By Larry Lark / Herald Special Sections Writer
Little by little, the automotive industry continues to get greener.
Hyundai, the South Korean manufacturer, has produced the 2017 Ioniq with electric, low- and zero-emission powertrain options. That means a gas-electric hybrid, a plug-in hybrid and an all-electric option.
My tester was the Ioniq Hybrid Blue, the most fuel-efficient hybrid in the U.S. market. My week behind the wheel – in combined city and highway driving – achieved 55 miles per gallon and a range of over 600 miles.
It was a good week to travel to Bellingham, two trips to Mount Vernon, another to Camano Island, plus the usual grind. The Ioniq seats four – five in a pinch – with plenty of room for everyone. And the trunk was surprisingly large with room for two golf bags and probably more.
That little trick was accomplished by positioning the battery underneath the rear seats. Plus, the rear seats fold down to provide a combined 26.5 cubic feet of cargo volume.
“Ioniq will attract an entirely new group of eco- and efficiency-oriented buyers in the U.S. market,” said Mike O’Brien, vice president of corporate and product planning, for Hyundai Motor America. “With outstanding powertrain flexibility, design, connectivity, and advanced technologies, Ioniq meets the needs of a large and growing group of buyers needing a highly efficient, enjoyable to drive, low-emissions vehicle without compromise to their daily lifestyles.”
The Ioniq hybrid and Ioniq plug-in hybrid both feature a new Kappa 1.6L direct-injected, Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder engine, delivering an estimated 104 horsepower and an estimated 109 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine has been specifically tailored to the hybrid application and is combined with a quick-shifting, six-speed, double-clutch transmission – differentiating Ioniq from its key competitors with a more dynamic and engaging driving experience.
The high-efficiency electric motor can operate at speeds up to 75 MPH and delivers instantaneous torque at low speeds, with available power-assist at higher vehicle speeds.
An electric blue coat of paint is hard to miss, and the exterior cuts a sleek silhouette that I ended up liking. It grew on me. Aerodynamics benefit from front-wheel air curtains, a rear spoiler and diffuser, side-sill moldings, floor undercover and a closed-wheel design.
The driving experience inside Ioniq is enhanced through state-of-the art connectivity features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Blue Link, as well as wireless charging for smartphones.
Ioniq also offers the very latest in advanced safety, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert.
Behind the wheel, the Ioniq smart cruise control allows a constant speed and following distance to be maintained from the vehicle ahead without depressing the accelerator or brake pedals. Perfect for longish trips and maximizing gas mileage.
As I’ve said before, hybrids keep getting better – and cheaper. It’s a combination that will spur sales, even for folks who say that aren’t concerned with the environment. If you’ve got a long commute, how can you resist 55 mpg?
Base Price: $22,200
Price As Driven: $23,160
Base price includes destination charge. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. Prices may vary at local dealerships.