Hyundai Ioniq 5 first drive: A vision of the future

(Pocket-lint) – The Hyundai Ioniq 5 is Hyundai’s first purely electric car: it’s a car that’s been designed as electric only, unlike the Kona and the namesake Ioniq, which are also available as hybrid models.

That sets the Ioniq 5 slightly apart from those other popular models, while also signifying a huge step forward for Hyundai. This is car designed to make more of a statement and show Hyundai’s serious ambitions with electric cars.

And doesn’t it just do that?

Design

The Ioniq 5 is based on the Hyundai 45 concept which was shown off at the Frankfurt motor show in 2019. While much of the concept is gone, the front design has been retained, as has the diagonal crease down the sides and the matte finish, resulting in a futuristic vision.

In one of those bizarre twists of reality, it looks futuristic because there’s some retro sci-fi looks to it especially at the front and rear of the car. Catch the car from the side and it’s rather more conventional and that’s likely to boost its appeal – there’s a future and contemporary mix both inside and out.

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Matte paint adds to that aesthetic (although it costs extra) and with names like Gravity Gold and Cyber Grey that future feeling continues. Looking at the colour charts, however, these are all rather muted colours – there’s no Canary Yellow or Crimson Red to be seen, it’s all rather more serious.

Look to the top and our test model had a solar roof fitted, while the wheels are unique to this Ultimate trim level. Hyundai is offering three trims, the SE Connect, Premium and Ultimate and as is often the way with Hyundai, options are kept to a minimum, instead variation is offered through the trim levels – including the battery capacity and motor options available to you.

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It sits in crossover territory, looks a little more like a big hatch than an SUV, but it has SUV interior space, that feeling of openness in the cabin and reasonable depth to the boot. Hyundai is calling it a CUV (crossover utility vehicle); in reality, it’s close in size to the VW ID.4, it just doesn’t look quite as elevated as VW’s model and this might partly be down to the optical illusion of design.

On this Ultimate edition, the sills are body coloured, whereas many cars have darker lower sections: at a glance, that can make the Hyundai look more planted and rivals look more lofty, even though they all have smiliar ground clearance.

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That boot, however, while giving some 540 litres of space, has a flat floor and there’s little practically no space underneath that floor, unlike the ID.4. We think the ID.4 boot is more practical, but these are first impressions and we’ll be playing around more with the boot space in the future to form a better opinion.

The model we drove was European spec – we’ll be following up with a UK update in the near future – so there might be some minor differences between the spec shown here and how it appears in the UK.

Interior

While the exterior reflects that Hyundai has started from scratch with this car, the interior continues that story. There’s a flat floor in the cabin, with Hyundai opting to fit a sliding centre console, called the Universal Island. That means you can balance the space front and rear, perhaps giving more foot space for the centre rear passenger – or sliding that back to give more space around the front.

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It’s partly proving the point that there’s no transmission tunnel as you’d find in a combustion car, but foot space in the front isn’t hugely useful: you can’t put anything there because you need to protect the pedals, so it’s more about giving the sense of space rather than creating the opportunity to carry more shopping bags.

If nothing else, it means you can slide that Universal Island forward, place a bag behind it, and then slide it back to wedge it in place.

But the lounge feeling continues, with the front seat offering a decent recline with a footrest, as though you might go to sleep, while the rear seats will recline a little too. Yes, there’s button on the edge of the front seat to recline it and we managed to recline it while in the back seat, effectively trapping us in place.

Such misadventures happen when you’re happily poking buttons around the cabin, whether children will be reclining the front seats too when they’re sat in the back, we’ll have to investigate further.

There is, however plenty of space, with good legroom in the back and the front, Hyundai really taking advantage of the flat floor.

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The interior finish is high quality too, noticeably more premium than the Ultimate trim on the Kona Electric, with softer finishes. The light interior looks great, but we suspect with children in the back it will start to look grey instead, but there are plenty of nice clean and simple lines, again adding to the sense of the futuristic.

A techy driving position

With a sliding centre console, there are no controls on it – the drive selector is on the steering column, allowing you to twist to select the mode, while the handbrake switch is on the dash.

The big thing you’ll notice is the pairing of two displays in a bar, one for the driver and one in the centre of the car. It’s flat rather than curved as we’ve seen on some other models – Hyundai doesn’t seem to be cosseting the driver like some other models do, which keeps things light and airy, but perhaps doesn’t feel as involved as some cars that want to put the driver first.

