2017 Hyundai Ioniq first drive impression: If you can lead a horse to water, can you really make him drink?

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You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. We all know that saying, but what does it have to do with automobiles? Plenty, if you’re talking about electric vehicles. The U.S. government can pound its chest and demand that manufacturers build all sorts of electrified cars, but they can’t make consumers purchase a vehicle they don’t want. In 2016, electric vehicle sales dropped, mostly because fuel prices were low (car buyers have incredibly short memories), truck sales were on the rise (only 39%% of all vehicles sold in 2016 were cars, down from 52% in 2012), plus cost and battery worries keep EV buyers from making the commitment. So how do you get those ponies to drink from the watering hole?  By helping them understand that the water is exactly the same as what they’re used to drinking. Convince the horse, and he’ll drink all day long. This is the secret to the success of the all-new 2017 Hyundai Ioniq.

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid (107)By creating a great car to begin with — that just happens to be a hybrid or electric — Hyundai has figured out that people will drink because the Ioniq has all the same features of a non-electric: good looks, fun to drive, great features, plenty of cargo and passenger room, lots of safety and, oh yeah, amazing fuel economy. Seriously, what’s not to like?

It’s a brilliant strategy, but one that many manufacturers have failed to execute. How is Hyundai doing it? By removing the roadblocks to failure. Here are some great examples of how non-automotive brands are getting the public to drink. Don’t like vegetables? Green Giant has created a way to make vegetables look and taste (kind of) like rice. Good enough to make eating vegetables enjoyable. Your kids don’t like cough syrup? Pharmacies are adding flavorings to make the medicine go down without a fight. Bottom line: Take away the objections, and you win.

IMG_5188With the Ioniq, the same theory applies: take away the roadblocks, then sell like mad. What are the roadblocks? Cost is tops. EVs are expensive. The Hyundai Ioniq is not. The Ioniq Hybrid starts at just over $23,000 including destination.  The all-electric model starts at about $30,000 with destination. Both prices start lower than the Toyota Prius or Nissan Leaf, respectively. Subtract the Federal tax credit and the California credit, and you’re looking at a $20,000 BEV. Next hurdle is the battery. Hyundai solved that one also. All Ioniq Hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and full-electric batteries are warrantied for life. Now tell us again why you don’t want an EV? This plan makes so much sense someone should have done it years ago, but, frankly, we’re not surprised that Hyundai came up with it first. Let’s take the Ioniq apart and see what makes it work.

OVERVIEW

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Ki-Sang Lee tells the story of the gold medals he awarded the engineering team at Hyundai.

Few manufacturers are willing to admit they know nothing, which is why what Hyundai said is impressive. Ki-Sang Lee, Vice-President of Hyundai R&D, revealed that, in 2005 when he realized electric vehicles would be a requirement, gathered all his engineers and asked if anyone knew anything about electrified vehicles. When no one raised a hand, he knew they had a lot of work ahead of them. Lee promised that if they could accomplish the goal of creating the most fuel-efficient EV, the team involved would receive gold medals with a full ceremony. He handed out 500 medals to his team, as they delivered on the promise with a best-in-class 58 mpg for the Hybrid model and 136 MPGe for the all-electric. This is the kind of commitment to its products that you get from Hyundai.

Hyundai not only did its homework as far as product, but also as far as the market. It discovered that nearly 98 percent of new-vehicle buyers drive less than 100 miles per day. That goes hand in hand with the future driving public (Millennials) choosing to eschew the suburbs for city life, which means less commuting time. These new buyers also highly favor alternative power sources over fossil fuels. By focusing on these trends, Hyundai created the Ioniq to serve the needs/wants of these customers.

DIFFERENT MODELS

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The Hyundai Ioniq Bonneville Salt Flats record holder for fastest hybrid.

Not content to create one Ioniq, Hyundai actually is introducing a Hybrid model, a plug-in hybrid, an all-electric, and it even has a working autonomous model that’s not on the production list just yet. Hyundai also created an Ioniq race car that set the hybrid speed record at Bonneville at a speed of close to 158 mph. No doubt the engineering department earned those gold medals handily. We drove the Hybrid and all-electric, as those will be the two that are available now. (Well, almost now. The Hybrid is on sale as of this writing, while the all-electric will be on sale this spring in California.) The PHEV model will hit the showroom late in the year as a 2018 model. Side note: while the BEV Ioniq is officially only for sale in California, if a customer in another state really wants one, Hyundai can make it happen.

EXTERIOR DESIGN

wnbO0One of the biggest problems with EVs is that they’re quirky. Oddball shapes, small tires, funky protruding taillamps, etc. While some people like to be different — really different — the mainstream wants a vehicle that’s attractive and timeless without being goofy. The Ioniq will make those who don’t want to be the sore thumb happy, and might even convince a few diehard Prius loyalists that you can be extremely fuel efficient without looking like a radical.

IMG_2925The theme for the design was visual aero, or what Hyundai says is a design formed by aerodynamics. With a coefficient of drag of 0.24, it’s impossible to argue with that premise. Even the hexagonal front grille bars sweep into the headlamp area to create movement. The steeply raked windshield is followed by a steeply raked roofline, ending with a sleek rear hatchback with split-window view and integrated spoiler. Available LED Daytime Running Lamps with integrated aero curtains for fuel efficiency, standard sill moldings on the sides, LED taillamps and a rear bumper that mimics the front complete the look. The result is efficient, sophisticated, clean, and pleasing. Because of the nature of the propulsion, the BEV has a different front look, with a closed grille, LED headlamps and unique LED taillamp graphics. All models will feature different wheel sizes and designs (15s, 16s, 17s) depending on needs. Tires are all Michelins, and are Energy Savers A/S, specially designed to maximize performance as well as efficiency. They feature Michelin’s Green X Technology, and are designed to save up to $400 in gas over the life of the tires, which are warrantied for 65,000 miles.