First drive: Hyundai NZ keen on plug-in Ioniq

First drive: Hyundai NZ keen on plug-in Ioniq

Hyundai New Zealand is keen to take on all three versions of the brand’s new eco-car, the Ioniq – if it can get the right product and price.

Auto Media Group’s Robert Barry is in Korea now to drive the new car – which is available in petrol hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and pure electric form.

Hyundai started Ioniq hybrid production for its local market late last year, and the Ioniq EV line for domestic demand will kick into gear this month.

The Ioniq seems to be the brand’s darling for European and North American operations as well, with the trio of drivetrains joining the Korean factories’ build schedules – now almost constantly busy until late next year.

Hyundai wants to sell all three variants here – but whether this is feasible depends on production timing and available specifications. Cory Gordon, NZ marketing manager, says Hyundai is working hard on behalf of its Kiwi customers to get the cars here as soon as possible.

Unknown-3While in Korea, Gordon told AutoTalk that it is “very keen” to get the full spread of spec for this country, but it will all come down getting the combination of the right price and level of specification for our market.

“We would take all three Ioniq models provided, we get the right spec, price and safety levels for New Zealand,” Gordon says.

He notes price has to be reasonable to increase the volume of EV sales in New Zealand, and that Hyundai’s Australian distributor has delayed its negotiations over Ioniq spec.

This has led some analysts to speculate that Hyundai’s heavy investment in electric hydrogen fuel cell technology could be nearing fruition.

Ioniq: Models by spec

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Ioniq Hybrids have either a six-speed dual clutch transmission with a ‘sport’ mode or a conventional automatic coupled to a 1.6-litre Kappa direct-injection petrol engine. It runs in parallel with an electric motor fed by a lithium ion battery pack.

The pure EV cars have a simple push button selector, which feels strangely similar to using an ergonomic mouse.

The Ioniq Electric carries a lithium-ion battery pack has a claimed range of 200km. Also claimed is top speed of 165km/h – which we managed to achieve during our short driving experience at the Namyang R&D facility, near Seoul.

Driving up and down a long straight track with two other Kiwi journalists allowed us to check the finer details of the Ioniq models.

A standout feature of the pure EV’s performance is that it’s whisper-quiet, there’s very little noise at low speed through to high speeds thanks to the fastback design which has a 0.24 co-efficient of drag.

On the road the Ioniq Hybrid has a subtle visual presence – particularly in white. Its split rear window allows a discreet spoiler to be nicely integrated.

The Hybrid’s front end proudly wears the hexagonal Hyundai grille with LED driving lamps.

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Depending on the engine choice – and the differing cooling requirements – the grille on the Ioniq Hybrid has shutters which opens to either 50% or 100% as required, but can be closed for maximum aerodynamic efficiency.

The Ioniq Electric does away with shutters and cooling grilles – it runs hyper-efficiently and generates minimal heat. The EV also has a copper-coloured accent rather than the blue used on the Hybrid.

With such a small amount of time to really test two Ioniq models, it is a pity that Hyundai New Zealand is unable to give any confirmed time frame for their arrival – but it does say it’s working hard to ensure the earliest possible arrival of the zero emission machines to Hyundai’s Kiwi dealerships.

Prius; Leaf Buyers surveyed

Hyundai Motor admits that it heavily surveyed current owners of the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf while the Ioniq’s design and engineering was in the formative stages.

Responses from both female and male customers advised the Hyundai design team that the Ioniq needed to have a subtle interior, an attractive shape that stayed true to its design philosophy and, vitally, had to act and behave like a conventional vehicle.

The loudest critique from the male Prius customers was the CVT transmission, they didn’t like the way it behaved.

During a press conference at Hyundai Motor Studio, product strategist Scott Yoon stopped short of calling the Prius ugly – but did say that as the Ioniq’s final design loomed closer, the development team wanted to create a better-looking car than the last-generation Toyota hybrid.

Importantly to those surveyed, Hyundai opted for a six-speed automated dual clutch transmission rather than a CVT.

“We wanted to build an eco-car which offered attractive style, competitive fuel economy, advanced and smart technology, but most importantly provided engaging driving,” says Yoon.

“A CVT transmission is not fun to drive, and we feel the automated dual clutch transmission gives a good balance between performance and economy, while providing a more conventional driving feel to the car”

Adding a ‘sport mode’ calibration gives Ioniq Hybrids better performance when required – holding lower gears for longer when accelerating.

Paddle shifters increases driver involvement by allowing manual over ride, and boost braking when downshifting as well.

Electric Ioniqs also receive a four-stage brake regeneration system which also give drivers the ability use ‘engine braking,’ of sorts, to slow the car quickly or when descending a steep hill.

Just as Genesis has become a brand in it’s own right, it is highly likely that Ioniq will too – and both will benefit from the “N” programme, a new performance sub-brand that Hyundai is developing.

Initially, Ioniq will be available initially in its home market as a hybrid, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and full battery electric vehicle, simply known as the Ioniq Electric.

Hyundai’s fuel story

Hyundai developed an electric Sonata back in 1991, and a Santa Fe electric hydrogen fuel cell vehicle was developed in 2000.

And LPG-powered Avante (Elantra) Hybrid followed and was switched mass production in 2009.

The first generation of gasoline-hybrid vehicles started production in 2010 with the launch of the Sonata Hybrid.

The next-gen Sonata Hybrid launched in 2014, and was also offered as a plug-in EV.

Hyundai also put the ix35 (Tucson) electric hydrogen fuel cell vehicle into series production in 2013. This very niche crossover SUV is produced in tiny numbers purely for the rare markets that offer hydrogen refuelling infrastructure.

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