2020 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid review: Practical efficiency

The Ioniq is definitely not as strange as a Prius.

Hyundai

The Hyundai Ioniq is unique in that it is one of the few cars available as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fully electric model. Originally launched in 2016, this year’s Ioniq has updated style and technology and starts at $ 24,195 including destination. It’s very frugal, but don’t expect too many emotions. This is a hybrid that definitely prioritizes economy and comfort over any kind of fun.

Like it

  • Excellent fuel economy
  • Plenty of cargo space
  • Attractive appearance

I do not like

  • Dark interior
  • Mediocre handling
  • Many driver assistance features are not standard.

For this review, I have the standard Ioniq Hybrid in its top-of-the-range Limited trim, which has an impressive EPA fuel economy of 55 miles per gallon combined. SE, SEL, and a high-efficiency Blue model are also offered, the latter of which increases the fuel economy rating to 58mpg.

Ioniq’s styling changes work well, with a new mesh grille, sleek headlights, and updated LED rear lighting – changes arrived for model year 2020. It doesn’t scream, “Hey, I’m a hybrid!” like a Toyota Prius, and I like that. But it still has some style that sets it apart from a Honda Insight or Toyota Corolla Hybrid.

The Ioniq Hybrid is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a 32-kilowatt electric motor, with a 1.6-kWh lithium-ion battery located under the rear seats. Total system power is 139 horsepower and 195 pound-foot torque, paired with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The good news is that the DCT offers a much more enjoyable driving experience than the continuously variable transmissions found in most other compact hybrids. The bad news, if you really enjoy driving, is that it’s also optimized primarily for fuel economy, which means it tends to shift gears before actually getting into the heart of the power range. Sport mode helps things a bit, but for those new to hybrids, the Ioniq’s lackluster acceleration could be a headache.

These stylish wheels are also good for aerodynamics.

Hyundai

On the many hills where I live in the Bay Area, the Ioniq tends to struggle in its Eco driving mode. It is often unsure whether to shift gears and save fuel or keep revs up and drive up a steep hill at a reasonable speed. In Eco mode, the steering wheel-mounted paddles allow me to adjust the regenerative braking, so at least I can recover a lot of energy on the descent. When it’s time to dig into mechanical brakes, however, they’re jerky and rough.

As for handling, well, yes, it handles. The Ioniq feels floaty on rough pavement, but if you’re serious about considering a compact hybrid I doubt its lackluster road manners will really be a top priority. Instead, you probably care more about driving aids, and to that end, front collision warning, a driver attention monitor, lane keeping assist and high beam assist are standard, but you have to skip to SE to get monitoring blind spot and to SEL to add adaptive cruise control. The fantastic Highway Drive Assist, which helps drivers by combining lane keeping technology and adaptive cruise control, is only available on the upper Limited trim.

A standard 8-inch touchscreen also runs Hyundai’s BlueLink infotainment system Apple CarPlay is Android Auto, but my tester rocks the larger 10.2-inch screen. With this option I can connect two phones via Bluetooth at the same time, which is great if you want one person to be connected for phone calls and another to DJ while traveling.

Hope you like black – it’s the only interior color available.

Hyundai

Overall, Hyundai’s infotainment system is easy to use, although I don’t like that I always have to go back to the home page to switch from native system to Apple CarPlay. Voice control also seems to be a bit iffy, never understanding my home address in Oakland, California. He tries to send me to Texas at one point, Nevada the next. Wireless charging is available on the higher trim levels, as are two 12-volt sockets, a USB-A port in the front and another in the center console.

Black is the only interior color available on the Hybrid Limited, and while it’s too dark for me, others might not care that much. Is there also a flat-bottomed steering wheel, which I guess is nice? But still, the cabin materials are all of good quality considering the Ioniq’s price, and I never hear any creaking or rattling. Heated front seats are available from the SE trim level, but ventilated seats are not on the menu.

The Ioniq Hybrid has 26.5 cubic feet of space in its rear hatch, easily beating competitor sedan body styles. The Toyota Corolla’s trunk can only handle 13.1 cubes, while Honda Insight does slightly better with 15.1. However, you will find a little more space in the Toyota Prius hatch: 27.4. This is for the Prius L Eco, at least; note that the other Prius finishes have a little less space (24.6 cubic feet), so the Ioniq beats them.

The Ioniq gets an impressive 55 mpg.

Hyundai

Personally, I’d recommend opting for the SEL trim, which comes in at $ 29,395 including $ 995 for the destination. There are no options to add, but the SEL comes with heated seats, wireless charging, adaptive cruise control, and more. It doesn’t come with front and rear parking sensors, but considering my Limited tester sensors are super sensitive and the Ioniq is a small car with good outward visibility, I don’t think you’d really need them.

Obviously Ioniq’s biggest competitor is the Toyota Prius, and it has one big advantage: all-wheel drive available. No, the Prius AWD isn’t quite as efficient, coming in at 49mpg combined, but it’s slightly cheaper than the aforementioned Ioniq SEL and should handle much better in snow. If price is your most important consideration, check out Honda Insight, which starts at $ 23,925 including destination, beating the Ioniq and Toyota Corolla Hybrid by a few hundred dollars.

The 2020 Hyundai Ioniq hybrid is a good choice for people who want great fuel economy at an affordable price. The driving experience may not be the most engaging, but what it lacks in engagement it more than makes up for in efficiency.

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