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Just Get a Tesla Model 3

Ready to go gas-free? I get it. Whatever your reason for wanting an electric car—money, convenience, performance, or ethics—there’s real appeal in ditching a fossil-fueled lifestyle. But if you’re going to make the switch, you’d want the EV you end up with to actually be a good car too, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what you’ll get with the Hyundai Ioniq EV. Unlike its hybrid counterpart, this legume-shaped hatchback works for basic driving functions, but it’s hardly compelling on its own. As the electric vehicle segment expands at a high-voltage pace, the Ioniq EV already seems left behind.

Is the Ioniq EV’s Range Enough?

For 2020, the Ioniq EV received a larger 38.3-kWh battery, which increased range to 170 miles. I won’t opine on whether that’s enough for your specific needs, but it isn’t nearly as much as many competitors. The benchmark-setting Tesla Model 3 provides about 263 miles in basic configuration, and Hyundai’s own Kona EV can cover approximately 258 miles on a charge.

That battery feeds a 100-kW electric motor, which makes 134 hp and 218 lb-ft of torque. If that doesn’t sound like much, it’s not. At the test track, MotorTrend‘s test team measured an 8.4-second 0-60 mph time and 16.6 second quarter mile at 84.2 mph. The Chevrolet Bolt is much quicker, hitting 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and passing the quarter mile in 14.9 seconds at 93.1 mph. As you may know, the Model 3 is proper zippy.

No one’s pretending that the Ioniq is meant for drag racing, but around town, the lack of power made things tricky. Seconds to 60 is one thing, but it’s tricky to tally how much time I spent waiting for enough space to open up to turn across a few lanes or fit a gap in traffic. As would be expected from an electric motor, acceleration is linear, with near-instantaneous pedal responses. That doesn’t mean that flooring it results in quickness or fun, however.

Can Electric Cars be Fun to Drive? Not This One

The funny thing about flooring is that it seems like the front tires can barely contain the torque. Blame that on the tires, not the torque. The P205/60R16 rubber is meant to eke out efficiency at the expense of traction and grip. That was clear on the figure-eight course, where the Ioniq posted a 28.0 second lap at 0.59 g average. Testing director Kim Reynolds didn’t mince words, commenting on its “heavy understeer, mediocre power, and modest braking.” What stood out most to him was how “the inside front wheel likes to spin exiting the corners,” resulting in a “terrible squeal.” Be gentle with your accelerator application, otherwise you might hear it, too.

Those tires don’t do favors for braking. The Ioniq stopped from 60 mph in 126 feet, a bit behind the Bolt’s 123-foot stop and Mini Cooper SE’s 119-foot result. Road test editor Chris Walton grumbled about its “squishy pedal” and “gravelly tires” that yielded, in his words, “unimpressive stops.” That wasn’t only true at the test track. In the real world, pressure on the brakes mostly slows the car down, but stopping completely requires a firmer jab on the pedal.

Paddles behind the steering wheel let you choose between levels of regenerative braking. Even in the strongest setting, one-pedal driving isn’t entirely possible—it’s more like one pedal and one paddle. Letting off the accelerator will bring the car down to about 5 mph, but then you have to hold the left paddle to stop entirely. One-pedal driving can be fun, something that remains elusive in the Ioniq.

All-Electric Daily Driver?

You probably weren’t expecting the Ioniq to be a secret EV hot hatch, but let me tell you for certain: It isn’t. Hopefully you weren’t expecting it to be comfortable, because it isn’t that, either. The suspension is stiff to the point where I found myself bracing for impact when I saw potholes approaching and knew to prepare to be tossed around over gutters and dips. The front and rear damping seems out of sync, causing lots of bobbing and swaying even on smoother surfaces. It only ever settles at a stop.

Trouble is, even sitting still the excessively firm seat cushioning makes it hard to relax. It’s increasingly noticeable with each passing mile, as it never lets you sink into the seat and take some of the load off your back. Otherwise, the interior is spacious enough and feels assembled to a high standard of quality. The center console is smartly laid out to fit daily carry items, and Hyundai’s infotainment system is intuitive.

Ironing out a few issues could make the Ioniq a great commuter, especially when equipped with the available Highway Drive Assist system. It combines tech like adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist for a convincing semi-autonomous experience. When engaged, it’ll keep the car in its lane while slowing and taking off again without any driver intervention, minimizing your work in menial bumper-to-bumper driving. Its reactivity to changing traffic conditions inspires confidence. It lets you sip coffee or make a call more easily, provided you keep a light grip on the steering wheel.

Is the Ioniq a Good Electric Car?

The Ioniq’s uncompetitive range and unrefined driving manners might be justified if it was dirt cheap, but it’s not. In basic SE trim, it starts at $34,040, and our Limited trim test car came in at $39,570. Even including tax credits, that’s simply too expensive for what you get. Other EVs offer greater range and superior driving experiences at a similar price point, and the list of those competitors keeps growing—with more options from Hyundai soon to be added. It’s growing because more and more drivers want EVs, and if you’ve read this far, you’re probably among them. Whatever your reason for wanting one is, there are choices more appealing than the Ioniq.

SPECIFICATIONS 2020 Hyundai Ioniq (Limited)
BASE PRICE $39,610
PRICE AS TESTED $39,610
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback
ENGINE 134-hp/218-lb-ft permanent magnet elec motor
TRANSMISSION 1-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,406 lb (50/50%)
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 176.0 x 71.7 x 34.6 in
0-60 MPH 8.4 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.6 sec @ 84.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 126 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.80 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.0 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 145/121/133 mpg-e
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 23/28 kWh/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.00 lb/mile (at vehicle)


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