Hyundai Ioniq: most important car at the Geneva Motor Show?

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The Geneva Motor Show is stuffed with cars, both European volume cars we don't see in North America and a huge number of pricey and high-performance supercars and customs.

So despite the fact that it was a global debut, the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq didn't seem to get the buzz it might have if it had been launched in, say, Los Angeles.

The high-tailed hatchback appeared in all three forms in which it'll be sold: hybrid, electric, and plug-in hybrid.

DON'T MISS: 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Lineup Specs, Details Emerge For Geneva Motor Show (Video)

It was one of the few launches of a volume car that will be sold worldwide, and it's certainly the most important green car at the show--but it may be the most important, period.

That's because the Ioniq is the first car in the world to be produced with a choice of three different powertrains, from fuel-efficient gasoline hybrid to battery-electric.

The concept of such an offering was previewed back in 1999 by the General Motors Triax concept--which offered both internal-combustion and all-electric powerplants--but no one's put it into production until now.

2017 Hyundai Ioniq launch at 2016 Geneva Motor Show

2017 Hyundai Ioniq launch at 2016 Geneva Motor Show

Europeans still don't give Hyundai and Kia as much credence as they get in America for having vehicles that can now compete head-to-head with the most popular Japanese and U.S. models.

But cars like the Ioniq will be very important as every carmakers struggles to meet corporate average fuel economy rules through 2025, as well as California's zero-emission vehicle sales requirements, which start to climb steeply in 2018.

The European Union has even more aggressive targets for reducing carbon-emission levels from vehicles, and China's are somewhere in between those and North America's.

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But unlike the European makers, Hyundai and Kia have never been particularly invested in diesel powertrains--meaning they will see little fallout from the current Volkswagen diesel emission scandal that's shaking up the industry.

German makers are finally conceding that electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles will play a big role. Last night, VW Group CEO Matthias Müller said it outright: "The car of the future ... is electric."

Hyundai is already there.

2017 Hyundai Ioniq launch at 2016 Geneva Motor Show

2017 Hyundai Ioniq launch at 2016 Geneva Motor Show

So what do we know about the Ioniq range now that we didn't know before its introduction?

After seeing all three models--the Ioniq Hybrid, Ioniq Plug-In, and Ioniq Electric--"in the flesh" and sitting in them briefly, we've collated a handful of notes.

  • The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq is not as large as a Toyota Prius, inside or out
  • But its styling works better in person than it may in photos
  • The interior trim is relatively plain, and it's clearly a lightweight car, with a somewhat tinny sound when a rear door slams

CHECK OUT: Hyundai And Kia Target # 2 Slot In Green Vehicles By 2020 (Nov 2014)

  • All three versions appear to share the same sheet metal, though the electric has a noticeably different front end, with a blanked-out silver grille
  • Under the hood, the Ioniq Electric has a plastic cover over its power electronics that you might mistake for an engine shroud--but the 12-Volt battery sitting front and center indicates something's awry with that assumption
  • The load bay for the electric model, with its under-floor battery pack, is shallower than that of the Ioniq Hybrid, but not punishingly so

Importantly, Hyundai stresses that all Ioniq models will have "dynamic ride and handling characteristics,"

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