Hyundai IONIQ (2016-2023) used car review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

Back at the end of the 21st century's second decade, Hyundai reckoned that this IONIQ model 'democratised' electrified eco technology for automotive buyers - and there's something in that. In one hit, it covered off the Hybrid, Plug-in and Full-Electric market segments, showing the engineers behind established contenders like Toyota's Prius and Nissan's LEAF just how much further they could have gone. Let's take a look at this model from a used car customer's perspective, with a focus on the self charging Hybrid version that most original buyers chose.

Models

5dr family hatch (1.6 GDi Hybrid, 1.6 GDi Plug-in Hybrid / IONIQ Electric])

History

Once upon a time, Hyundai built simple, cheap, budget brand cars. By 2016 though, it was making models like this one, the IONIQ, the world's first vehicle to offer the choice of three electrified powertrains.

Back at the launch of this model - and even today - it's easy to get confused when trying to buy an ecologically-orientated car. Should you dip your toe in the water with a Prius-style petrol/electric hybrid? Or throw caution to the wind and choose a Nissan LEAF-style full-electric battery-powered model? Or maybe go for the kind of compromise you can find in the form of one of those Plug-in hybrids? Can't make up your mind? Evidently Hyundai couldn't either because it designed the IONIQ to be able to offer all three options and the result was a car that was fundamental in the company's plan to overtake Toyota and establish itself as the leading Far Eastern brand in Europe.

To take on its key rival, the market-leading Toyota Prius, the IONIQ got a proper, modern lithium-ion battery, rather than the old fashioned nickel metal hydride unit used in the Prius. And a proper smooth-shifting auto gearbox too, rather than the jerky belt-driven CVT unit that back in 2016 all hybrids had previously used. That cost this car a little in terms of ultimate efficiency, but Hyundai believed buyers would see that to be a price worth paying in return for what was claimed to be a much more driveable product.

The initial self charging Hybrid version was quickly followed by Plug-in Hybrid and full-Electric IONIQ variants. The range was lightly facelifted in 2019 and then sold in that form until late 2022, when it was phased out to leave more room for Hyundai's new range of full-electric IONIQ 5 and IONIQ 6 models.

What You Get

This Hyundai challenged the eco-motoring status quo in lots of ways and exterior design was another of them. It's certainly very sleek, with a class-leading drag co-efficient of just 0.24Cd that embarrasses a rival Prius of the period, thanks to design touches like front wheel air curtains and a special aerodynamic floor panel that covers the underside of the car. Inside, you'll find a cabin intentionally bereft of obviously futuristic design. Presumably, the idea was to appease people put off by the nerdy vibe of a Prius or a LEAF and make the transition from an ordinary petrol or diesel-powered family hatch into one of these as painless as possible.

A TFT instrument cluster is provided on all models and if you can avoid base 'SE' trim, it'll be 8-inches in size, with the display flanked at either side by an ECO driving meter on the left and a battery charge indicator on the right. As you'd expect in a modern family hatch, a touchscreen monitor assumes centre-dash prominence and provided you can avoid that base 'SE' trim level, it'll be supplied in a decently-shaped 8-inch size, complete with satellite navigation with life-long map updates, a high quality Infiniti DAB sound set-up, an integrated rear view camera and access to the 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring systems.

And in the rear? Well normally, these seats would have been positioned a little lower to compensate for the swept-back ceiling, but that's not possible here since they sit right on top of the powertrain's battery pack. At least legroom's quite adequate, even for quite tall folk, and thanks to a low centre transmission tunnel, it should be possible to take three adults across the back seat in reasonable comfort, providing the journey in question isn't too long. And boot space? Well the IONIQ Hybrid model can deliver 443-litres of cargo capacity- or 550-litres if you stack your stuff up to the roof. Carriage capacity on IONIQ Electric variants falls to 350-litres - or 455-litres if you load to the roof. It's 341-litres with the Plug-in Hybrid version.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

As owners have indicated, the IONIQ is an extremely reliable car, but as with any second-hand model, you do have to be on the look-out for common issues. Here, we're going to focus on the self charging Hybrid model. We've come across some owners that have complained that their vehicles lose power when the vehicle is going uphill. This is because the traction battery is not providing enough energy for the powertrain. And could indicate that the battery is starting to get worn out. Look out for this on your test drive. This issue could also be down to a clogged fuel filter which is stopping the fuel getting through to the engine. Poor acceleration could also point to a clogged fuel filter, as can start-up problems and constant stalling as you drive, particularly at low speeds. Because of this, we also heard of issues with clogged fuel pumps, which have led to pump failures. Make sure that the car you test doesn't have a random misfire or idle roughly. This could be caused by low fuel pressure - again that clogged filter issue - or a lean fuel condition.

