On-the-road review: Hyundai Ioniq5 Limited electric vehicle

Hyundai Motor Co. (including Kia and Genesis) will soon be America’s best-selling electric vehicle maker, behind Tesla. This week’s Ioniq5 compact crossover clearly demonstrates why.

Slightly lower, slightly wider and on a longer wheelbase than the company’s best-selling Tucson, the Ioniq5 is a smash hit for Hyundai because it’s quiet, rides and drives great, and comes packed with the features and content that buyers now crave. And oh yes, it doesn’t burn gasoline.

Visually, the Ioniq makes a distinct statement. It is elegant, but masculine. It’s bold, yet refined. It’s smart, but affordable. Lever-style door handles raise to greet you, then retract mid-ride or when locked. The Access is like a compact crossover – easy to slide in or out.

The chassis is basically the lithium-ion battery – hence the longer 118-inch wheelbase, which improves handling and ride. The suspension is fully independent on each corner, while our dual-motor AWD Limited uses a 74kW electric motor up front and a 165kW motor in the rear. Total power is equal to 320 hp – enough power to create a giant backstroke when you exercise the throttle connected to the single-speed gearbox. With essentially one-pedal operation – there’s little freewheeling – the Hyundai requires some reorientation from the driver. However, you leap forward with enthusiasm – with acceleration that matches my Mustang GT.

The cabin feels austere at first – everything works, until you explore your eco-friendly materials and the various functions on the large dual control displays. Then it’s obvious that the Ioniq5 is a very modern car packed with technology and none of the idiosyncrasies of previous alternative vehicle experiences. I’m looking at you, Prius.

Try the programmable augmented reality head-up display, semi-autonomous driving modes (called Highway Driver Assist 2) or park assist — not even in the Ioniq5. The “shifter” is a rotating knob on a steering column rod. Of course, there’s SmartCruise, navigation, all-new mobile phone functionality, heated and air-conditioned seats with memory, plus a massive sunroof and power tailgate. Space is ample, front and rear, making this EV all the size most drivers will need. Include the optional HTRAC AWD, rear wheel drive is standard and the Ioniq5 is also ready for all seasons. It can even tow up to 2,300 pounds.

Other than a front trunk – the frunk – that was once where your engine was, the Hyundai’s compartment is still a functionally full bay with barely room for a large lunch. It was the only disappointment in a car that impresses every time you use it. Even the jaded petrol enthusiasts at Car & Driver chose the Ioniq5 as the electric vehicle of the year.

Now the numbers.

Pricing starts at $41,245 for rear-drive single-motor models with 168 hp and 220 miles of electric range. A mid-level rear-drive model with a 225hp long-range battery can go up to 303 miles for less than $50,000. Our top Limited model, with 320 hp twin engine and all-wheel drive, is rated up to 266 miles for $56,320 which includes $595 for Atlas White paint and floor mats.

Hyundai uses 800-volt batteries which are among the fastest EV batteries currently available for Level III charging – a 10% to 80% charging range takes just 18 minutes, with 350kW DC fast charging that rivals EVs costing three times as much.

The caveat: the severe shortage of fast-charging Level III chargers – anywhere. Most commercial or public space chargers are Level I units, which are pretty much irrelevant for a vehicle like the Ioniq5 – 15 hours of home charging on normal 110 current (which is Level I) added only 42 miles of range. If you’re doing 24 miles a day, like a round trip to Ellsworth, the Ioniq only uses 6% of its range.

After arriving home with the Ioniq5 on the first day, I had 20% range left, or about 52 miles. The on-board screen announced that it would be necessary 59 hours to achieve 100% charge on my current power supply. Highway range anxiety was simply unavoidable – a feeling that prolonged exposure and use would help erase. But the faster you go, the faster the range decreases, so you become very aware of your speed. Three separate displays inform you of your efficiency.

Level II charging, which is still rare in many parts of the country – and preferable for owners who travel long distances daily – would be the only necessity to recharge this sophisticated machine.

The Kia EV6 is comparable, while a larger Ioniq6 crossover will be available soon. A Genesis EV model arrives every day.

Game changer? Yes, the Ioniq5 will reshape the segment – and the number of us who travel. Is an EV for everyone? Not yet – there are far too many charging issues for the masses, on the proposed scale of use. Still, the Ioniq5 is an innovative statement, and that’s fine.

Next week: Ford Raptor 37

Tim Splash

Tim Plouff reviewed the automobiles in the pages of The American Ellsworth weekly for almost two decades.

Tim Splash

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