don’t even have multiple gear ratios.

          • 0 avatar

            Well, the Koreans did something right, because I’m averaging 50-55 MPG in my Kia Niro (same powertrain but less aerodynamic body). And that’s with 70% or more highway driving.

          • 0 avatar

            I believe the current Honda Accord hybrid has no gears at all. The engine is only connected to the wheels at highways speeds.

        • 0 avatar

          +1, ToddAtlasF1, for pointing out that Hybrid Synergy drive does not employ a conventional CVT; a lot of scribes are still getting that wrong.

          What’s your experience with the expense of CVT failures? My (purely second and third-hand) understanding is that scooter and snowmobile CVTs are readily serviceable but that if a metal-belt automotive CVT fails, you’re stuck with a very expensive transmission replacement.

          • 0 avatar

            If it’s a Nissan CVT, you have a decent chance of getting a new(maybe reconditioned) one from Nissan for a reasonable amount of money. It’s still a big job and labor is expensive though. If it is one of the Ford or Audi ones that were only offered for a short time, you’re probably out of luck. I think they’ve accepted the loss of those customers. I didn’t see any issues with the Mitsubishi/Mopar ones, but those cars might get towed straight to the junk yard without stopping at a shop for diagnostics. Metal-bet CVTs do wear and I’ve not seen them repaired with any success. I personally wouldn’t buy a belt-CVT unless the alternative was a dual-clutch automatic.

        • 0 avatar

          Longevity of anything in cars that run 24×7 doesn’t impress me. I worked for a courier service in the ’80s that routinely got 500K out of Ford Escorts. Cars last forever if you rarely shut them off and do all the miles in a few years.

          That said, Toyota’s HSD is the real deal, which is why I bought my mother a Prius V. Will likely last her the rest of her life if she stops running into things with it.

          I agree with you about DCTs. I would never buy a car with one.

          • 0 avatar

            Cold starts are hell on engines. I’m not sure heat is the friend of transmissions though.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, if I’m buying hybrid, I’m sticking with the tried and true Toyota setup.

      Outside of hatchback utility, why would you ever consider this over a similarly priced Camry Hybrid LE that (probably) rides/drives notably more pleasantly?

      • 0 avatar

        Personally I do like the hatchback body style and now that the 2019 Prius cleaned up the oddball forked shape lights on the front end, I consider it to be far more attractive than the Camry’s front end . Then again the Camry has more acceleration, room, and no doubt a far more plush quiet ride.

  • avatar

    If at the end of my lease I don’t buy out my car, and can’t find something with a manual and the kit that I want, I would seriously consider a hybrid. Full electrics don’t make sense for me right now, and if I’m letting the car shift for me I may as well have lower fueling costs. Almost looked at a Fusion hybrid a couple years ago when I chose my Mazda.

    I still have time to decide if I am buying the car so take my comment for what it’s worth.

  • avatar

    I’d definitely look at getting one. It gets all the fundamentals right, the interior isn’t festooned with screens and the 15″ tyres means cheap replacements. Only thing this is really missing is a full-sized spare, which is so rare nowadays that you can’t grumble too much about it. I get about 500m/800km from $50 in my car (Fiesta diesel), and this has very similar figures but is a class bigger, so it would make an ok car for long drives too.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I have the 2019 Ioniq EV, and absolutely love it. I cross-shopped the Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf, and Chevy Bolt. The Ioniq won out for several reasons, some of which include price, ergonomics, driving dynamics, and looks.

    The rear visibility is not really bad, and I personally like the split window look, but the bottom panel of glass is never clean, however. Visibility is no better in the Model 3, for instance.

    The drivetrain in the hybrid version is the same as the Niro, which I thought was pretty good when I tested it last year.

    FWIW, Alex Dykes recently recommended the Ioniq Hybrid above every other compact car, and that’s saying something.

  • avatar

    Mr. Healey–

    You don’t yourself in a hybrid? I DO hope that’s because you’ll soon see yourself in a full EV, preferably powered by solar panels, right?

    The facts are damning.

    If you care about the planet, our only one, and the generations from whom we borrow it, then it’s a no-brainer: you must transition.

    Or is the limited money provided to you by the incumbent/status quo brands enough to cause you to look away and pretend there’s nothing to worry about?

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

    ― Upton Sinclair


    “About the size of Florida, Thwaites Glacier is currently responsible for approximately 4 percent of global sea level rise. It holds enough ice to raise the world ocean a little over 2 feet (65 centimeters) and backstops neighboring glaciers that would raise sea levels an additional 8 feet (2.4 meters) if all the ice were lost.”

    Or, in a far better telling–from the glacier itself:


    • 0 avatar

      “Mr. Healey–

      You don’t yourself in a hybrid? I DO hope that’s because you’ll soon see yourself in a full EV, preferably powered by solar panels, right?”

      This kind of thing makes me want to buy a Hellcat. Word of advice to the OP: Smug, self-righteous morality shaming will harm your goals far more than it helps them. If you care about the world, change your tactics. If you actually only care about making yourself feel superior, then carry on.

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