Hyundai IONIQ Plug-in (2017 - 2023) used car review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Breakdown cover from just £7.95 a month*. Plus up to £150 of driving savings!

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

By Jonathan Crouch


Back in 2017, the Hyundai IONIQ was the first car ever to go on sale with three different forms of electric power. Buyers chose from pure electric propulsion, self-charging full-Hybrid propulsion or, as in this case, a Plug-in Hybrid model. For those wanting electrified motoring without being tied to the variances of UK charging networks, this IONIQ Plug-in Hybrid looked a sensible choice. As well as its petrol engine, this Hyundai offered up to 32 miles of WLTP-rated all-electric driving range and CO2 emissions as low as 26g/km. It sold modestly when new though. Does it make sense as a used buy?


5dr family hatch (EV)


Today, Hyundai is serious about eco-motoring. Deadly serious. Over the last few years, the company has launched a whole portfolio of eco-minded models, including Hybrids, PHEVs, full-electric vehicles and even a fuel-cell electric vehicle. But it all had to start somewhere - and did so back in 2017 with the IONIQ, which went on sale back then in full-Hybrid, full-electric and this Plug-in Hybrid form.

All three were lightly updated in 2019. After which this Plug-in Hybrid variant remained one of the more affordable plug-in contenders of its kind on the market, aiming to offer buyers the best of both worlds; the all-electric capability of the full-Electric IONIQ model. And the range capability of the full-Hybrid version of this car.

In Hybrid and PHEV Plug-in hybrid forms, the IONIQ went head-to-head with the car it was primary launched against, the Toyota Prius. Like its Hybrid and EV stablemates, the IONIQ Plug-in Hybrid sold until 2022 when it was a effectively replaced by a new wave of Hyundai full-Battery models like the IONIQ 5 and the second generation Kona (though neither could be had as a PHEV, a technology that by then, Hyundai was increasingly leaving to its partner Kia). So does this earlier Hyundai stab at semi-EV motoring make sense as a used buy? Let's find out.

What You Get

There's not much point building a new car that offers three different electrified power trains for the first time ever if you're not going to make the most of every facet of its design. This is why Hyundai went to great lengths with the IONIQ to come up with a shape that offered a drag coefficient of just 0.24. That made this one of the most slippery shapes of its era, which helps reduce energy use and noise. The 2019 post-facelift design revisions included a smarter front grille and updated bumper styling.

And inside? Well, inside this Hyundai, it doesn't feel futuristic. It's not that it's dull in the cabin: it's just that it's not trying to be too clever for its own good. We like that. What you get is a dash that bears a strong resemblance to the Korean company's other models from this time such as the i30 and Tuscon. That's a very good thing as it's clear and made from excellent materials. There are hints, though, at what lies under the bonnet, such as the battery indicator gauge on the left-hand side of the main 7-inch instrument display. It tells you how economically you're driving and whether or not you are using energy reserves or topping them up.

The cabin of the facelifted model feels of noticeably higher quality than the original version launched in 2017. The big change lay with the addition of a big 10.25-inch Widescreen Navigation screen, part of a media package which included a very decent Infinity sound system, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone-mirroring and a suite of the brand's Bluelink connected telematics car services, these operating via a connected app. The main 'Map', 'Navigation', 'Radio' and 'Media' options are all easily accessible via a big touchscreen which also offers helpful EV info. Anything this central monitor can't tell you will probably be covered off by the 7-inch 'Driver's Supervision Cluster' screen which replaces the usual gauges in the instrument binnacle.

When it's time to move rearwards and take a seat in the rear, that's a process that, unless you're really quite short, will involve the need for a slight incline of your head below the sloping roofline. Having done that, you might not be too surprised to find that once inside, as in, say, a Toyota Prius, headroom is at something of a premium for taller folk. Normally in a car this shape, the back 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.

And the boot space on offer? Well some PHEVs manage to package in their batteries without encroaching on luggage room but that's not the case here. The 443-litre capacity you get in a conventional self-charging IONIQ Hybrid falls to 341-litres here - which is actually less than the full-electric version of this car, and around 100-litres less than in a conventional IONIQ Hybrid. At least beneath the boot floor you do get the space-saver spare wheel you'd have to do without on the IONIQ Electric variant. Hyundai provides four plastic pull-out tie-down points, but there are no bag hooks and you don't get a 12v socket.

