2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid: first drive review Page 2

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2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

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The DCT shifts automatically but has the direct-drive efficiency of a manual gearbox, with its fast shifts buffered by the electric motor—a neat solution.

Hyundai suggests that along with styling "that isn't weird," the transmission shifting gives the Ioniq Hybrid a more normal driving feel.

It also has a more sophisticated rear suspension design using trailing arms, which gives it better roadholding and a slightly sportier feel from behind the wheel.

The company's done an excellent job with the Ioniq's brakes; the blending of regenerative and friction brakes is superb, with transitions all but undetectable.

That's a huge improvement over its first-generation 2011 Sonata Hybrid, whose transitions were apparent, inconsistent, and sometimes actively unpleasant. Well done.

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Enlarge Photo

While we experimented with trying to accelerate in electric-only mode, the motor's 32 kilowatts (45 horsepower) often wasn't enough to keep up with traffic above about 10 mph.

But the car flipped back into electric mode under light loads at speeds as high as 65 mph, so in the end we simply let the powertrain decide for itself and just drove the car.

That's what we suspect most buyers will do, in the end.

ALSO SEE: 2016 Toyota Prius: First Drive Of 56-MPG Hybrid (Nov 2015)

Unlike the Prius, which regularly reminds you of its unique design, powertrain, and driving characteristics, the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid is a car in which you can mostly forget it's a hybrid altogether.

That was essentially a design goal, and Hyundai's succeeded in that respect.

The question that remains is whether the $2,000 price premium for base Ioniq Hybrid Blue over a base Elantra (or the highest fuel-efficiency Elantra Eco model) is justified in this day and age of cheap gasoline and light-truck purchases.

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Enlarge Photo

And the cost to move up to the next trim level, Ioniq Hybrid SEL, is a further $1,750, taking it close to the $25,500 level of the entry Prius Liftback (and considerably higher than the aging subcompact Prius C hatchback).

Other competitors for the Ioniq Hybrid are the Ford C-Max and perhaps hybrid versions of mid-size sedans that include the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima. All come in at higher starting prices.

Our test car was the top 2017 Ioniq Hybrid Limited trim, starting at $27,500.

It carried the Ultimate package, at $3,000, consisting of several active-safety features—adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, automatic emergency braking, rear parking sensors, and swiveling headlights—plus memory for the driver's seat, a navigation system with 8-inch color touchscreen display, an eight-speaker Infinity premium audio system, wireless device charging, and rear vents.

It also included $125 floor mats, plus the mandatory $835 handling and delivery fee, for a bottom-line sticker total of $31,460.

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