Hyundai's Ioniq offers a sleek profile, fuel efficiency and a modest base...

Hyundai's Ioniq offers a sleek profile, fuel efficiency and a modest base price of less than $23,000.   Credit: Hyundai

Hyundai made automotive history for 2017, introducing three new electrified vehicles based on the same design and chassis — the Ioniq Hybrid, Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid and Ioniq Electric. For the 2019 model year it's offering new and broader applications of active safety features and enhanced voice recognition. 

Driver-attention alert and high-beam assist are now available; navigation using natural-language voice recognition and automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist and smart cruise control are added to the SEL trim.

The driver-attention feature visually alerts the driver if distracted driving is detected, indicating the need to take a break. Smart cruise maintains a constant speed and following distance without input from the driver, and cancels automatically when speed drops below 5 mph.

The basic Ioniq Hybrid is available in three trims, with prices ranging from $22,400 for a very basic Blue model to $24,950 for the SEL, and $28,550 for the well-equipped Limited version.

Ioniq (a name derived from lithium-ION polymer battery and uniIQue) is the most aerodynamic hybrid, with a sleek profile, integrated rear spoiler, wheel air curtains, and underbody cover. The Ioniq uses significantly less kWh annually and features very low operating cost per 25 miles driven, at just under $1.

Its low-resistance design aids in the incredible fuel efficiency and includes an Active Air Flap that dynamically adjusts to driving conditions — open for greater airflow for engine cooling in stop-and-go traffic, closed for better aerodynamics at cruising speed.

In the hybrid, a 1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder engine, working with a 32kW electric motor, produces 139 combined horsepower, which is delivered to the front wheels by a six-speed EcoShift dual clutch transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and Drive Mode Select for a nimble drive through traffic and a smooth drive at highway speeds.

Ioniq uses the gasoline engine and degenerative braking to add charge to the advanced 240-volt lithium-ion polymer battery with hybrid starter generator, which is designed to be one of the most compact and efficient batteries available. This charge can later be transferred from the battery to the electric motor to the wheels for acceleration when needed.

The battery pack is under the rear passenger area, thus lowering the vehicle’s center of gravity, helping reduce energy loss due to inertia and, along with the hatchback and 60/40 split-folding rear seats, allowing more room and versatility for passengers and cargo.

This is the first time a 12-volt car battery has been consolidated with a high-voltage hybrid battery. The 1.56 kilowatt-hour hybrid battery can be used to self-charge the integrated 12-volt battery in the event it is run down too low to start the car. A traditional jump-start can still be used if the self-start does not succeed. Both batteries are covered by a lifetime failure warranty for original owners.

An aluminum hood and tailgate reduced weight by 27 pounds, with no disadvantages in noise or vibration. Aluminum in front and rear suspension components save about 22 pounds, all helping to increase fuel efficiency.

The best-in-class cargo area has 26.5 cubic feet of space — room for golf clubs, weekend luggage, gardening supplies, or weekly groceries. Front passengers had 38.2 inches of headroom and 42.2 inches of legroom, while rear passengers had 37.4/35.7 inches, slightly less than Blue and SEL models.

Ioniq is powerful, fun to drive with excellent ride quality, comfortable and very economical.

2019 Hyundai Ioniq

Base price: $22,400

Price as tested: $28,550

EPA fuel estimates: 55 mpg city, 58 highway

Power: 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine; 139 hp

Battery: 240-volt lithium ion polymer

Curb weight: 2,996-plus pounds

Bottom line: Attractive and economical

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