Hyundai actually intended to create a line of Ioniq “green” cars with looks as normal as normal can be. At least that’s what we’re told.

Another me-too hatchback design, totally lacking in individuality.

Thus, the Ioniq has the look of a me-too hatchback. Regardless of your viewing angle, it lacks a single interesting design cue. I will get to the many fascinating things going on beneath the Ioniq’s sheetmetal, but nothing about the car’s styling suggests the technological extravaganza percolating below.

This is in sharp contrast to the Toyota Prius hybrid and plug-in hybrid; Nissan’s Leaf, the world’s best-selling battery car with 300,000-plus sold; and Chevrolet’s Volt plug-in hybrid. All three stand out from the clutter of mainstream and generally dull-looking, gasoline-only rides – like Chevy’s yawn-inducing Cruze, Toyota’s utterly anonymous Corolla and Nissan’s somnambulant Sentra.

I mention these three because the Ioniq lineup includes a hybrid like the Prius, a plug-in hybrid like the Volt and a full-on battery car like the Leaf. You see what Hyundai is up to here, no?

Hyundai is positioning the Ioniq not as just a model, but an idea, a vision of the future and a brand unto itself – the very embodiment of Hyundai Motors’ long-term goal of becoming the greenest of green car companies.

The stylists can do better than this — and have at Hyundai.

In particular, Hyundai wants to out-Toyota Toyota, to catch and surpass the Japanese automotive colossus it envies most, the one that launched the green automotive revolution with the remarkably successful Prius hybrid 20 years ago. Many, including designers at Hyundai, believe the Achilles’ heel of the Prius is its polarizing wedge shape, and so the Ioniq design is the anti-Prius.

Meanwhile, others argue that the Leaf looks too round and mushy and wimpy; that it’s the metrosexual of cars. Others, still, say the Volt suffers from Priuspism — especially the first-generation version. Which explains why the second-generation Volt is more white bread that baguette. Apparently dull and uninspired is the goal for enviro-car designers.

Which, of course, is a mistake. Consider Tesla. The Model S and the coming Model 3 are design triumphs that run entirely on battery power. Tesla equals sexy and avant-garde; sex appeal is central to the Tesla brand.

Why the world’s biggest car companies insist on designing “green” cars that are the automotive equivalent of Birkenstock sandals is beyond me and anyone else with common sense. Green cars should be styled to catch the eye of the proverbial Girl from Ipanema, not celebrity environmentalist David Suzuki, a known Prius applauder.

Phenomenal engineering: three electrified powertrains on one platform, all launched within months of one another.

Despite the design failure, the engineering in the Ioniq is phenomenal — a platform with three electrified powertrains in relatively affordable runabouts with the latest connectivity and safety technologies. You want just a hybrid a la the Prius, you’re looking at $24,299. Step up to a plug-in Ioniq Electric Plus with an electric-only range of about 40 km and you’re looking at $31,999 or more, depending on options. And an all-electric Ioniq Electric, starting at $35,649, has a range of about 200 km between charges thanks to its 28 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery.

Pause for a second and consider what Hyundai has achieved in terms of managing complexity. The two hybrids share a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine with gasoline direct injection (GDI) combined with a six-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT). No other carmaker offers a six-speed DCT in a hybrid. Here, the benefits for the driver are very clear: the car is entertaining. The plug-in adds a small electric motor is powered by a lithium-ion polymer battery. It’s a snappy electric package – torquey and quick off the line.

As for the all-electric Ioniq, it has an 88 kW electric motor fueled by a 28 kWh lithium polymer battery pack. You may be wondering: can I charge the plug-in hybrid and the all-electric car in a regular household socket?

Yes, you can and it will take 24 hours for a full charge. Something call an integrated In-Cable Control Box (ICCB) makes basic home charging possible. For quicker charges, the Ioniq Electric comes with an SAE combo-type charge port permitting Level 3 DC quick charging. In the Ioniq range, electric power is converted by a permanent magnet electric motor. The Ionic Electric can be 80 per cent recharged in bout 24 minutes, fully done in just a bit more than half an hour using a Level 3.

The Ioniq Electric is just perfect for the city. It’s quiet and responsive. I typically went about three days between charges. I filled up the battery at a public charging station around the corner from my home. In other words, I drove for free; no fuel costs. Loved it.

A superb city car that in the all-electric version gave me free driving for a week.

Even the most basic Ioniq has a suite of luxury features: a display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay; heated front seats and LED daytime running lights. As you spend more, you get proximity keyless entry, wireless smartphone charging, a 7-inch LCD instrument cluster, and High-Intensity Discharge headlights with an Adaptive Cornering System are available.

Alas, the design remains a barrier. I want the world to know I am driving the latest high-tech automotive achievement, but the styling here doesn’t say that. Sure, we’re looking at a class-leading coefficient of drag of 0.24…yawn.

I expect Hyundai to learn from its mistake here, however. There’s plenty of time.

Look, as far back as 2014, Hyundai Motor began telling us that the combined Hyundai and Kia brands will have a green-car lineup of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electrics, and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles that will add up to 31 separate “green” vehicle versions by 2020. Eight of 31 will, apparently, be all-electric. At least two of the 31 will use hydrogen fuel cells.

We’re in the infancy of the greening of Hyundai. No question, more and better things coming, particularly from the company’s design houses.

2018 Hyundai Ioniq

Price range: $24,299-$41,849 plus $1,829 for freight, PDI and various fees.


Hybrid: 1.6-litre I4, plus 32 kW electric motor (EM) and 1.56 kWh battery, for a net system output of 139 hp/195 lb-ft torque;

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Plus: 1.6-litre I4, plus 45 kW EM and plus 8.9 kWh battery for net output of 164 hp/195 lb-ft;

Electric: 88 kW electric motor, plus a 28 kWh battery pack, for a net output of 118 hp/218 lb-ft torque.

Transmission: six-speed dual-clutch automatic for hybrids; Ionic Electric gets a single-speed reducer transmission.

Charging for Ioniq Electric: 24 hours using 110V/120V Level 1 charger; 4 hours 24 minutes using a 220V/240V Level 2 charger; 80 per cent in 24 mins, 100 per cent in 33 minutes using an SAE combo fast charger (Level 3 100 kW).

Drive: front-wheel.

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): Hybrid 4.1 combined (Blue). Ionic Electric is rated at 1.7Le/100 km combined.

Comparables: Toyota Prius and Prius Prime, Chevrolet Volt and Bolt, Volkswagen eGolf, Nissan Leaf, Kia Soul BEV, BMW i3, Audi A3 e-tron, Ford Focus Electric, smart electric drive, Mini Countryman S E ALL4.

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