2018 Hyundai Ioniq Review - Fading Into the Background, Gracefully

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

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.
2018 hyundai ioniq review fading into the background gracefully

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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4 of 29 comments
  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Jun 08, 2019

    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.

  • GoVeg GoVeg on Jun 09, 2019

    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 ********************** https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7322 "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: https://interactive.pri.org/2019/05/antarctica/doomed-glacier-race.html Thanks.

    • See 1 previous
    • Formula m Formula m on Jun 11, 2019

      @PeriSoft Ya makes me want to key a hellcat

  • William I think it's important to understand the factors that made GM as big as it once was and would like to be today. Let's roll back to 1965, or even before that. GM was the biggest of the Big Three. It's main competition was Ford and Chrysler, as well as it's own 5 brands competing with themselves. The import competition was all but non existent. Volkswagen was the most popular imported cars at the time. So GM had its successful 5 brands, and very little competition compared to today's market. GM was big, huge in fact. It was diversified into many other lines of business, from trains to information data processing (EDS). Again GM was huge. But being huge didn't make it better. There are many examples of GM not building the best cars they could, it's no surprise that they were building cars to maximize their profits, not to be the best built cars on the road, the closest brand to achieve that status was Cadillac. Anyone who owned a Cadillac knew it could have been a much higher level of quality than it was. It had a higher level of engineering and design features compared to it's competition. But as my Godfather used to say "how good is good?" Being as good as your competitors, isn't being as good as you could be. So, today GM does not hold 50% of the automotive market as it once did, and because of a multitude of reasons it never will again. No matter how much it improves it's quality, market value and dealer network, based on competition alone it can't have a 50% market share again. It has only 3 of its original 5 brands, and there are too many strong competitors taking pieces of the market share. So that says it's playing in a different game, therfore there's a whole new normal to use as a baseline than before. GM has to continue downsizing to fit into today's market. It can still be big, but in a different game and scale. The new normal will never be the same scale it once was as compared to the now "worlds" automotive industry. Just like how the US railroad industry had to reinvent its self to meet the changing transportation industry, and IBM has had to reinvent its self to play in the ever changing Information Technology industry it finds it's self in. IBM was once the industry leader, now it has to scale it's self down to remain in the industry it created. GM is in the same place that the railroads, IBM and other big companies like AT&T and Standard Oil have found themselves in. It seems like being the industry leader is always followed by having to reinvent it's self to just remain viable. It's part of the business cycle. GM, it's time you accept your fate, not dead, but not huge either.
  • Tassos The Euro spec Taurus is the US spec Ford FUSION.Very few buyers care to see it here. FOrd has stopped making the Fusion long agoWake us when you have some interesting news to report.
  • Marvin Im a current owner of a 2012 Golf R 2 Door with 5 grand on the odometer . Fun car to drive ! It's my summer cruiser. 2006 GLI with 33,000 . The R can be money pit if service by the dealership. For both cars I deal with Foreign car specialist , non union shop but they know their stuff !!! From what I gather the newer R's 22,23' too many electronic controls on the screen, plus the 12 is the last of the of the trouble free ones and fun to drive no on screen electronics Maze !
  • VoGhost It's very odd to me to see so many commenters reflexively attack an American company like this. Maybe they will be able to find a job with BYD or Vinfast.
  • VoGhost I'm clearly in the minority here, but I think this is a smart move. Apple is getting very powerful, and has slowly been encroaching on the driving experience over the last decade. Companies like GM were on the verge of turning into mere hardware vendors to the Apple brand. "Is that a new car; what did you get?" "I don't remember. But it has the latest Apple OS, which is all I care about." Taking back the driving experience before it was too late might just be GM's smartest move in a while.