Smarter looks inside and out, plus upgraded infotainment for great-value plug-in hatch, but it still lacks dynamic sparkle

What is it?

Essentially, this is a mildly facelifted version of Hyundai’s Toyota Prius-rivalling family hatchback, which is available as a standard hybrid or in plug-in hybrid form, as tested here, with an upgraded all-electric one just around the corner. And in this case, the term 'facelift' is more accurate than normal, because most of the changes are cosmetic.

There’s also an overhauled infotainment system with extra connected services, as well as enhanced driver aids, but in terms of the powertrain it’s much as before, so you get the same plug-in petrol-electric mechanicals.

So, what’s new? Well, glance at the Ioniq and you might be hard pressed to spot any changes, but look closer and you’ll note a number of worthwhile tweaks. At the front there’s a revised bumper design with eye-catching LED running lamps, while subtly reprofiled headlamps also get the full LED treatment. Sitting between these is a more distinctive grille with a natty 3D diamond-effect finish. It’s a more measured update at the back, where there are slightly altered tail-lights and a subtly altered bumper and valance.

It’s inside where the designers have been given a freer rein, with a totally new dashboard layout that includes that refreshed and larger infotainment set-up. ‘Glossy’ and ‘touch-sensitive’ appear to have been the watchwords when giving the cabin a makeover, because the dashboard is now dominated by a large touch-sensitive panel for the 10.3in multimedia system and the heating and ventilation controls.

Elsewhere, there’s a new 7.0in digital instrument cluster that’s topped by a neat-looking ‘floating’ binnacle, plus the addition of such ‘premium’ niceties as ambient lighting - although in this case it’s just limited to the dashboard in front of the passenger and at the base of the centre console. There’s also a genuine uplift in quality, with new soft-touch plastics covering the top of the dashboard and doors. The hard and scratchy stuff remains lower down, but most of what you see and touch has taken a step upmarket.

As before, a 104bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine is mated to a 59bhp electric motor to deliver an overall system output of 139bhp and a relatively healthy torque figure of 195lb ft, while drive is to the front wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Also carried over is the 59kW lithium ion polymer battery that, on a full charge, can carry the Ioniq about 32 miles in zero-emissions electric mode.

2 Hyundai ioniq plugin 2019 fd hero rear

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What's it like?

The driving experience is, erm, much the same as before. That means it’s an effective if slightly dull choice. In EV mode the Ioniq moves off smoothly and silently, but with only 59bhp from its electric motor, performance is adequate rather than exciting. It’s fine for mooching around town or steady-state cruising, but when you need to get a wriggle on, you’ll have to call on the petrol engine. Even then, acceleration is fairly leisurely, a feeling that’s not helped by the lazy kickdown; mash the throttle, wait for the gearbox and engine to wake up, pause again and then you’re off. A further demerit is that the petrol engine sounds coarse and noisy when extended, meaning only brief sorties to the redline are recommended. Sport mode sharpens the throttle and adds extra urgency, but it really feels out of place in a car like this.

The whole experience isn’t helped by the automatic ’box, which can drag its changes on a light throttle and often gets wrong-footed at low speeds, sending home jolting, poorly timed clutch engagements as it struggles to juggle the internal combustion engine and electric motor. On the plus side, you can use the steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles to select one of three regenerative braking modes, with the highest delivering almost enough retardation for one-pedal driving - a good thing, because Hyundai still hasn’t quite mastered the smooth transition between regenerative and friction braking.

As is the case with most hybrids, the driving satisfaction comes from learning to make the most of the powertrain’s potential for efficiency. It won’t get your heart racing, but feathering the throttle to maximise the use of electrical energy and better anticipating the road to avoid the brakes can become quite absorbing. Not thrilling as such, but certainly diverting.

Despite its hefty battery, the Hyundai tips the scales at a not outrageous 1495kg. Better still, the cells are set low in the Ioniq, meaning it handles surprisingly neatly. It’s never going to have you grabbing the keys just for the hell of it, but the mute steering is accurate and quick, there’s very little roll and the car clings on gamely. Body control is good, too, with even fairly large bumps failing to knock the Ioniq's composure.

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The trade-off for this fairly adroit cornering display is a ride that treads just the wrong side of acceptably firm, even on relatively modest 205/55 R16 rubber. On smooth surfaces, it rides quietly and comfortably enough, but on less well-maintained secondary roads and scarred urban streets it feels too stiff-legged, jostling occupants more than you’d expect.