One annoyance is that it's extremely difficult to replace the headlights. And we've come up across problems with owners saying that when they update the navigation system, the GPS set-up then refuses to work, so then requiring a reset of the electronic control unit while the car's battery is disconnected. Otherwise, it's just the usual things to look for: parking knocks and scrapes and any damage to the interior caused by kids. And of course insist on fully stamped-up service history.

Replacement Parts

(approx prices, based on a 2020 IONIQ Hybrid ex VAT) Hyundai spares prices have garnered a deserved reputation for value and replacement parts for the IONIQ are no exception. An oil filter is around £3. An air filter is around £6-£17. A pollen filter around £6-£57. A clutch kit is around £982, whilst front brake pads weigh-in at around £25-£64. A set of rear pads is around £22. A set of front brake discs is around £48; a set of rear discs is around £35-£44. A wiper will be in the £3-£28 bracket.

On the Road

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this car lies in the way it uses so many ordinary mechanical parts to create an extraordinarily versatile 'BlueDrive' technological package. All the main elements here - the platform, plus the 1.6-litre GDI petrol engine and 6DCT dual clutch auto gearbox used in the Hybrid and PHEV models - all these are things borrowed from more conventional Hyundai models, but a lot of work went into tailoring these basic ingredients to work with an electrified remit. The rear part of the floorplan for example, was modified to incorporate the three distinct battery sizes that would be needed for Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid and full-Electric versions.

The Hybrid variant that sold in the greatest numbers mates a 1.56kWh lithium-ion battery driving a 43.5PS electric motor with that GDI petrol engine to produce 141PS. This combination can deliver 83.1mpg on the combined cycle and 79g/km of CO2 if you stay with the standard 15-inch wheels (NEDC figures). You get the same total power output from the IONIQ Plug-in model, despite the provision of a pokier 61PS electric motor driven by a larger 8.9kWh battery that provides for an NEDC-rated 39 mile all-electric driving range. The final option is the full-Electric IONIQ model, which uses a 120PS electric motor powered by a 28kWh battery capable of an NEDC-rated 174 mile driving range. 'Sport' and 'ECO' drive mode settings allow you to vary your preferences between parsimony and performance. In mid-2019, Hyundai replaced the IONIQ Electric's battery with a larger 38.3kWh size, which increased driving range by 60%.

Overall

By 2016, a significant number of buyers were absolutely ready for a credible, comparably-priced alternative to conventional petrol or diesel power. This IONIQ gave them exactly that. Don't under-estimate the scale of what Hyundai did here. By the time of the IONIQ's launch, Toyota had been perfecting hybrids for a quarter of a century and in the same period, the Renault/Nissan conglomerate had spent billions on electric car technology. Yet neither of these industry giants produced as complete an eco-motoring solution as was served up by the IONIQ.

Of course, it's not perfect. The looks aren't especially arresting. Some rivals can offer you a fraction more all-electric driving range. And in the case of the most affordable Hybrid model, it's certainly true that something like a Prius would give you a little more running cost efficiency, though only because that Toyota's awkward, jerky CVT auto gearbox compromises the driving experience. In an IONIQ, that's a lot smoother and more sophisticated, though as with almost any car of this sort, it's certainly not calculated to please the driving enthusiast.

Still, if you can accept that, get on with the styling and adjust to the frugally-focused manner this car will encourage you to drive in, then we think you'll probably like mostly everything else about it. Less than half a century ago, European car makers helped establish Hyundai. Here, this brand showed them the future of motoring. Isn't it IONIQ? Don't you think?

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