2020 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid review: Practical efficiency
The Hyundai Ioniq is unique in that it's one of the few cars available as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fully electric model. Originally launched in 2016, this year's Ioniq has updated styling and technology, and starts at $24,195 including destination. It's plenty frugal, but don't expect too many thrills. This is one hybrid that definitely prioritizes economy and comfort over any sort of fun.
For this review, I have the standard Ioniq Hybrid in its range-topping Limited trim, which has an impressive EPA fuel economy rating of 55 miles per gallon combined. SE, SEL and a higher-efficiency Blue model are also offered, the last of which ups the fuel economy rating to 58 mpg.
The Ioniq's styling tweaks work well, with a new mesh grille, sleek headlamps and updated LED rear lighting -- tweaks that arrived for the 2020 model year. It doesn't scream, "Hey, I'm a hybrid!" like a Toyota Prius , and I like that. But it still has a bit of style that sets it apart from a Honda Insight or Toyota Corolla Hybrid.
The Ioniq Hybrid is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and a 32-kilowatt electric motor, with a 1.6-kWh lithium-ion battery located under the rear seats. Total system output is 139 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The good news is that the DCT makes for a much more pleasurable driving experience than the continuously variable transmissions found in most other compact hybrids. The bad news, if you actually like driving, is that it's also tuned for fuel economy above all, meaning it tends to upshift before actually getting into the heart of the power band. Sport mode helps things a little, but for those new to hybrids, the Ioniq's lackluster acceleration might be a deal-breaker.
On the many hills where I live in the Bay Area, the Ioniq tends to struggle in its Eco driving mode. It's often unsure whether to shift and save on fuel or to keep the revs high and make it up a steep hill at a reasonable speed. In Eco mode, the steering wheel-mounted paddles let me adjust the regenerative braking, so at least I'm able to recuperate a lot of energy on downhill slopes. When it's time to dig into the mechanical brakes, however, they're jerky and rough.
As for handling, well, yes, it handles. The Ioniq feels floaty over rough pavement, but if you're seriously considering a compact hybrid I doubt its lackluster road manners will really be a top priority. Instead, you probably care more about driving aids, and to that end, forward-collision warning, a driver attention monitor, lane-keeping assist and high-beam assist are standard, but you have to jump to the SE to get blind-spot monitoring and to the SEL to add adaptive cruise control. The cool Highway Drive Assist, that helps drivers by combining the lane-keeping tech and adaptive cruise control, is only available on the top Limited trim.
A standard 8-inch touchscreen runs Hyundai's BlueLink infotainment system as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but my tester rocks the larger 10.2-inch screen. With this option I can connect two phones via Bluetooth simultaneously, which is cool if you want to have one person connected for phone calls and another to play DJ on road trips.
Overall, Hyundai's infotainment system is easy to use, although I don't like that I always have to go back to the home page to toggle between the native system and Apple CarPlay. The voice control seems to be a little iffy, too, never understanding my home address in Oakland, California. It tries to send me to Texas at one point, Nevada the next. Wireless charging is available on upper trim levels, as are two 12-volt outlets, a USB-A port up front and another one in the center console.
Black is the only interior color available on the Hybrid Limited, and while it's too dark for me, others might not mind so much. There's a flat-bottomed steering wheel, too, which I guess is nice? But anyway, the cabin materials are all of good quality considering the Ioniq's price, and I never hear any squeaks or rattles. Heated front seats are available starting at the SE trim, but ventilated seats aren't on the menu.
The Ioniq Hybrid has 26.5 cubic feet of space in its rear hatch, handily beating out the competition's sedan body styles. The Toyota Corolla's trunk can only handle 13.1 cubes, while the Honda Insight does slightly better with 15.1. However, you'll find a bit more room in the Toyota Prius' hatch: 27.4. That's for the Prius L Eco, at least; note that other Prius trims have a bit less room (24.6 cubic feet), so the Ioniq bests 'em.
Personally, I'd recommend going for the SEL trim, which comes in at $29,395 including $995 for destination. There are no options to add but the SEL comes with heated seats, wireless charging, adaptive cruise control and more. It does not come with front and rear parking sensors, but considering my Limited tester's sensors are super sensitive and the Ioniq is a small car with good outward visibility, I don't think you'd really need them.
Obviously the Ioniq's biggest competitor is the Toyota Prius, and it has one major advantage: available all-wheel drive. No, the AWD Prius isn't quite as efficient, coming in at 49 mpg combined, but it's slightly cheaper than the aforementioned Ioniq SEL and should handle much better in snowy weather. If price is your most important consideration, look at the Honda Insight, which starts at $23,925 including destination, beating out the Ioniq and Toyota Corolla Hybrid by a few hundred bucks.
The 2020 Hyundai Ioniq hybrid is a good choice for folks who want great fuel economy at an affordable price. The driving experience may not be the most engaging, but what it lacks in involvement it more than makes up for in efficiency.