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All the controls are clustered around the steering wheel, however, with easy to use climate controls, buttons for major functions and a proper volume knob on the dash, easy to twizzle.

To clean up the steering wheel, Hyundai is using larger clicky controllers rather than individual buttons and these work nicely, with a customisable button too, so you can assign that function to your preference.

The two displays are 12-inches each and while the driver display has a 3D style visual arrangement with graphics to show speed on the left and how the power is being used on the right, the centre part can be customised to your preference. In operation, it’s the same as the Hyundai Kona Electric, but with a graphic tweak to make it look more sophisticated.

On this Ultimate trim it was paired with a very useful heads-up display.

The centre display is touch enabled, working in unison with the buttons to let you jump to major areas – map, nav, media – and another programmable button. Other features are accessed through the touch display, but on our test drive, we mostly stuck to navigation and didn’t have the chance to fully explore all other areas of the interface – something we’ll have to explore deeper next time we see the car.

Battery, range and performance

There are two battery options on the Ioniq 5, the SE Connect trim only offers the 58kWh battery, while Premium and Ultimate trim also offer the 73kWh battery.

There are then multiple motor options. Again, the SE Connect has one option, the 170PS, which drives the rear wheels.

Premium and Ultimate also have that option, along with a higher rated 217PS rear wheel drive, or 305PS dual motor all wheel drive. That’s seven different options, giving a price range (at the time of writing) from £36,940 up to £48,090 through all the trims. Yes, that latter figure would be the price for the model pictured here.

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Twist the stalk to engage D and with a dab on the accelerator you’re driving in blissful silence. Well, apart from the sweet hum at low speeds as you feel like you’re driving into the future. It is, in reality, an experience that’s close to that of driving the Kona, in many respects, but it’s more refined, a higher class of electric car. 

The interesting thing is the drive mode button on the steering wheel. And yes, it’s a button not a dial, in what feels like the biggest miss since Marcus Rashford’s Euro 2020 finals penalty (too soon?). It’s begging to be a knurled dial to click through modes like some sort of hypercar, instead it’s just a button – with repeated pokes cycling through the modes on offer.

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Those modes cover Eco, Normal and Sport, each doing exactly what you expect, and with customisation available through the menus. Each changes the character of how the car drives, especially in relation to the regeneration lift off strength when you lift your foot off the accelerator, and the response you get from the accelerator when you put your foot down.

Hyundai also offers paddles on the steering wheel and these change the strength of the regeneration. That means you can make these changes on the fly, regardless of the driving mode you’re in. You can add more regen to Sport, or remove the regen from Eco when driving on the motorway, for example, and just want to coast. 

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During a section of our brief test drive, we averaged about 3.5 miles per kWh. Taking that figure, you’d get about 255 miles from a full charge; Hyundai cites a range of 310 miles. That’s just a snapshot of what you’ll get based on typical driving on mixed roads.

The long-term average for the car was 2.4 miles per kWh, and we expect that’s a reflection of repeated motoring journalists testing the power of this AWD model – indeed, we expect to be able to get that average up pretty easily with more typical considered driving. We’ll be doing more driving in the Ioniq 5 to get a more accurate real world range.

The other big thing about the electrical system here is that it supports 350kW charging. That gives capacity to work with the fastest chargers you’ll find. Sure, much of the time you’ll be using lower power – but there are some 350kW chargers available – and there will be a growing number in the future.

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So far the impressions of the drive are very good: on this top model there’s plenty of pace, with a 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds and while that won’t worry Tesla, in practical terms it gives a nice sporty feel to things.

The ride and handling is also great, but we’ll be digging into more detail when we get the right-hand drive version in the coming months.

First Impressions

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 is one of the more interesting electric cars to make it onto the road in 2021: it marks a step change in Hyundai’s approach, building on the success of cars like the Kona Electric and giving customers something a little larger and a little more premium.

The biggest takeaway, however, is in the radical change in design: there’s a lot in the Ioniq 5 that makes it appealing: it looks great, it’s comfortable, there’s a refreshing uniqueness to Hyundai’s offering and that might draw across a lot of customers who are otherwise looking at other brands.

There’s more for us to learn about the Ioniq 5 with further test driving, but first impressions are very strong – and this car should certainly be on your list.

Writing by Chris Hall. Originally published on .





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