First launched in 2017, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric is a niche vehicle within a niche category looking to strike home with discerning EV buyers.

As part of the world’s first trio of purpose-built electrified vehicles, the Ioniq Electric is co-stabled with a hybrid and plug-in hybrid version whose development was benchmarked against the Toyota Prius Liftback hybrid and Prime PHEV. As the EV version, it was essentially added to the line for good measure.

Three trims are available – Base, Limited, and Limited with Ultimate package.

The automaker defrayed some costs in adding the EV, but being that its 28-kWh battery is stuffed under the rear seat and a bit into the cargo underfloor area, its 124 miles range is more on par with the last generation of EVs exemplified by the likes of the Nissan Leaf.

Does that mean it was born outdated as some reviewers have suggested? Not really. The vehicle is super sleek with a 0.24 coefficient of drag, a pleasure to drive – and oh by the way – it is America’s most efficient passenger vehicle bar none, according to U.S. EPA reckoning.

Low-enough pricing and an all-inclusive leasing deal also ensure the car has the goods to endear itself to EVers who don’t need 200-plus miles range from a Bolt EV, Tesla Model 3, or next-gen Leaf, thank you very much. Customers in this category also consider they don’t have to pay for the extra heavy battery while enjoying ultra-efficient zero-tailpipe emission driving, and it is these who are the target market. In California.

For now, that’s the only U.S. market it’s available in, and unlike other limited-market Hyundai plug-ins, this one is not available on special order in other states. As such, its 432 sales last year in a partial sales year, and 79 in the hottest EV month of December, are far below those of the nationally available Bolt EV which led the category with 3,227 sales in December, and 23,297 for the year – including time of limited availability during a rollout through last summer.

Another Asian EV from the other “trio” of electrified vehicles, Honda’s short-range, recently launched Clarity EV also outdid it, with 1,121 sales in a partial year, and 527 in December alone.

SEE ALSO: Why Honda Says 80 Miles Range Is Enough For Its 2017 Clarity Electric
Factor also Hyundai may launch a 200-mile Kona crossover in a year or two, sister company Kia just showcased a 238-mile Bolt matching Niro EV, and the Ioniq has its work cut out for it, but it can hit the spot, so let’s take a further look.

Squeaky Clean

Its 136 MPGe combined (25 kWh/100 mile) powertrain is right up there on top in EV-ville, nicely above the $7,000-more expensive Bolt EV’s 119 MPGe, and even more pricey BMW i3 60 aH’s 124 MPGe.

MPGe – 150 city, 122 highway, 136 combined. Source: U.S. EPA.

The 28.0-kWh LG Chem battery pack gives motive force to the 118 horsepower (88 kilowatt), 218 pounds-feet torque motor driving the front wheels.

A single-speed gear reduction transmission is operated by pushbutton – novel, but if you’re not careful reaching into the forward lower cubby bin, your forearm can depress a gear selector on the fly. Fortunately Hyundai foresaw this, and a harmless ding happens as the system otherwise prevents you from doing anything destructive.

Charging differs from the Leaf-like CHAdeMO plug of the Kia Soul EV, and instead joins the standard used by all the U.S. and European car brands – SAE CCS and a J1772 standard for level 1 and 2 charging.

The car can take up to 6.6 kilowatts to fully charge in four hours from its left rear fender mounted port. For now, with a relatively modest 50-kW CCS-capable charging station, the Ioniq Electric can replenish 80-percent charge in 30 minutes.

Plugging to one of the new 70-kW stations coming out it will be able to recharge 80 percent in as little as 23 minutes. This for now is not possible with the Chevrolet Bolt which is computer limited to 50-kW nominally, so chalk another minor potential advantage for the rightsized Hyundai.

Another, and an aid to efficiency, is a heat pump warms the cabin – something becoming more common, but yet lacking on Teslas and the Bolt EV, which still use less-efficient resistive electric heating.

