The EV Report’s look at the Hyundai IONIQ PHEV Limited

CHATHAM, Mass. – Hyundai has become the automaker that wants to provide something for everyone – except (at least for now) pickup trucks. Nine different sport utility (SUV) variants and 11 sedans where the Hyundai “H.”

Within those numbers are sprinkled front-wheel and all-wheel-drive versions, electric (EV), hybrid-electric (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV), and even fuel-cell electric (FCEV) models, from sub-compact to full-sized.

Something for virtually every buyer including the most up-to-date safety and convenience features (advance driver-assistance systems, ADAS), all priced very competitively and providing value.

We spent a week in an example of one of the newest Hyundai sedan groups, a 2020 Hyundai IONIQ PHEV Limited.

Electric power at the center of the IONIQ range

The IONIQ range was introduced in 2016 as a 2017 model with all three variants sharing one common element: an electric motor powered by onboard batteries. The electric motor is the sole motivator for the IONIQ electric while in the OIONIQ Hybrid and PHEV it complements a 1.6-liter four-cylinder direct-injection gasoline-fueled engine backed by a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

This internal-combustion motor produces 104 horsepower and 109 pounds-feet of torque. The 45KW electric motor’s output increases the IONIQ’s overall horsepower to 139 and torque to 195 ft.-lb. which allows for adequate, if leisurely, performance. Since an electric motor produces all its power immediately, off-the-line performance is strong; on the highway, acceleration is not as strong, but never did I feel like I was in need of a more powerful powertrain to get the job done.

This powertrain returned superb real-world fuel economy – a shade under 70 miles per gallon in several hundred miles of very mixed driving (including a 110-mile highway trip). The federal Environmental Protection Agency rates the IONIQ PHEV at 52 MPG combined (city and highway) and 119 MPGe (electric). The IONIQ Hybrid fuel economy numbers range from 57/59/58 (city/highway/combined) to 55/54/55 depending upon version and 145/133/121 MPGe for the IONIQ Electric.

Braking efficiency increased thanks to regenerative properties of an electric motor

The IONIQ features Adjustable Regenerative Braking in Eco mode, which allows drivers to select from different intensity levels via the steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters. In Sport mode, the paddles act as manual shifters.

The system allows for one-pedal driving, which means drivers can stop the car by simply holding onto the left paddle-shift lever with often no need to engage the brake pedal. This maximizes the use of regenerative braking technology. Using Smart Regenerative Braking, the level of energy recuperation is automatically adjusted depending on the road incline and traffic situation in front when coasting.

Disc brakes on all four wheels (11-inch up front, 11.2 in the rear) backed up by an anti-lock system provide the conventional, primary braking system.

Thoroughly modern describes interior appointments

The IONIQ PHEV is not a luxury vehicle, but a solid, economical, environmentally conscious one that still provides a full complement of amenities and conveniences. It has features normally associated with fancy vehicles, but without any unnecessary luxury trappings.

The comfortable leather-covered bucket seats are heated, and the driver is electrically adjusted (with two-person memory!). The memory includes the position of the external rearview mirrors which fold inwards whenever the IONIQ is locked.

Dominating the dashboard is a 10.25-inch color touch screen – one of the largest available in a subcompact sedan – providing control for the extensive infotainment system. AM/FM/Sirius/XM satellite radio/streaming audio, all boosted by Harman Kardon Premium Audio sound, provide the entertainment.

The information part of the mix starts with a navigation system, which like the other aspects of the infotainment system, can be controlled by manipulating the touch screen, utilizing mode-specific LCD buttons below the touch screen, or a very responsive voice-recognition system (initiated by pressing a steering-wheel-mounted button).

Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™ bring both entertainment and information from your smartphone of choice, which when the Hyundai Blue Link® Connected Car app is installed, allows the smartphone to lock/unlock the IONIQ as well as start it (replacing the key fob) and other features.

One nice touch at night is soothing blue ambient lighting throughout the roomy cabin (large windows, high roof create an airy environment). And if you want even more air, just open the standard power moonroof.

Environmental consciousness was a motivator behind the development of the IONIQ range and Hyundai carried this concept beyond the powertrain. One key characteristic of the IONIQ line is its innovative use of recycled or ecologically-sensitive materials.

The interior door covers are made of plastic combined with powdered wood and volcanic stone while providing the same quality appearance of typical materials. The softer, more natural feel is achieved along with less reliance on oil-based products. 

Raw materials extracted from sugar cane are partly applied to the headliner and cargo area. Paint with renewable ingredients extracted from soybean oil is used to achieve lustrous metallic colors on key components.

No shortage of advance driver-assist systems and safety features

The IONIQ PHEV Limited’s list of safety and advance driver-assist systems (ADAS) is extensive, making it a leader in this area for the subcompact segment.

Included are: forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection; highway-driving assist; front and rear parking sensors; lane-keeping assist; high-beam assist; lane-following assist; blind-spot collision-avoidance assist; rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist; smart cruise control with stop and go, and a rearview camera with dynamic parking guidelines.

An IONIQ for any budget

The IONIQ Hybrid starts at $23,200, while the IONIQ Electric base version is $33,045 (and depending on other circumstances, is eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500). The IONIQ PHEV has a base price of $26,500 and the all-inclusive Limited version like I drove, comes in at $32,950.

These are very competitive prices for electric/hybrid vehicles and, adding in all the features and various versions, a great variety of choices if you want a solid, roomy, small car (with the extra convenience of a large hatch and luggage compartment) along with great fuel economy, all while being environmentally conscious.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.