The Toyota Prius hasn't just been synonymous with hybrid technology; it has been the most fuel-efficient model in the U.S. market for years. And since its 2016 redesign, the Prius Eco has been the most fuel-efficient gasoline-powered car without a charging port, ever. So how does the Hyundai Ioniq hybrid's Blue model, right out of the gate, jump to a spot ahead of the Prius with a combined 58 mpg, making it the most fuel-efficient hybrid available in the United States?
First, Hyundai has more development years invested than you might think. A dedicated team within Hyundai began working on hybrid powertrains nearly 12 years ago, and developing its so-called TMED (transmission-mounted electrical device) hybrid system 10 years ago. TMED made its debut, as a system, at the 2008 Los Angeles auto show and then in production form in the 2011 Hyundai Sonata hybrid.
As we concluded on our first drive of the Ioniq hybrid, this is a car with reasonably good drivability, and while we won't call it downright sporty, it has a perkiness that's missing from the Prius' powertrain. It's hard to believe the Ioniq's hybrid kit is derived from the system in that 2011 model, in which a lack of finesse in that hybrid powertrain made drivability downright clumsy. But with reworked software Hyundai has made tremendous strides since then. The Ioniq makes the most of the efficiency potential in this hybrid layout, with a different engine and transmission than the Sonata hybrid, and a body structure and platform that were conceived from the start to be hybrid specific.
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