Hybrid system consists of a 1.6 GDI four-cylinder Kappa engine and a 32kW motor, which is fed by a lithium-ion polymer battery

Hybrid system consists of a 1.6 GDI four-cylinder Kappa engine and a 32kW motor, which is fed by a lithium-ion polymer battery

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 As the appearance of an AD concept at the LA auto show in late 2017 shows, Hyundai isn't yet done developing its Ioniq model range. Since the first variants went on sale in South Korea coming up for two years ago, a plug-in hybrid and an EV have been added. The biggest seller, though, was always going to be the Hybrid. 

Having watched the success of the Prius over several generations in the US and Japan, Hyundai Motor Group set about trying to make the business case for developing its own rival. The opportunity was there and spreading the R&D costs and potential sales performance over two brands seemed the best idea. Which is why the Ioniq is but one half of an HMG project to develop a bespoke architecture for hybrid, PHEV and EV models, the other being the Kia Niro.

The Ioniq Hybrid was first to be announced: the South Korean media was invited to view this five-door C segment hatchback for the first time in January 2016. The European and North America premieres followed soon after at the Geneva and New York motor shows.

The HEV is powered by a dedicated 1,580cc GDI four-cylinder Kappa engine and a 32kW (plus 170Nm) electric motor, which is fed by a 1.56kWh lithium-ion polymer battery. The two powertrains have a combined maximum output of 104kW (141PS) and 265Nm of torque. A specially developed six-speed dual-clutch transmission (6DCT) is standard. You can drive the car at up to 120km/h on the motor alone.

Top speed is 115mph (185 km/h), 0-62mph takes 11.1 seconds and official Consumption can be as much as as 83.1mpg (3.4l/100km), while CO2 emissions are as low as 79g/km (combined). In normal use, the HEV returned 55.1mpg which is an excellent result, although it did include the majority of time at speeds below 60mph - on a motorway, consumption soon rises sharply, as it does with all hybrids. The CO2 average for the sampled Premium SE (it has 17" wheels instead of 15-inchers) is a still excellent 92g/km.

One of the first things which you notice about any Ioniq but especially the Hybrid/HEV, is now normal it looks. This was clearly Hyundai's intention as the Prius has proved to have looks - outside and in - which divide opinion. Some might call it a crossover, yet the driving position isn't especially elevated. There has clearly been a lot of effort in the area of streamlining, examples being flush wheels, relatively narrow tyres and steep angles for the windscreen and rear window. The effect is pleasing, although some might think the design errs a little too much on the vanilla. It certainly doesn't shout "I want you to know I'm an eco car" in the way that all versions of the Prius do.

The dashboard too is fairly standard Hyundai, although there is a lot of blue trim detail. This is well integrated and the same colour is applied to a bar which runs along the bottom of the front valence. That's also the case with the PHEV, which is further distinguished by the charging flap on the car's side. The EV has no grille so it looks quite different to the other two, plus copper-look trim in place of blue. The blue line applies to the majority of exterior colours, although cars painted Marina Blue and Phoenix Orange instead have a silver stripe.

It's a roomy car, this, and that also applies to the boot as the hybrid system's battery is stored below the back seat and the rear suspension was especially designed to overcome any related packaging compromises. Indeed, the Ioniq Electric, with its far larger battery and a lot more weight up front, has a different rear suspension system, which demonstrates the determination to prevent the cars' boots being thought of as too small. Compared to a Prius, the Ioniq HEV's 443 litres of cargo capacity is 100 more than the Toyota's. The rear seats can be dropped easily, and they lay flat, liberating up to 1,505l of space.

You can tell that HMG engineers went out of their way to reduce the basic car's weight as much as possible. Opening any door, or even the lifegate is especially easy although people who like the feeling of heaviness that applies to the driver's door on a Golf GTE or e-Golf will be disappointed by the Ioniq. In common with some other HMG models, there's also a bit of 'clanginess' when you release the handle, as though the door innards haven't been stuffed with thick sound deadening material. Which, given the drive to eliminate any excess mass, is likely the case.

The flipside of all this is great economy, a superb CO2 average and decent handling, even if the steering is a touch too light. Also, the roadholding suffers a little due to those tall tyres which do so much for lowering wind resistance. Two-tone 15" alloy wheels with the aerodynamic trims are standard. An alternative with the higher priced (GBP25,450) Premium SE model grade is a 17-inch design and special silica tyres supplied by Michelin, while the PHEV has its own 16" rims.

Hyundai builds this model at Ulsan 3, with the HEV, PHEV and EV all manufactured in sequence on the one production line. Annual capacity is around 80,000 units. The HEV is still around 18 months away from a facelift, so this year or next could be the high point of production in a lifecycle which should stretch into 2022. The US is the number one market, with sales for the year to the end of April having reached an encouraging 5,587 units.

Worldwide, it's an encouraging story, with Hyundai seeing steadily rising deliveries in the cars' major markets. Figures for April are yet to be issued, but in Q1 more than 12,500 HEVs were delivered.

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