Not too long ago, the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric would have been a game changer — a truly affordable all-electric car with room for five and 124 miles of range on a full charge.
But then Chevy released the 2017 Bolt, which is an affordable all-electric car with 239 miles of range. And then the affordable all-electric Tesla3 with over 200 miles of range finally went into production. And Nissan is about to release the next version of its affordable all-electric Leaf with between 200 and 300 miles of range, more than twice its original 107 miles.
But, despite lagging behind in maximum range, the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric is still worth checking out for anyone considering an all-electric car. For starters, it costs considerable less than the Bolt, Telsa3, and probably the upcoming Leaf. Availlable federal and state incentives could reduce the cost to below $21,000, depending on how much owe Uncle Sam the year you buy it.
And 124 miles is still more than several other all-electric cars on the market — and far more than most people drive every day.
But more than that, the Ioniq Electric is a well designed, well made car that's surprisingly fun to drive. It is similar in size and shape to the Hyundai Elantra, which is one of the best compacts on the market. The inside is roomy, the controls are easy to find and use, and the interior materials — at least in our top-of-the-line Limited version — are higher quality that you'd expect to find in an economy car.
But even the base version, which starts at $29,500, comes well equipped with heated leather front seats, a power driver seat with lumbar support, and Spot Detection with Rear Cross-traffic Alert. Ours was listed at $36,835 before the maximum $7,500 federal tax credit and coming $2,500 state rebate.
The Ioniq Electric is also refreshingly free of gimmicks. It does not scream "green car" but is largely designed to blend in with the rest of the traffic. The only obvious signs of its electrification are a blacked-out sealed grill, a Prius-like split rear window and unconventional push button transmission controls on the console.
On the road, the Ioniq Electric is zippy, thanks to the immediately available torque of its electric motor. And that's when set in the Eco mode. It's even faster in the Sport mode, which is set by a button on the console. But speed isn't the only thing that makes it fun. The battery pack is set low in the floor, giving it a low center of gravity that makes it corner flat, even at higher speeds.
As electrified vehicle owners know, aggressive driving drains the batteries faster, reducing maximum range. But even with the air conditioner on during the heat wave during testing, the available range never dropped low enough during day-to-day driving to make us nervous. That's a big change from the early all-electric vehicles we tested, which maxed out at around 100 miles or less. Part of the difference was the stepped up regenerative braking setting available on the Ioniq Electric. It helped keep the battery pack recharged by capturing more otherwise wasted energy than earlier EVs.
The 2017 Ioniq Electric is one of a new three-car line from Hyundai that includes hybrid and plug-in versions of the same car. They are intended to show the company is committed to allowing potential buyers to significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
We previously tested the hybrid version, which is EPA rated at 55 miles per gallon. Although it was a good first try from a company that has not offered a hybrid before, the Ioniq Electric is an unqualified success, combining a low (after incentives) price with a reasonably practical range in a quality package.
2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Base price: $29,500
Price as tested: $36,835
Type: Compact four door hatchback
Powertrain: AC electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack (118 hp, 215 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 1-speed direct drive
EPA estimated range: 124 miles
EPA estimated mileage: 136/150 MPGe
Overall length: 176 inches
Curb weight: 3,200 pounds
Final assembly: Ulsan, South Korea