What is it?
The twitching wheel is intriguing, and so is your grandstand view of the Hyundai Nexo crisply steering itself through a motorway bend at 80mph. Just as surprising is a door mirror’s image appearing in the centre of the instrument cluster when you signal a direction change and, should you be following another cruising Nexo, the sight of roiling plumes of water vapour dancing from its twin exhausts.
The Nexo might be yet another medium size crossover – though a subtly handsome and appealingly detailed specimen – but it is also the standard-bearer for Hyundai’s autonomous driving and low-emission ambitions.
Powered by a hydrogen fuell-cell, the Nexo is a replacement for the Hyundai ix35 FCEV crossover, of which a small number were leased in 18 countries since 2013 (Autocar ran one on its long-term fleet). With this all-new FCEV Hyundai hopes to achieve sales in the thousands, while acknowledging that the patchy hydrogen infrastructure and the Nexo’s high price will limit its appeal.
Unlike the ix35, the Nexo will be offered with right-hand drive and has been engineered around a dedicated platform allowing its motive hardware to be packaged more economically. The result is a good-sized boot, and generous space in the rear
What's it like?
Boot and rear space are among the least interesting aspects of the car. As you might expect, its powertrain is an advance on its predecessor’s, more energy dense, lighter and able to start in -30 deg C temperatures rather than the ix35’s -20 deg C limit.
The Nexo can travel around 370 miles on full tank under the tougher US testing regime, and its 60% claimed efficiency is among the best for commercially available FCEV cars. It’s quicker too that the ix35, too, the combined 181bhp output of fuel cell stack and electric motor producing a 0-62mph time of 9.2sec, compared to the ix35’s 12.5sec.
Those familiar with EVs will find the Nexo’s power delivery unremarkable. It’s smooth, quiet, fuss-free, swift and responsive – and won’t be startling Tesla drivers used to ludicrous power.
Compared to cars with internal combustion engines, it provides a cabin of calm despite the light turbulence worrying its pillars at speed. What EV drivers will be unfamiliar with is the five fleeting minutes required to replenish its trio of hydrogen tanks – although that positive should be balanced against the fact the UK currently has only 15 700bar hydrogen dispensers, with most of them around London. More are coming, but this is not yet the car for a return trip to Truro. Of course, that's not just a problem for the Nexo: it's an issue for all FCEV cars, such as the Toyota Mirai.