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 Plug-in Hybrid version. The drive battery in used IONIQ PHEV models should have quite a bit of life in it, unless you happen to be looking at one of the very earliest '17-plate versions. When the battery is on its way out, you'll obviously find that it won't go as far on each charge - and when it starts to run low on charge, you'll find that the car will particularly start to struggle going uphill. When it gets old, the lithium-ion battery used here can suffer from the ionised liquid in the battery freezing certain cells; those cells are then unable to receive charge.

Before going to all that trouble though, make sure the issue really is the battery. If the car won't charge, it could be a problem with your home electrics (or those at the public charge point you're using). Check the charge light to make sure that electricity really is going through the charge port. And make sure there really is charge in the socket you're using to power from - plug something else into it to see - say, your 'phone. If that charges OK, it could be that your charging cable is demanding too much power, so try another power source. Another problem could be that the circuit may have tripped due to a circuit overload. Or perhaps there could be a problem with the charge cable: this needs to be cared for properly. Repeatedly driving over it (as previous owners may conceivably have done) will damage it eventually. Make sure you do a charge-up before signing for the car you're looking at. When you do this, make sure that when you plug in to start the charge cycle you hear the charge port and the cable locking and engaging as they should; that's all part of the charger basically confirming with the car's onboard computer that everything's good to go before releasing power. But if the charging cable fails to lock as it should, then that won't happen. If there is a failure to lock, the issue could be actuator failure, caused by a blown fuse.

Otherwise, the issues here to look for are pretty much as they are in other early IONIQ Hybrid and Electric models. 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 Plug-in Hybrid ex VAT) Hyundai spares prices have garnered a deserved reputation for value and replacement parts for the IONIQ are no exception. 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. A pollen filter is in the £15-£57 bracket.

On the Road

In an IONIQ Plug-in, there's obviously much more potential for extended full-electric use than there is in the ordinary full-Hybrid model, thanks to the greater capacity of a considerably larger 8.9kWh battery that drives a pokier 61PS electric motor. Despite that, total system output remains pegged at 141PS, so ultimate performance is pretty much the same as it is with the ordinary Hybrid variant, though initial acceleration seems quicker thanks to the torque of the electric motor. Mind you, use too much of that and you'll quickly decimate the WLTP-rated 32 mile all-electric driving range. You can keep the car in EV mode by pressing on the EV button near the gearstick. Rest to 62mph when both petrol engine and electric motor are working in unison takes 10.6s en route to 110mph.

This IONIQ shares the same basic platform as the MK1 Kia Niro, which is a very good place to start from. As a result, the Hyundai handles quite nimbly and takes corners with more composure than you might expect for a car that's main focus is on low running costs and emissions. The only limiting factor is the reduced rolling resistance tyres, but in day to day driving you'll find this car very capable. It also enjoys a tight turning circle and steering that's light to turn at low speeds. You can add some more weight to the helm by selecting the 'Sport' mode, but we find this makes it too heavy.

Around town, the suspension is on the firmer side of comfortable but by no means unsettled. Accelerate hard and you'll really notice the benefits of this IONIQ's use of a proper cog-driven 6DCT dual-clutch auto transmission, a much better gearbox than the jerky belt-driven set-up used in a rival Toyota Prius Plug-in and some other PHEVs. Charging an IONIQ Plug-in Hybrid takes 2 hours 15mins using a 7kW wallbox charger. Using a domestic 3-pin plug, you're looking at 5 to 6 hours.


We can see the potential appeal of this Plug-in Hybrid IONIQ variant. After all, it offers quite a lot more ownership flexibility than the ordinary full-Hybrid derivative, thanks to its 32 mile all-electric driving range. Some might have potential issues with it of course. The looks aren't especially arresting and some rivals can offer you slightly more all-electric driving range. It isn't very interesting to drive either - but then few eco-models of this sort are.

Still, if you can accept that, get on with the styling and adjust to the frugally-focused manner this car will encourage you to ease about in, then we think you'll probably like mostly everything else about it. In fact, if for you, 'interest' at the wheel is defined by technology, you might find this car thoroughly satisfying.

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