Why Ioniq and Leaf didn't win: notes on Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy 2018

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2018 Hyundai Ioniq

2018 Hyundai Ioniq

The 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, a plug-in version of the much-lauded new minivan, won our Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy 2018 award because it brings a partially zero-emission vehicle into an entirely new market segment.

The Pacifica is our favorite among minivans, though we'll be curious to drive the redesigned Toyota Sienna expected soon.

After the $7,500 federal income-tax credit—assuming it survives—the plug-in hybrid Pacifica is essentially competitive on price with its gasoline-only counterpart, but delivers 32 mpg combined against the gas version's 22 mpg combined.

DON'T MISS: Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy 2018: Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid plug-in minivan

That leaves two award finalists that didn't win: the 2018 Nissan Leaf electric car, and the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq lineup, which this year adds a plug-in hybrid version to the existing Ioniq Hybrid and Ioniq Electric models.

We liked the idea of the Ioniq range when we first heard it, and our various drives in hybrid and electric models just confirmed that pretty much every new Hyundai these days is a good car, a good value, and often new competition to established winners.

The Ioniq has two challenges, however. First, it's yet another five-door compact hatchback—and of our seven previous Best Car To Buy winners, five were models or ranges in that segment.

2018 Hyundai Ioniq

2018 Hyundai Ioniq

The Ioniq Hybrid beats the larger Toyota Prius on combined fuel economy both for the highest-efficiency version and the rest of the range, though the two-motor powertrain of the Prius is smoother than the Ioniq's single motor and dual-clutch automated manual gearbox.

It's fun to drive and, importantly, looks pretty much like a normal car inside and out—against what journalists usually call the "polarizing" design of the Prius.

The electric model is the best of the lineup, being smoothest and quietest, with an EPA-rated range of 124 miles. That was within 1 mile of the highest range of any car that wasn't a Tesla or a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV; the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf came in at 125 miles.

READ THIS: Finalist for Green Car Reports Best Car To Buy 2018: Hyundai Ioniq

But the Bolt EV is the car that really prevented the Ioniq from winning the laurels this year. We gave Chevy's capacious, all-electric, 238-mile hatchback the award last year for offering Tesla range at prices close to mass-market levels.

Without the Bolt EV on the market, the Ioniq may well have won this year.

But even a Hyundai executive has admitted the Ioniq Electric needs more range, and will get it "soon."

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