The advanced driving aids have been enhanced, with the adaptive cruise control now getting stop and go functionality as well as lane-keeping assistance, which takes care of the steering, up to a point. It works effectively enough, but the inputs from the computer are rather jerky, giving the sensation the car is bouncing down an invisible armco set on the white lines.

More heartening are the improvements made to the interior, and the infotainment system in particular. The new 10.3in screen is a vast improvement in terms of its clarity and user-friendliness, with a much more responsive screen and handy drag and drop customisation. It’s also packed with the firm’s new Blue Link connected services, which allow you to monitor and charge the car from your smartphone, as well as delivering lots of live services, such as parking and traffic. As an added bonus, online extras are likely to be included for free for up to five years - although Hyundai has yet to confirm this.

Elsewhere, the uplift in quality is a real bonus, while the new digital instrument cluster has a crisp and clear display. The interior is also relatively airy and roomy, while the boot is a decent size and well shaped. As a practical and usable family car, the Ioniq fits the bill.

6 Hyundai ioniq plugin 2019 fd dashboard

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Should I buy one?

It’s a handsome, capable and well-equipped machine, the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid. Plus it’s got a class-competitive electric range, a roomy and smartly styled cabin and an infotainment system that no longer lags behind the rest.

Yet while it handles deftly enough, the powertrain still doesn’t feel as well resolved as that used in a Toyota Prius Plug-in; the dim-witted gearbox and obtrusive internal combustion engine are the worst offenders here.

The Toyota still shades the Ioniq dynamically, but if Hyundai doesn’t charge much more than the £28,395 it asks for the current version, the Ioniq’s flaws will be easily overlooked in return for the near-£4000 saving it delivers over its rival.

Hyundai Ioniq PHEV specification

Where Frankfurt Price TBC On sale Autumn 2019 Engine 4 cyls, 1580cc, petrol, plus electric motor Power 139bhp Torque 195lb ft Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch automatic Kerb weight 1495kg Top speed 111mph 0-62mph 10.6sec Fuel economy TBC CO2 TBC Rivals Toyota Prius PHEV, Kia Niro PHEV, Mini Countryman Plug-in Hybrid

11 Hyundai ioniq plugin 2019 fd otr front

James Disdale

James Disdale
Title: Special correspondent

James is a special correspondent for Autocar, which means he turns his hand to pretty much anything, including delivering first drive verdicts, gathering together group tests, formulating features and keeping Autocar.co.uk topped-up with the latest news and reviews. He also co-hosts the odd podcast and occasional video with Autocar’s esteemed Editor-at-large, Matt Prior.

For more than a decade and a half James has been writing about cars, in which time he has driven pretty much everything from humble hatchbacks to the highest of high performance machines. Having started his automotive career on, ahem, another weekly automotive magazine, he rose through the ranks and spent many years running that title’s road test desk. This was followed by a stint doing the same job for monthly title, evo, before starting a freelance career in 2019. The less said about his wilderness, post-university years selling mobile phones and insurance, the better.

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timetableresults 11 July 2019

Probably the best car

I am glad to know about this car. This will be the best to save the environment and It has a classy look So, it will crash the other cars.

Also, Check BA 1st Year Result

LP in Brighton 10 July 2019

Battery capacity and power

@Mondeal - you're right of course, though I suspect that many of Autocar's writers are confused by battery capacity and power, let alone the its readers. And it's not helped by soome manufacturers (BMW) quoting capacity in Ah, which really means nothing unless you know the voltage as well.  

This is an interesting car, though I can't help feeling that it has been saddled with a dual clutch transmission as a way of avoiding licensing rights to Toyota for use of its superior eCVT system. Then again, the Japanese giant has had two decades experience to get it right... 

Okement 9 July 2019


Shame they haven’t sorted the truly awful gearbox.  Having ran a hybrid Ioniq for the last 2 years it’s been a revelation moving over to a new Prius PHV.   CVT’s are ideal on split power sources, DSG’s are not.   Just a shame about Toyota’s infotainment system.


Oh and there’s a typo in the article as it hasn’t got a l 59kW battery!



Mondeal 9 July 2019

Sorry yes it does have a 59kw

Sorry yes it does have a 59kw battery, you are probably confusing with the fact it is also a 8.9 kWh battery 


Okement wrote:

Shame they haven’t sorted the truly awful gearbox.  Having ran a hybrid Ioniq for the last 2 years it’s been a revelation moving over to a new Prius PHV.   CVT’s are ideal on split power sources, DSG’s are not.   Just a shame about Toyota’s infotainment system.


Oh and there’s a typo in the article as it hasn’t got a l 59kW battery!