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Hyundai Ioniq and Kia Niro review: Korean tanks parked on Japan’s lawn

Alun Taylor


Specs at a glance: 2016 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
Body type Five-door hatchback
Layout Front-wheel drive
Powertrain 1.6L 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle petrol engine, with electric hybrid drive and 1.56kWh Li-ion battery
Transmission Six-speed automatic DCT
Horsepower 105ps (petrol engine) / 32kW (electric motor) / 104kW/141ps (combined)
Torque 147Nm (petrol engine) / 170Nm (electric motor) / 265Nm (combined)
Suspension MacPherson strut (front) / Multi-link (rear)
Tyres 195/65 R15
Top speed 115mph
CO2 79g/km
Combined fuel economy 83.1mpg
Weight 1,870kg
Wheelbase 2,700mm
Dimensions 4,470 x 1,820 x 1,450mm (LWH)
Base price £19,940
Sometimes the dice just roll the right way. I had been scheduled to spend a week kicking the tyres of Kia’s new Niro at the end of August, but a mixup with the booking and then the theft of a press fleet car meant that I didn’t actually get my hands on it until the last week of September, which happened to be a week before the UK press launch of the Hyundai Ioniq.
So I decided to tackle them all at once. The Ioniq (that’s "ionic" rather than "ion-eek") will eventually be available in three guises: pure electric, hybrid—which I’m reviewing here—and a plug-in hybrid due to arrive in Blighty next spring. As it happens, the Ioniq hybrid drivetrain is also found in the Kia Niro (pronounced like the actor rather than the pen), while a plug-in version of the Niro will also appear down the line.
So: three cars, one pair with different bodies but the same engine, transmission, and battery; and another pair with the same chassis and body but different powertrains—and three-in-one review.
Before we get into the meat, it's worth noting that this idea of having various drivetrains in the same body isn’t the result of muddled thinking. It’s not that Hyundai and Kia don’t know what the customer wants; rather, they genuinely think that all three types—hybrid, plug-in, EV—have a market in the long term. I’ve long thought the same myself.
By 2018 Hyundai reckons demand will split 50/35/15 between the hybrid, plug-in, and EV versions of the Ioniq. I think they are underestimating plug-in sales, but saying that, I don't know what the asking price of the plug-in will be or what changes to BIK taxation the government will make.

The looks

Starting with the styling, I don’t think the Ioniq (the blue car in the gallery above) is one of Hyundai’s better efforts of late, though admittedly that has more to do with the visual strength of its current range than any overt failings on the new car’s part. I get the feeling the designers were not entirely sure how similar or dissimilar they wanted to make it look to the rest of the Hyundai range, and so fell between stools.
The only significant visual difference between the EV (the red car) and hybrid versions of the Ioniq is the grille: the EV doesn’t have one. The big blanking plate that takes its place is not something you'd use if you were designing a car solely as an EV, though how much it affects the Ioniq aesthetically depends on the colour scheme.
Considering the inherent compromises involved in designing one front end for both an EV and a petrol-burner, Hyundai’s styling team hasn't done too bad a job. If the EV version of the Ioniq is not as pretty as Renault’s Zoe, it’s still easier on the eye than the rather globular Nissan Leaf and not as wantonly strange as the BMW i3.
If we are comparing hybrids, meanwhile, then to my eyes the Ioniq looks more restrained and more balanced than the latest Prius.
Apart from the drivetrain, the only other mechanical difference between its EV and hybrid incarnations is the rear suspension. The hybrids get multi-link, while the electric model has torsion beam to make more room for its 28kWh lithium-ion polymer battery pack.
The Niro (the black car in the gallery above) has a far more conventional design. Take away the hybrid badges, and you’d assume it’s a facelifted Sportage or a beefed-up C’eed. Both Kia and Hyundai are coy about exactly which parts are shared between the Niro and Ioniq, but since the two models have identical wheelbases I’m guessing their joint DNA runs deep.
The big stylistic advantage the Niro enjoys is the absence of the spoiler bar across the tailgate window. It's an addition that obscures rear-view vision in the Ioniq.
Specs at a glance: 2016 Kia Niro
Body type Five-door hatchback
Layout Front-wheel drive
Powertrain 1.6L 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle petrol engine, with electric hybrid drive and 1.56kWh Li-ion battery
Transmission Six-speed automatic DCT
Horsepower 105ps (petrol engine) / 32kW (electric motor) / 104kW/141ps (combined)
Torque 147Nm (petrol engine) / 170Nm (electric motor) / 265Nm (combined)
Suspension MacPherson strut (front) / Multi-link (rear)
Tyres 205/60 R16
Top speed 101mph
CO2 88g/km
Combined fuel economy 74.3mpg
Weight 1,930kg
Wheelbase 2,700mm
Dimensions 4,355 x 1,805 x 1,545mm (LWH)
Base price £21,295

