Who Else Besides Toyota Will The Hyundai Ioniq Threaten?

For the past couple years we’ve heard of Hyundai’s pending “Prius Fighter,” and now that the Ioniq will go on sale in the U.S. later this year, in question is what other automakers might also feel the heat?

The Ioniq – its name a merger of ion and unique – is to be three cars in one – hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and EV. It’s already on sale in 52.7 mpg hybrid guise in Korea, and Hyundai projects 30,000 global Ioniq line sales this year, a not insubstantial 77,000 next year, but inquiries surrounding its ultimate potential remain.

For starters, the purpose-built electrified car with which a plug-in hybrid version and all-electric version will share the same platform has plug-in fans hoping/wondering what kind of electric range these variants will achieve.

Teasing everyone along, Hyundai appears to have met or come very close to its goal, at least on paper, of building a legitimate contender to the world’s best-selling green car, the Prius.

The Ioniq’s 1.6-ilter hybrid version utilizing a unique dual clutch transmission already achieves superior fuel economy in Korea than the third-generation Prius and eyes are on whether it will beat the new 2016 Prius.

56 mpg 2016 Toyota Prius Eco.

56 mpg 2016 Toyota Prius Eco.

According to Reuters, the Ioniq is “expected” by Hyundai to achieve 57 mpg in the U.S., although in our direct queries with Hyundai’s U.S. representatives, they said no word or projections are being released here yet.

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In any case, its sporty looks also have been praised by some as more fetching than the 2016 Prius which echoes design cues from Toyota’s Mirai fuel cell vehicle as well as the former Prius.

What’s more, that Hyundai is serious about green cars is clear. While reports currently are that the Korean automaker needs to improve to meet stringent fuel economy and CO2 targets, it has said it is well on track.

In fall 2014 it said its global fleet would be 25-percent greener by decade’s end, and the number of electrified cars it has on offer has been estimated at 22 by the Korean Herald, while Reuters says it will be 26.

And, Hyundai said in 2014, it would transform itself into a “global top 2 automaker in the eco-friendly car market by 2020.”

Within these plans, Hyundai is pursuing also fuel cell vehicles, actually beat Toyota’s purpose-built Mirai to market with its converted Tucson FCV and has development reportedly underway of its own purpose-built FCV.

The Ioniq is however a focal point in this effort to green the fleet.

“Our vision for future mobility focuses on choice, with a variety of powertrain options to suit customers’ varied lifestyles, without compromising on design or driving enjoyment,” said Woong-Chul Yang, Head of Hyundai Motor R&D Center. “Ioniq embodies Hyundai Motor’s vision to shift the automotive paradigm and future mobility; Ioniq is the fruit of our efforts to become the leader in the global green car market.”

Ioniq Overview

Hyundai saved hundreds of millions of dollars in development costs with its three-in-one electrified car.

While making a nod to sportiness, it is no fire breather in hybrid trim, however. Even with the dual clutch tranny – to bypass the “elastic band” feeling Toyota and other automakers’ CVTs offer – its 0-60 time is only 10.3 seconds.

According to Automotive News, the Ioniq is more entertaining than the Prius, especially in sport mode.

Hyundai boasts 40-percent thermal efficiency for the engine. A lithium-polymer chemistry will be used. This is the only hybrid with DCT, and the first offered in HEV, PHEV and EV formats.

Hyundai boasts 40-percent thermal efficiency for the engine. A lithium-polymer battery chemistry will be used. This is the only hybrid with DCT, and the first offered in HEV, PHEV and EV formats.

When we drove the 2016 Prius however, its handling dynamics are markedly better than the 2010-2015 version.

But the Ioniq’s looks also stand to influence buyers, and form does follow function with a 0.24 cd, equal to the 2016 Prius, and Tesla Model S.

The Ioniq employs high-strength steel for 53 percent of its body and offers seven air bags including an advanced air bag system for the driver.

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Advanced features are also available for the car that starts at $19,000 in Korea (range from 22.95 million won ($19,095) to 27.55 million won ($23,000).

These features include dual zone HVAC, a driver-only mode, and advanced safety systems such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, blind spot detection, emergency braking, and cross traffic alert.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Toyota Prius First Drive Review – Video

As has been in vogue since the now-defunct Fisker Karma, and more recently BMW i3, Hyundai is also making a nod to the eco-sensitive with its material selection. For example interior door coverings are made with recycled plastic, powdered wood and volcanic stone, saving weight by 20 percent in the process.

The Ioniq saves 12.6kg (45%) of weight by casting non-structural bodywork from aluminum, such as the hood, tailgate and suspension components. Where crash structure or energy absorption is necessary, the structure features Advanced High Strength Steel that can withstand significant collision forces.

The Ioniq saves 27.8 pounds (12.6kg, or 45 percent) of weight by casting non-structural bodywork from aluminum, such as the hood, tailgate and suspension components. Where crash structure or energy absorption is necessary, the structure features Advanced High Strength Steel that can withstand significant collision forces.

Infotainment includes Android Auto, Apple Carplay, and wireless charging for phones adds to the high tech suite of a car intended to be competitive as more automakers come to market with their own electrified offerings.

About Those Plug-in Versions

Hyundai has not released data on the all-important electric range of the plug-in hybrid and EV versions.

By third quarter this year, the EV will reportedly be launched alongside the hybrid, and the PHEV will follow.

Its release comes as a new 200-mile benchmark for EVs is being set by first the Chevy Bolt, and to follow is expected the Tesla Model 3 and Nissan Leaf, second generation.

Whether Hyundai can pull that off without an in-floor battery pack is not known. In any case its overall value proposition will have to be weighed when more is revealed about price for performance.

Chevy Bolt.

Chevy Bolt.

The PHEV with batteries under the rear seat also will have those hoping to see higher than 30-mile range. In the U.S., its main competitor may be the second-generation Prius PHV, also with range unknown.

Today, the number of sub-$40,000 plug-in hybrids sold in the U.S. is scant. Specifically, available are the 53-mile extended-range electric Chevy Volt, 19-mile Ford C-Max and Fusion Energi, and Hyundai’s own 27-mile Sonata Plug-in Hybrid, and the 27-mile Kia Optima Plug-in Hybrid is due later this year.

Hyundai has been known to value-price or at least match competitors while attempting to show a few extras on the content list for the money.

Playing For Keeps

“We have concentrated all of our technology on the Ioniq under the objective to solidify the leadership of the future market,” said Kwon Moon-sik, a vice chairman and head of research and development to reporters at its launch in Seoul.

“In the past, green cars were developed mostly by focusing on improving fuel efficiency at the expense of driving performance, but we came out with this model that makes sure that the driver can enjoy the highest fuel efficiency among same-class cars and have a fun driving experience at the same time,” he said.

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Last year just in the U.S. Toyota reported 82,354 sales of its four-model “Prius family,” far more than 30,000 global sales for year one Hyundai projects for the Ioniq, or even the 77,000 for 2017.

Cheap gas is now a reality to consider too, but psychographic variables beyond concerns for fuel prices are up in the air for Hyundai with its sporty, “unique” electrified car.

Reuters, Korea Herald, Automotive News