Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric SE

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • Safety

Jesse Owens, one of the greatest athletes ever to grace the Olympics, completed the 100-metre sprint in 10.3 seconds, quietly changing the world forever. But Usain Bolt did it in 9.58. Think of Owens as the graceful new Hyundia Ioniq Electric SE and Bolt as its competitor Bolt.

At the risk of sounding obvious, it’s electrifying.

OK, the analogy is a bit soft because I’m really talking about range, not speed.

The expression “range anxiety” has sprinted its own way into the popular lexicon whenever someone starts talking about EVs and any such discussion needs to at least address the electric in the room. The maximum range of the Ioniq is 200 km while the Bolt’s is 383. Moreover, the Ioniq BEV’s coming late to the party (“Welcome to Berlin, Mr Owens!”) so it better bring something new. So what does it bring?

The Ioniq BEV is a hearty urban sprinter!

The best cures for range anxiety are doses of reality. Let’s start with the second-best: a few minutes at the helm of a fully electric car, like the Ioniq. Remember an EV has no combustion engine and therefore no gears to slide up and down. So it’s either on or off and, if you wear heavy boots, you can easily spin the tires.

EVs are almost like a different species. Take the “shifter”. In this case is a series of buttons for park, drive, neutral, and backwards.

Better still, consider the quietude you enjoy in the Ioniq Electric. Remember the low-grade ambient hum that accompanied every scene shot on the Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation? The future seemed so hygienic and calming – not to mention really bloody fast! That’s you in the Ioniq Electric. All Zen and slickly winnowing your way through sluggardly city traffic populated by gasoline-driven dullards that appear as so many still pylons. There are eco, no-name and sport modes, which elevates the thrill even more because, why not?

The rack and pinion steering is accurate enough for a fussy driver, the ride smooth as glass. Corners are good – the Ioniq is wider than some alternative city EVs and the centre of gravity is low. If you confront sudden traffic, there’s also a forgiving turning circle of 5.3 m. All this in your super-hushed Fortress of Solitude.

At the risk of sounding obvious, it’s electrifying. You’re powered by an “interior permanent magnet synchronous electric motor” (aka a motor), which releases 88 kW (118 hp) and 218 lb-ft of sudden torque.

Whip yourhead fast. Ever notice how lb-ft, read at speed, looks like lift?

Instead of a gas tank, the Ioniq Electric carries a 28.0 kWh battery. All told, this car can achieve 165 km/h. I didn’t get near that but its mere mention does lead to the next point. Range anxiety inevitably creeps back no matter how fast you winnow. So soon you start to join the game that all EV drivers, hybrid drivers and people whose company doesn’t pay for their gas play. I call it Milk Dat Juice (MDJ).

How long can you make it last?

Convention wisdom regarding your smartphone and computer is that it’s good occasionally, especially early in the device’s use, to completely deplete the battery. Early in your experience of driving an EV, it’s maybe not so great. Instead, it becomes rewarding to think green and conservatively in the traditional sense of the word. Like other HEVs and BEVs, the Ioniq Electric SE supports conservationist driving practices with practical dials and tools.

For instance, there’s a driver’s side only button for the fan. It’s a small thing, but why blow air you’ve paid to heat or cool anywhere but at you if you’re alone?

Rather than a tachometer on the left, there’s a continually changing bar chart that reports in real-time how efficiently you’re driving, stacking best to worst: CHARGE, ECO, or POWER. Down hills, approaching stops and lights, and at times of encroaching traffic you can ease of the accelerator (how soon will “gas pedal” become a legacy expression, like both “dialling” and “area code”?) and watch the CHARGE section fill. You feel virtuous. It’s like the adrenaline hit addicted gamblers get to the brain’s reward system when their one-armed bandit lights up and bleeps joyously about a $5 credit. The House always wins – you gotta recharge sometime – but more experienced gamblers learn the strategies of employing the regeneration levels, conscientious driving and so on.

Speaking of which, the Ioniq has paddles, which obviously don’t shift gears but have a substantial effect on your feel of the car, while increasing a regenerative level of drive. That is, depending on the level you select, they increasingly brake, sending power back into the battery.

But the House does always win, so how long will it be before you’re back in the money again?