Stylistically Speaking

Dimensions for the large-class car are 76.0 by 71.7 by 57.1 inches and wheelbase is 106.3 inches, or within realm of the Prius.

A rather ordinary but handsome-enough looking vehicle, a front blocked off from un-needed cooling airflow helps distinguish it from the hybrid and plug-in hybrid siblings.

EV badging and aero wheels shod with low rolling resistance P205/55R16 Michelins are also part of the package as are LED front headlamps and unique rear combination lamps.

The car benefits from aluminum hood and hatches along with varying grades of high strength steel in an exercise of modern lightweighting. Advanced structural adhesives cut weight and increase rigidity to improve the ride, control, and reduce noise, vibration, and harshness.

Inside, the design is very mainstream with mainly EV specific gauges to set it apart. Knobs and buttons are adorned by a 7-inch LCD infotainment screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow seamless smartphones integration. An 8-inch display is available.

Also available are advanced safety features including front collision detection, lane departure warning, automated emergency braking, blind spot and rear cross-traffic alert, and Smart Cruise Control.

A proprietary Blue Link telematic system is also standard, and allows functions including remote door unlocking, remote climate control, and vehicle recharging control via a dedicated smartphone app.

Driving the Ioniq Electric

As Hyundai strove to make the design ordinary and competent, so is the experience from behind the wheel.

The 3,266 pound car silently takes off per EV practice with full torque from go. Zero to sixty has been clocked as quick as 8.1 seconds, but realistically may be closer to upper 9s. A Sport mode amplifies the feel of accelerator response.

Braking has been tested independently at 60-0 in 124 feet which is alright, and lateral acceleration for the car with 50/50 weight distribution has seen 0.81g which is alright too. A switch to somewhat stickier tires – not recommended for efficiency – could see these numbers improved if desired.

The car is relatively engaging, and enjoyable enough as is, and its superlative efficiency means its 124 miles EPA rated range can be attained, even beaten assuming sedate enough drive cycle.

Studies show 98 percent of drivers need less than 100 miles per day, so for those who say more is needed, what they are probably saying is they want more peace of mind or flexibility. The car is not aimed at interstate driving, but is a specialist at commuting and making local trips as clean and low energy as can be.

Novel are the right and left regen paddles which permit regenerative energy to be varied on a scale of 0-3 (four settings). Zero is free-wheeling, and the numbers increasingly add regen power for nearly one-pedal driving. They reduce wear on the friction brakes, and give flexibility of the fly that quickly becomes second nature.

Comfort-wise, the car is good front and back though the front seat head rests are a bit too far forward for our likes. The driver’s cockpit is suitably modern with controls at your fingertips, with adequate storage and details like heated seats to make things cozy and reduce HVAC energy consumption when needed.

The EV For You?

At this writing there are 17 battery electric cars are for sale in the U.S. Several are competitors to the Ioniq Electric, including the all-new 2018 Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt, Kia Soul EV, Honda Clarity, VW e-Golf, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus EV, Mitsu i-MiEV, and to a lesser extent the BMW i3 and Mercedes B-Class.

Because of its limited market status, the Ioniq sells in volumes near the bottom, but that is not a true indicator compared to cars sold in more markets, and it can make a compelling value.

SEE ALSO: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Review – Video
Prices are from about $30,300 for the base model, with the mid-level Limited edition at just over $33,300. When equipped with the Ultimate package it surpasses $36,000.

Studies indicate up to 80 percent of EV drivers lease, and Hyundai’s all-inclusive 36-month lease deal is probably the most desirable way to go to avoid resale value issues while enjoying the benefits of America’s most efficient car.

Called the
Unlimited+ Subscription Program mileage deal starts at $275/month, the package stands to eliminate any potential sting.

All told the Ioniq Electric is easy enough to live with. Check it out. Drive it. Despite some reviewers automatically downgrading it next to 200-plus milers, it can make sense, and is worth a closer look.