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Auto review: The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid is fine, as long as you're not in a hurry

By Larry Printz, Tribune News Service on

Published in Business News

Well, this is a tough spot.

The feds are imposing tough EPA mandates for automakers to maximize fuel economy at a time when gas prices are cheaper than they were in the 1960s when adjusted for inflation. Yet given the price at the pump, is it any wonder that consumers are ignoring fuel efficiency?

That's the case with the Hyundai Ioniq, a car offered solely as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle. At a time when 2021 models are arriving in showrooms, Hyundai's website is still flogging the 2020s. Overlooked by a shortsighted public, with prices starting at $23,200, this attractive five-door hatchback has some incredibly attractive numbers. But those who treasure the fast and furious over the frugal and fuel efficient will be disappointed when it's time to mash the throttle. Since this is a hybrid, you can forget about 0-to-60 mph statistics. The numbers that matter come from the EPA: namely 55 mpg city, 54 mpg highway.

Offered in base Blue model, and climbing through SE, SEL and Limited trims, Hyundai supplied a Limited model for testing.

Sounds great, right? With the pandemic economy wreaking havoc on Americans' livelihoods, any vehicle that can help rein in expenses is welcome.

Thankfully, despite being a hybrid, the Ioniq's design is modern without looking like some alien spacecraft, something you can't say about its main competitor, the Toyota Prius. In fact, the Ioniq looks like a hatchback sibling to the Elantra, although it wears a unique hatchback with a large glass window that waterfalls vertically into the tailgate, not unlike an old Honda CRX. It's a look that had bystanders doing double takes. No really, it happened — although I never expected it.

 

Inside, the decor is definitely commensurate with its $23,200 starting price, even in the $31,200 Ioniq Limited. But the textures are attractive, and many of the materials incorporate recycled or ecologically sensitive materials. The interior door panels are made of plastic, powdered wood and volcanic stone, while the headliner uses raw elements extracted from sugar cane and the eco-friendly paint is made with ingredients extracted from soybean oil.

This car certainly plays the green card well enough, but it also possesses some niceties that make living with it far easier, such as the large touchscreen that anchors the instrument panel. On lower trim levels, it's framed by shortcut buttons, while Limited models get a full-width 10.3-inch screen, and no buttons. The intuitive user interface is elegantly designed and easy to use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, augmented by auxiliary and USB ports. The test car also featured Qi wireless charging.

As you'd expect in a car just 176 inches long, front seat head and legroom are generous, although rear seat accommodations are merely adequate. The cargo area is spacious but lacking in height, although it's more than roomy enough for everyday use, and the cargo cover has its own track, making it easy to operate.

The Ioniq's heart is in the right place until it comes time to drive, and that's when the Ioniq's economy car personality shines through.

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