Meanwhile, Toyota has used increasingly dramatic design language to further reinforce the idea of Prius as a technological trendsetter, even if hybrids have gone out of fashion.
Inside the Ioniq, there's no obvious sign to passengers they're sitting in a hybrid. The styling is straightforward and similar to other Hyundai vehicles. There's no intrusive packaging in the cargo area or passenger cabin either. The Ioniq boasts more passenger space than the Prius, though slightly less cargo space.
These efforts show how Hyundai has positioned the Ioniq as a gateway green car for people who have never owned one.
The powertrain is well-tuned to switch quietly between gasoline and electric power, and the dual-clutch gearbox gives the Ioniq a driving characteristic that more closely resembles a nonhybrid car in a way that the continuously variable transmission setup in the Prius does not.
Thus, the merits of Hyundai's Ioniq are strong.
But, as they say, that's why they play the games.
The real world may prove to Hyundai that upsets are harder than they look. The Prius lineup has spent nearly two decades amassing 2.1 million total sales in the U.S., turning itself into a de facto sub-brand for Toyota. The Prius name will forever be synonymous with green driving since it's one of the movement's pioneers.
That's a lot of loyalty and brand awareness to be up against. Countering it will take time, stacks of advertising dollars and repeated, savvy marketing campaigns.
Yes, Prius is coming off a rough year, as sales slipped 13 percent for the liftback model in 2016 (excluding V and C variants). And this was the first year the redesigned fourth-generation model was on sale, too.
Whether that blame falls on low gasoline prices and the popularity of crossovers, or the oddball styling of the car, it's important to note that the entire alternative-fuel segment fared significantly worse, dropping 21 percent overall.
So don't hand Toyota a Kleenex just yet.