Allcarschannel.com recently had the privilege to test the Hyundai IONIQ, courtesy of Hyundai Sime Darby Motors. Hybrid cars are becoming a common sight in the country thanks to our government’s initiative to promote locally-assembled hybrid car through very attractive tax incentive offerings.

A plethora of luxury makes are making the most of this incentive to make available their latest hybrid cars that have resulted in a long waiting list in several countries and record annual sales globally. Locally, Hyundai Malaysia is one of the Auto companies to bring forth an affordable hybrid model, which everyone can afford; the Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid. Made for the budget conscious with sufficient specifications, the Hyundai IONIQ can match plenty of hybrid models several notches ahead. I have to admit this fact up front that I am a fan hybrid cars due to its practicality and real world economy.

When the kind PR agency of Hyundai Sime Darby Motors offered Allcarschannel.com the opportunity to test drive the IONIQ, it gave me the opportunity to get intimate with the buzz that is the IONIQ and how great of a hybrid car the IONIQ really is… I test drove the IONIQ high-spec HEV Plus and the session was certainly an eye-opener.

I just wish it had a more exciting exterior design as they have a very appealing design language in their line up. The silhouette of the IONIQ closely mimic another hybrid car made by their competitor including the see through trunk lid with integrated rear spoiler. Maybe Hyundai wanted to be sure people know this is a hybrid car at first glance from the outside. The use of blue signature lines at the front and back of the car further highlight this intention. Subjective aesthetic discussion aside, modern and clever aerodynamic features are employed to reduce drag such as the wheel air curtain which channels air from the front to exit at the corner of the wheel arch and the active airflap on the radiator grille that aid air flow according to the needs of the vehicle.

The IONIQ HEV Plus’ wheel sizes are 17-inchers with 225/45R 17 tyres. I am surprised to see it running on 225 width tyre as most Eco-friendly car would try to run on narrower tyres to reduce resistance and drag. I am however glad that the design of wheel covers to lower the resistance on the wheel did not result in the wheel looking like an entry level car.

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The interior is a modern place to be in. I especially love the steering wheel design and feel which gives me the premium feeling. The buttons on the dashboard and the gear knob also deserve similar praise. Well done to Hyundai in creating such feel in the car. The ‘this is a hybrid car’ blue signature theme continues inside the car where blue lines are tastefully placed on the air-cond vent, the steering and even the stitching on the seats are in blue color. I have to issues with this as it does somewhat elevate the image of the interior to a certain extend. The locations of all the button are easy to learn. It takes an idiot to ask how to turn certain function on. A clever feature found in this car is the ‘driver only’ button on the air-conditioning panel which shuts the air-con vent on the passenger side to provide stronger flow of air to the driver. This helps reduce the need for faster fan speed. This is something I know a few drivers do manually in their car as most of them drive without any passenger on weekdays. Kudos to Hyundai for making it a feature in the car.

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In the aspect of safety, this car spares no effort in ensuring the driver is safe. I can’t think of any car in this price range that offers so many of these features. It comes equipped with safety features such as Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Blind Spot Detection (BSD), Autonomous Emergency Brake (AEB), Smart Cruise Control (SCC) and Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). I can confess that all these features does contribute to reduce accident if one really pays attention to the warning and take the necessary precaution. Take for example, the (TPMS) Tyre Pressure Monitoring System: How many of us do take heed on the tyre pressure monitoring system (even in our own cars, if available)? Sometimes we may not even realize a flat rear tyre when driving until it is completely flat. I have seen someone driving at normal speed but with a barely any air in one or both rear tyres. Imagine what would happen when the car takes a corner or apply emergency braking.

The IONIQ hybrid HEV plus comes with 7 airbags all aound for ultimate occupants’ protection; just one of the many passive safety features of the IONIQ hybrid.

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Boot space is still a little compact for a family of four especially when going outstation with all on board despite clever packaging by placing the battery under the rear seat. The full size spare wheel takes up too much precious space in the trunk. A temporary tyre would be suffice in my opinion. The 60:40 split-fold seats can be folded in case additional load in the boot, if required.

Driving this car is an easy and comfortable affair. The arcade game like music indicating the car is ‘turned on’ is useful as I have to wonder if it is ready to drive. The initial take off may be a little laggy if you are in a hurry but once it is on the go, its performance is very satisfactory. No complain about it. Equipped with a 6 speed dual clutch gearbox, gear change be it up shift or down shift is not felt at all. As this car is not develop with lane hugging capability in mind, driving it in windy condition is not its forte.

The steering is a little muted and doesn’t communicate enough. This is totally understandable as the focus is on easy to drive. Driving it way above speed limit is also not recommended as it somehow doesn’t feel planted. Maybe the design is too focus on aerodynamic efficiency that it lacks downforce (which results in drag) to keep the car grounded. Anyways, driving the IONIQ hybrid HEV Plus around does not provoke others to invite you to test your driving prowess, so this should bother you too much. When you turn the engine ‘off’, another arcade game music is also played to indicate the system is off and you can get out of the car. Over the course of 2 days driving mainly on city roads, I managed to achieve 22.8 km/liter. Driving this car would make my regular pump attendant miss me for sure…

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At the end of the evaluation, I concluded that this is a car that I would recommend to anyone who needs a thrifty and affordable, a step-above entry level car. I don’t see why anyone should choose other sedans in this price range other than the need for more space. The Hyundai IONIQ line-up is affordable, economical, easy to drive and have all the latest safety and convenient features in the all-important package listing. What more do we need? A more Hyundai like exterior design perhaps?

Text and Images: Celica GT4