Nearly 20 years after Toyota's first Prius, Hyundai is launching its own global green nameplate, Ioniq. It will come in three flavors: the normal hybrid, which is on sale now, a battery-electric model due in April and a plug-in hybrid coming later this year.
In a departure from the Toyota playbook, Hyundai's designers were determined to create a hybrid car with relatively mainstream styling. Thus, the Ioniq stands out because of a crisp, compact design that would look good on any hatchback.
Three trim levels will be available on the Ioniq Hybrid. A base Ioniq Blue model starts at $23,035, including shipping. Hyundai's cheapest Ioniq is also its most fuel-efficient, clocking in at 57 mpg city/59 highway/58 combined. This makes it the most fuel-efficient car on the market without a plug.
The combination is possible because the Ioniq Blue does without certain features that would add to its weight.
Hyundai saved weight on all models by using tricks such as eliminating the 12-volt battery (the car's lithium ion battery handles the job) and using aluminum for the hood, rear liftgate and suspension components.
Powertrain: 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder gasoline engine paired with electric motor and 1.56 kWh lithium ion battery; six-speed dual-clutch transmission
Technology: 7-inch color touch screen for infotainment system; 4.2-inch color screen in instrument panel; Amazon Alexa connectivity
Safety: 7 airbags and standard rear-vision camera; optional blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist and radar cruise control
Competitors: Toyota Prius, Ford C-Max, Honda Clarity, Chevy Cruze diesel hatchback, Honda Civic, Kia Niro
Strengths: Crisp styling inside and out, industry-leading fuel economy, useful interior for people and stuff
eaknesses: Doesn't solve the price premium of hybrids over conventional models; handling can't quite match Prius
Bottom line: This is the kind of gateway to green that will lure people who have never bought anything electrified before. But pricing will be a hurdle against the nonhybrid compact cars Hyundai is chasing.