Hyundai is taking a shot at the Toyota Prius with a trio of new Ioniq hatchbacks. The Korean automaker is offering a hybrid, an electric, as well a plug-in hybrid version of their latest car. These models deliver terrific fuel economy along with traditional styling.

It’s no secret that the styling of the current Prius turns off a lot of people. All the sharp angles give it a distinct Prius identity, but it’s too futuristic looking for many. Hyundai, on the other hand, purposely designed the Ioniq to blend-in with other models in its lineup. But it’s not bland—the styling is contemporary, but not flashy.

Similarly, the interior is also contemporary in a restrained manner. The dash features a center control panel with a large 7-inch touchscreen with easy to use apps, and traditional climate controls below it. The dash on my test car was finished in an attractive pale gray material, which surprisingly did not reflect in the windshield. This same material enhanced the look of the doors as well.

The Ioniq seats four, five in a pinch. Front passengers have comfortable seating with standard height adjusters. The driver’s seat is power assisted on upper range models. The rear seats provide adequate head- and legroom, but are not as spacious as those in the Prius. The storage area behind the seats is generous at 29.3 cu-ft., which more than doubles in size with the rear seats folded down. Forward visibility in the Ioniq is excellent, but it’s not so good looking out the back.

Hyundai powers the Hybrid with a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine and a 32-kilowatt electric motor. Together they generate 139 horsepower. A six-speed automated manual transmission, which functions like a traditional automatic, transfers power to the front wheels. A lithium-ion battery pack, which stores electrical charge, sits under the rear seat. The base Ioniq is rated at 58 mpg in combined city/highway driving, other models with more equipment are rated at 55. This is slightly better than the Prius.

My test car had decent enough acceleration in the standard drive mode, but really came alive when I moved the shifter over to “sport. The sport setting quickened throttle response and produced crisper shifts. On the road, the Ionic handled well, with a low center of gravity, thanks to the battery pack helping it hug the pavement in corners. It was fun to drive. Yet, the ride quality was superior too. The Ioniq did not bob and pitch, and it absorbed rough pavement very capably.

Hyundai offers the Ioniq Hybrid in three versions, Blue, SEL and Limited. The base Blue comes with usual power windows/locks/mirrors, plus keyless ignition, a rearview camera and satellite radio. The SEL adds heated front seats, with a power assist for the driver, and active safety features, such as blind-spot warning, lane-change assist and rear cross-traffic alert. The Limited ups the ante with leather seats, a sunroof and the Bluelink emergency communications system. Additional safety systems, like adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking are available in the optional Technology and Ultimate packages.

Pricing for the Ioniq starts at $23,035 for the Blue, and ranges up to $28,335 for the Limited. My Limited test car, with the optional Ultimate package and carpeted floor mats, had a bottom line of $31,455.



Excellent Gas Mileage

Traditional Styling

Fun to Drive

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