Mixed signals

The Hyundai Ioniq is furnished and finished like a premium model.
The Hyundai Ioniq is furnished and finished like a premium model.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The Hyundai Ioniq is furnished and finished like a premium model.
The Hyundai Ioniq is furnished and finished like a premium model.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The new Hyundai Ioniq could have been cheaper if not for its long list of features

Hyundai's first hybrid, when viewed from the side, bears some resemblance to Tesla's Model S.

But unlike the fully electric Model S, the petrol-electric Hyundai Ioniq qualifies for the top-tier Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) rebate of $30,000.

A new Model S brought in last year qualified for only $10,000 in CEVS rebate.

That the Ioniq is deemed cleaner than the Model S must be good news to motorists who want to be carbon-lite. That the Hyundai's price is only a fraction of the Tesla's is doubly good news for buyers who want a car that is wallet-lite.

(Spelling "light" as "lite" seems to be fashionable these days. If you have not noticed, we are told, at least 15 times a week, that Singapore needs to be "car-lite".)

  • SPECS / HYUNDAI IONIQ

  • Price: From $118,888 with COE

    Engine: 1,580cc 16-valve inline-4 paired with electric motor

    Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch with manual override

    Power: 139hp at 5,700rpm

    Torque: 265Nm at 1,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 11.1 seconds

    Top speed: 185kmh

    Fuel consumption: 3.9 litres/ 100km

    Agent: Komoco

The Hyundai Ioniq, weighing between 1,370 and 1,477kg, is not as "lite" as the slightly bigger Toyota Prius (1,375 to 1,400kg).

Which is probably why its official consumption figure of 3.9 litres/ 100km is shy of the Prius' 3.7 litres/ 100km.

In real life, though, the difference is bigger. The Prius clocked 4.6 litres/100km, while the Ioniq clocked 5.4 litres/100km.

This is strange, since the Kia Niro, which has the same hybrid drivetrain as the Ioniq, posted a real- world economy of 4.9 litres/ 100km.

Throughout the test-drive period of four days, the Ioniq's battery state of charge never rose beyond the halfway mark. Its petrol engine cuts in slightly more frequently than the Niro's, and far more frequently than the Prius'.

From an efficiency point of view, the Hyundai is still significantly better than non-hybrid models of a similar size. The Hyundai Elantra, for instance, clocked a real-world consumption figure of 9 litres/100km and the Toyota Corolla, 8 litres/100km.

More than that, the Ioniq is furnished and finished like a premium model. You will find plenty of leather, chrome and soft tactile plastics in the cabin.

Gadgets abound too. You get ventilated front seats, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, a wireless mobile phone charger (which seems to work only with the Samsung S7), memory seat for the driver, a sunroof, a blindspot monitor and lane-keeping assistance.

The last feature is more bother than boon. It gives out an audio warning if the car veers off lane. And it makes small corrections to the steering to nudge the driver back on course.

Not only is the steering correction a little spooky and irritating, it is also not really effective. It does not pull the vehicle back into lane by itself. It only nudges the driver into action.

Well, if a driver cannot keep in lane by himself, no amount of nudging will help. Thankfully, this driving aid can be switched off easily.

Driven without it, the Ioniq proves to be a competent car with a comfort-biased chassis and a drivetrain with a good blend of power and efficiency.

It is not quite as refined or as engaging as the Prius, but it is also not quite as pricey (despite its long list of premium features). For many consumers, the price-lite option is usually preferred.

If that is so, should Hyundai have left out the bells and whistles and made its first hybrid car here even more affordable? Because right now, it would seem the carmaker is sending mixed signals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2017, with the headline 'Mixed signals'. Print Edition | Subscribe