At 110 V/120 V, Level 1 charging time is about 24 hours. So if you’re plugging in a nearly depleted battery late at night using a 50-foot extension cord from your patio (not recommended, ever, for a host of reasons) you’ll still be riding on electro-fumes and prayers next morning on the way to the office.

At 220 V/240 V, Level 2 is a more agreeable 4.5 hours. If you can drive your EV into the basement beside the dryer and plug in there, you’re good, but there are other solutions. Here in Ontario, you can get a rebate of up to $500 off the price of a 220 V station in your home, plus up to another $500 for the installation.

Those hook-up stations you see at city hall and the like are the SAE combo fast charger. They're often referred to incorrectly as Level 3 and they take just 33 minutes. You may be thinking you’ll never find one available, but maybe not. Last year, while having lunch at Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works, one of those urban experiments where good granola goes after it dies, I plugged the BMW i3 in at one of their two chargers. The wait staff came and stared at us. “In the two years I’ve been working here, this is the first time I’ve seen someone using the charger,” said a hipster called Ermine or something. That was one year ago. If there really is the dearth of chargers available that the popular media loves to whine about, why aren’t these chargers continually occupied and turning people away? Clearly this infrastructure question is a chicken-egg dilemma.

This tester came with the charmingly Canadian Cold Climate package which for $1,200 adds a heat pump, temperature management system for the battery, and heated backseats. Your kids will love the latter.

Complaints – a few but not many

The Ioniq is quite a good looking car but, with the base Electric SE, it’s almost like Hyundai was intentionally producing the un-Tesla, given the cloth-covered mechanical seats, proletarian colour pallet, abundance of plastics and lack of skylight. The two-level split back window brings in a good deal of light good and good scoping, but the slope is so gradual it really could benefit from a wiper back there. Furthermore the fob button to pop the hatch, which dramatically illustrates an opening motion, produces not even an anemic sigh, just a basic unlocking of the trunk. (Mind, these are not even released to the public yet and most fobs are made by secondary manufacturers so it’s possible this issue will be ironed out by the time the Ioniq EV is in mass production. If you’d like to learn more about fobs, visit here or maybe just go to bed.)

A warning: if you make the switch, not everyone will endorse your decision. If you’re considering an EV, Ontario currently pays a rebate of up to $14,000. (Don’t forget the charger rebate on top of that for a whopping $15,000! Clearly they’re hoping you’ll use a lot of electricity.) Quebec rebates up to $8,000 and $600 for the charger. BC offers up to $12,000 if you get rid of your old car.

Your local fossil fuel dealer won’t treat you so kindly though. If you don’t buy gasoline, the gas station carwash costs up to 25 percent more. Meanwhile, the Ioniq EV’s price starts at $35,649 before rebates. Incidentally, that’s $346 less than the base price of the new Volkswagen e-Golf EV but $7,246 less than the (albeit much lauded and celebrated) Chevrolet Bolt.

Factor in the rebates and those are good prices for drivers in Canada’s most populated provinces. Now let’s return to the promised best solution to range anxiety.

Measure your commute – range anxiety is an unnecessary fear

The Ioniq Electric lasts a limit of 200 km without juice, but let’s even lower that to 175 for the squeamish who like A/C with the windows open. How far do you go to work every day? An average commute for Canadians is a silly idea but yardsticks are OK. Consider the Google Maps routes between our nation’s major city centres and bedroom communities. From Mississauga City Centre to Toronto City Hall is just 28 km, round trip 56 km. Richmond, BC’s City Hall to Vancouver’s is just 13.2 km, and Laval’s Hotel de Ville to Montreal’s, just 24.4 km. The traffic on each of these routes is hellish but even if you open the windows, crank both the heat and A/C, turn on all the electric devices, power your phone, tablet and microwave on the way, basic math demonstrates 175 > 56. Measure your own commute. At the very least it’ll ease your range anxiety.

Engine Displacement 88 kW
Engine Cylinders N/A
Peak Horsepower 118 hp
Peak Torque 218 lb-ft
Fuel Economy 1.6/1.9/1.7 Le/100 km, 13.7/17.4/15.5 kWh/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 650L
Model Tested 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric SE
Base Price $35,649
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $0
Price as Tested $36,949
Optional Equipment
$1,200 – Cold Climate Package $1,200