Since 2010 rumors and reports had it that Hyundai was targeting Toyota with a dedicated “Prius fighter,” and its Ioniq trio is finally preparing for first retail deliveries.
Debuted last March in New York, the Ioniq which saw its first media drive this week comes in a regular hybrid version, and plug-in hybrid, and a battery electric version.
Hyundai is not playing up the Prius competitor aspect overly much, but plain is the Korean automaker which aspires to become a leading electrified vehicle maker by 2020 did benchmark the cars against the Prius – particularly the Liftback and plug-in version.
Toyota meanwhile owns 70 percent of the U.S. hybrid market share, its Prime plug-in is gathering momentum in sales as well, and it stands as a tough act to follow.
Following are a few salient ways in which Hyundai hopes to get a leg up.
Ioniq Hybrid With 58 mpg
There are two versions of the Ioniq Hybrid and the “Blue” model boasts America’s best hybrid fuel economy of 57 mpg city, 59 highway, 58 combined.
That’s not a whole lot more than the Prius Two Eco which is rated at 56 mpg, but at this level the automakers strove to squeak out this much efficiency in a country where the average car gets about 26 mpg.
Hyundai’s regular Ioniq Hybrid likewise tops the other five trims of the 52 mpg Prius with a healthy 55 mpg city, 54 highway, and 55 combined – just 1 mpg less than the bleeding-edge Prius Eco.
Hyundai gets there with a 1.6-liter direct-injected Atkinson-cycle engine and single motor whereas Toyota relies on a 1.8-liter and dual motor.
Both are believed to provide similar acceleration, and numerous other points of comparison beyond the mpg will be factors between the two, but chalk one up for Hyundai in the mpg department.
Ioniq PHEV With Est. 27 Miles Range
The Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid due fourth quarter this year follows Toyota’s formula of basing the PHEV on the base model, so powertrain details are similar except a 8.9-kWh battery provides an estimated 27 miles range.
This is subject to EPA certification, but it edges out the Prius Prime’s 25 miles EV range while likely also providing incrementally better fuel economy in hybrid mode as well.
Incidentally, the Ioniq Plug-in and regular hybrids uniquely ditch the old-school 12-volt lead acid battery in favor of a 12-volt li-ion unit merged with the propulsion battery.
This battery can be “jump started” if needed by a push of a button to take energy from the larger propulsion battery, and is covered under its lifetime warranty.
This innovation is unique and is an answer to what enthusiasts have asked for or mused about for years while showing Hyundai is thinking creatively, and not only following another carmaker’s formula.
Battery Electric Version
Hyundai’s battery electric version is infinitely better than Toyota’s battery electric version because Toyota does not have one.
While Hyundai was at it, it shared development costs with the Ioniq’s dedicated platform and made itself an EV model with 124 miles range. The Ioniq is the world’s first such vehicle that is three versions on one platform, and again shows cleverness on Hyundai’s part.
Toyota’s counterpart to the Prius is its hydrogen fuel cell Mirai slowly rolling out in California and due next in the Northeast by 2018.
The Ioniq EV is admittedly low on the range scale, and while launching soon, Hyundai has let on that its range could be upgraded to 200 or more miles by 2018.
Initially it had been shown with an estimated 110 miles last year, but the engineers tweaked it to 14 more from its 28 kWh battery and 118-horsepower (88 kW) electric motor.
All the Ioniqs are similarly styled with cues to set each apart, and many people agree they are more conventional in design to the Prius while echoing it in type
On the flipside, the fourth-generation Toyota’s Prius has been widely criticized for its angular lines. This is particularly true of the Liftback hybrid, while the Prime plug-in version has been received more favorably.
Ultimately this is a personal decision, and there will be those who like either, but the Hyundais are less stand-outish, for what that is worth.
The Hyundai Ioniq hybrid and battery electric version due first had their manufacturer’s suggested prices listed this week.
Starting at $23,035 with destination fees included, the base Ioniq Blue hybrid is $2,535 less than the base Prius Liftback – and this is to get the 58 mpg Hyundai versus the 52 mpg Toyota.
Toyota’s 56-mpg Prius Two Eco is $26,050, or $3,015 more than the Ioniq Blue. The Ioniq Hybrid ranges to $24,786 for the SEL, and $28,335 for the Limited. Toyota’s Prius ranges up to $30,900.
And, with regard to the battery electric Ioniq, this ranges from $30,335 to $33,335 which is comparable to the Nissan Leaf.
This said, Toyota has an edge as being an evolved product, though true also, Hyundai has done well exceeding the Prius in at least some critical respects on its first try.
With roll-out at a measured pace this year into next, don’t expect the Ioniqs to outsell the Prius but they do hit the high spots and should capture buyers with what they offer.
We’ll have a more-through review next week along with drive impressions for the new Hyundais, so please check back.