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The water’s fine … once you get in. For those teetering on the edge of alternative fuel options, hybrids are the safest substitute.
Toyota has been leading the hybrid charge in recent years, and you only need look at the line-up of taxis at the airport as proof the technology works and its reliability.
Hyundai is pushing hard in the alternative fuel genre and updated its Ioniq hatch late last with three drivetrain flavours — each dependent on your hunger for change.
There’s the all-electric version with a 310km range at the top of the Ioniq tree, a hybrid at the bottom, while sitting in the middle is the plug-in electric vehicle.
Priced just above $46,000 drive-away, the PHEV is perfect for those not quite ready to take the leap into full electric operation. With a range of about 60km on pure electric power, it’s backed by a four-cylinder combustion engine for peace of mind.
Our family of four has been piloting the PHEV for nearly a month without a trip to the servo as we put Hyundai’s claim of it being the most fuel efficient car on the market to the test.
All Ioniqs have a solid list of standard features including a 10.25-inch colour touchscreen, Infinity eight-speaker sound system, push button start, along with smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Premium models also come with a glass sunroof, dual zone climate control, 16-inch alloys, wireless phone charger and leather trim, but the drive-away price rises above $50k.
Capped price servicing is available for $1525 covering five years, with intervals annual or every 15,000km.
Warranty coverage is five years and unlimited kilometres. The battery warranty is eight years or 160,000km.
Satnav is also standard, and if the buyer maintains servicing with Hyundai then maps are updated annually without charge for 10 years.
Metallic red, blue, and grey cost an extra $510 — otherwise white is the only flat paint option.
Five-star credentials come via a strong suite of technology which incorporates radar cruise control to maintain preset distances from vehicles in front (even in stop-start traffic), emergency brakes which can react automatically if the driver doesn’t, parking sensors front and back, and an ability to keep the Ioniq within a lane if attention wanders.
There are a couple of items missing, including a head-up display which projects information such as a digital speedo onto the windscreen, as well as emergency braking in reverse — it only works travelling forward.
With the large central colour touchscreen and leather trim, the top-shelf Ioniq lives up to its Premium nomenclature.
For those up from there is heated and ventilated seats, while those in the back have air vents. Cold winter mornings are less challenging on the hands courtesy of a heated steering wheel.
While it has compact hatch dimensions the Ioniq can accommodate four adults with ease. Squeezing three across the bench seat can be challenging, nevertheless achievable.
Decent legroom is available to those in the back as long as those up front don’t push too far rearward.
Electric power ensures smooth and quiet operation when under way — it’s only when the driver calls for urgent acceleration or when you run out of battery power that the combustion engine roars to life to upset the serenity.
Pure electric power is renowned for urgent power deliver. The Ioniq PHEV is far more subdued.
From standstill the power delivery feels akin to a typical four-cylinder hatch … albeit without the engine soundtrack.
Silence follows the start button. Within the instruments a message glows “ready to drive” and there is a conventional shifter to engage reverse or drive.
There is no need to intervene with the hybrid process. Through most conditions it will move in electric mode with only supplementary support from the petrol engine.
Steady use of the accelerator maintains pure electric mode.
Getting off the line can feel sluggish in ‘Eco’ mode and those who like a more urgent response are better served by ‘Sport’, although it will engage a greater combination of petrol and electric power. The Ioniq’s steering is light and direct with the battery helping maintain a low centre of gravity.
Most Aussies travel less than 25km to work each day, so it’s conceivable the PHEV will operate primarily on electric power.
Our experience over four weeks has seen a regular trip of about 200km deliver consumption figures of between 4.2-4.9 litres/100km. The shorter family trips of less than 50km have seen below 1L for an average usage of 2.4L/100km.
Completely charged with a full tank of fuel, there is a combined range of more than 1000km.
Buy the Hyundai fast-charger (about $2000) and the battery will completely recharge in just over two hours. We’ve used a standard household 10 amp power point and it takes about double that time.
Service stations are overrated and my daily travels are rarely beyond 50km. The backup petrol engine means range anxiety is banished.
Electric dreams are alive, but the lack of infrastructure makes my heart flutter for all the wrong reasons. This is the happy middle ground.
TOYOTA PRIUS I-TECH $48,100 D/A
The leader in hybrid technology, this isn’t a plug-in although has average fuel consumption of 3.4L/100km from a 1.8-litre 4-cyl petrol system, 72kW/142Nm (petrol) and 53kW/163Nm (electric motor). Easy to drive and comfortable, but also no excitement machine.
MINI COUNTRYMAN PLUG-IN HYBRID $62,100 D/A
Arriving last year, this is the urbanite’s green choice. Powered by a 1.5-litre 3-cyl turbo/electric motor, 165kW/385Nm, it only has an electric range of about 20km but it’s quick and far more responsive from standstill than the Ioniq or rivals.
After more than 2000km, zero trips to the servo and still boasting a range of more than 300km, the Ioniq PHEV is a miserly beast. High levels of comfort and ease of use make it a frugal and easy commuter offering for those not looking to push the pace.
AT A GLANCE
Hyundai Ionic PHEV Premium
PRICE $50,700 drive-away
ENGINE 1.6-litre 77kW/147 Nm 4cyl, electric motor 44.5kW/170Nm, total output 104kW/265Nm
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, lane keep assist, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic warning, auto high beam
THIRST 1.1L/100km (2.4L on test)
SPARE None, repair kit
BOOT 341 litres, 1401 with seats folded