Vital statistics

Compare the Ioniq hybrid to the Prius and you’ll find that the Hyundai is shorter and wider. This makes the cabin a wee bit more spacious, but the 443-litre boot is a touch smaller. The Ioniq EV has a smaller boot, but 350 litres below the load cover still isn’t too shabby, and it beats the Renault Zoe, if not the Nissan Leaf. There’s plenty of room in the back of the Ioniq, but the Niro has more headroom thanks to being taller.
There's the same refined four-cylinder 105ps/147Nm Kappa 1.6L Atkinson cycle petrol engine, a 1.56kWh lithium-ion battery, and a 32kW/170Nm electric motor under the bonnet of both the Ioniq and Niro hybrids. The Ioniq will get to 62mph in 10.8 seconds, and the Niro in 11.1. Top speeds are 101mph and 115mph respectively. The Ioniq also shades the Niro when it comes to CO2 emissions, with 79g/km vs. 88g/km. The Prius puffs out a more modest 70g/km.
That the Ioniq is the more efficient vehicle shouldn't come as a shock. It is lighter than the Niro (1,870kg vs. 1,930kg) and more slippery, with a Prius-matching drag coefficient of 0.24 vs. 0.29. These factors give the Ioniq the edge when it comes to fuel economy; it has a quoted average consumption of 83.1mpg to the Niro’s 74.3mpg.
In my experience the Ioniq averaged 65mpg, and the Niro 59mpg. Since both have 45-litre fuel tanks, the Hyundai will get you farther down the road between fill-ups.
Rather than ape Toyota with its planetary gear e-CVT transmission, Hyundai has opted for a more conventional six-speed dual-clutch gearbox. In terms of blending power from the battery and the engine, Hyundai/Kia’s multi-clutch system (which goes by the impressive moniker of Transmission-Mounted Electrical Device or TMED) is every bit as smooth as any Toyota hybrid.
More importantly you don’t have to tolerate the rather unsatisfying revs-then-acceleration palaver of the Toyota system. I much prefer Hyundai’s engineering solution, which it incidentally claims is the more efficient.
The conventional gearbox makes the Ioniq and Niro hybrids drive like, well, conventional hatchbacks. The only giveaway is the silent progress you make when moving under electric power. Neither Kia nor Hyundai will say exactly how far you can travel under electric-only power, and without an electric drive button you can’t force the vehicle’s hand.
Specs at a glance: 2016 Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Body type Five-door hatchback
Layout Front-wheel drive
Powertrain Electric with 28kWh Li-ion battery
Transmission Single-speed reduction gear
Power 88kW
Torque 295Nm
Suspension MacPherson strut (front) / Torsion beam (rear)
Tyres 205/55 R16
Top speed 103mph
CO2 Zero at tailpipe
Combined fuel economy 4.5kWh per mile as tested
Weight 1,880kg
Wheelbase 2,700mm
Dimensions 4,470 x 1,820 x 1,450mm (LWH)
Base price £24,440 after UK plug-in vehicle rebate.

Range finder

By keeping a close eye on the green EV light, I can tell you that both cars seem happy to travel in electric mode at speeds of up to 65mph, while they drop into EV mode more often than any Toyota hybrid I’ve driven. I reckon you might get between two and three miles down the road on electric-only drive.
Trying to maximise the electric range proved fruitless. No matter how I drove either the Ioniq or the Niro the battery monitor refused to be coaxed from between the 25 percent and 75 percent charge levels. After a while I gave up and reconciled myself to the fact that the onboard power management systems knew better than I did.
When they arrive, the plug-in Ioniq and Niro hybrids will be a better bet for those after more of an EV experience. Thanks to an 8.9kWh battery and a 45kW motor they will be capable of electric-only ranges of over 30 miles.
Range is of course the really important figure with any EV. The official New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) number for the Ioniq electric is 174 miles. But as any car maker will tell you, that number can be a little misleading.
I averaged 4.5 miles per kWh over the best part of 200 miles. Looking through the trip computer history on my test car, it showed an average of between 4.3 and 4.7 miles per kWh for every journey it had made since rolling off the ship—like all Ioniq models it is built at Hyundai’s vast Ulsan facility in South Korea.
Given that the Ioniq has a 28kWh battery, this would suggest a real-world touring range of around 125 miles, which was pretty much exactly what I got. That said, I was pushing things: I paddled the Ioniq up the M6 at a fair old clip and spent much of my time with the regenerative braking set to minimum rather than maximum. I’m confident I could eke out 140 miles without too much effort.
That makes the Ioniq’s range class-competitive. To take two examples, the 30kWh Nissan Leaf has an NEDC range of 155 miles, while the new 41kWh Renault Zoe has an NEDC range of 250 miles. However Renault admits that is more like 180 miles in the real world, while the Leaf has a real-world range of about 120 miles in my experience.
Thanks to its CCS charger connector, the Ioniq electric can be charged to 80 percent of capacity in just over 30 minutes using a 50kW rapid charger. Hyundai’s preferred partner for home charging is PodPoint, and a full charge from one of its 7kW home units will take around four hours; the Ioniq also has a 6.6kW onboard charger. Using a domestic 13A socket—which Hyundai does not recommend other than in emergencies—takes about nine hours. Three-pin domestic and Type 2 charge cables are supplied as standard.
Hyundai Ioniq and Kia Niro review: Korean tanks parked on Japan’s lawn Reviewed by Kogonuso on 8:40 PM Rating: 5

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