The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric is one of the newest battery-powered vehicles to hit the market, and among the latest-generation of all-electric vehicles that started with modern pioneers like the Nissan Leaf and continues with the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt.
The Ioniq is actually the name of a trio of electrified cars in the Hyundai lineup. As its name suggests, the Ioniq Electric is, you got it, all electric. The other two players in the lineup are the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid, which have a traditional gasoline engine along with an electrified powertrain.
In addition to not having a gasoline engine, the Ioniq Electric differs from its siblings in availability, price and the way it drives. It's only in available in California for now, with rollout in other states to follow. Regarding the second point, the Ioniq Electric starts at $30,335, vs. $23,035 for the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid (pricing for the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid will be announced when it arrives later this year). But there's a welcome asterisk: The Ioniq Electric is eligible for rebates. In California, up to $10,000 in incentives are offered, which would reduce the cost to $20,335.
Then there's the way the 2017 Ioniq Electric drives. In this sense, the Ioniq EV is similar to any other all-electric vehicle. It has instantaneous power response, making it quick off the line and acceptable when passing at speed. It's smooth and silent. So silent that at low speeds it emits a warble-like sound to alert pedestrians of your presence. When backing up it beeps, not unlike a delivery truck.
Hyundai aimed to inject engaging manners into the Ioniq, and while it can be fun to silently and swiftly blast away from others at a stop light, this compact hatchback isn't all that adept at carving corners. Push it and the tires protest, because the low rolling resistance rubber prioritizes efficiency over grip.
More satisfying is the engagement that comes via two paddles on the side of the steering wheel column though their role is far different from sequentially shifting up or down gears. Instead, these levers vary the level of regenerative braking.
The Ioniq Electric has four levels of regen braking in all. Starting with 0, it feels like a normal car, in which ordinary rolling resistance will eventually slow car. That resistance ramps up, with 1 being not all that intrusive, 2 being quite noticeable, and 3 definitely apparent. At level 3, as soon as you lift your foot off the accelerator, the car slows significantly, nearly to a stop with enough distance. This kinetic recovery helps recharge the battery and thereby extend the vehicle's range.
Using the paddles in the Ioniq Electric proved surprisingly gratifying, both in more dynamic driving and simply around town. In the former, it was useful for imitating engaging a lower gear to use engine braking as a way to slow the car around a bend or down a steep hill. In stop and go city driving, it enabled me to brake less. Time a signal right, and you can slow the car enough via the regen without ever touching the brake pedal. There's also something inherently gratifying knowing that otherwise-wasted brake energy is juicing the battery.
Using the paddles in such a manner can seem foreign at first, but I quickly caught on. After two days of driving the 2017 Ioniq Electric, it almost became second nature.
If you don't want this extra interaction, it isn't necessary. Once you find a regen level you like, you can keep it there. And through the central display screen, you can even customize and set the level according to each drive mode. For example, if you want Level 1 as standard in normal driving mode, Level 2 in Eco and Level 3 in Sport mode, you can make it so after pressing the "EV" button and then using the touch screen to enter your preferences. While there, you can also customize the climate control settings for each mode, from standard to eco.
There's no doubt the Ioniq Electric faces a stiff rival in the Chevrolet Bolt EV that boasts a range of 238 miles to the Ioniq's 124, but along with a roomier cabin, lower starting price and arguably sleeker design, the Ioniq Electric's ingenious use of paddles and customizability warrant a look.
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