25 September 2023

2019 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid Elite – $33,990

Start the conversation

By Karl Peskett.

Fossil fuels are a finite resource. Despite all the arguments for and against global warming (or if you’re a focus group intent on renaming things to lessen their impact, climate change), there’s simply no argument that one day we’re going to run out of crude oil.

The world is therefore ramping up both production and introduction of electric vehicles (EVs). However, the real-world range of EVs has been their sticking point. Sure, they’ve come a long way (pun intended) in the past few years, with range increasing to around 400km or so. But if you want to travel somewhere where you may or may not make it past that point (or if a few unexpected detours add to your travel distance) then EVs may not suit you.

Of course, some would say that the best way to get used to an EV is to head down the plug-in hybrid path, and that makes a lot of sense in Australia – a big country where we travel big distances.

That’s why Hyundai offers three variants of its Ioniq – a small car that has electrification in various levels. First, there’s the straight up hybrid. Think Toyota Prius competitor. Then, there’s the plug-in hybrid, which allows you to run on electricity for a short while (and recharge it from a cable) or from a petrol engine when the electricity runs out. And thirdly, there’s the pure EV.

For our week’s testing, we were offered the middle rung, the plug-in hybrid (PHEV). And first impressions are good.

It looks and feels like a typical Hyundai, so the build quality is good, the materials are well presented, with the occasional cheaper hard plastic around the place, and there’s a good amount of safety equipment and connectivity.

It also drives like a Hyundai, meaning there’s nothing outstanding, but it gets on with the job at hand without creating any distractions. The space is decent, even if the slippery shape does impinge a little on rear headroom.

Unlike the EV, which has buttons for changing gears from reverse to drive and to park, the PHEV version has a conventional gear lever and a foot operated parking brake. Better than that, it doesn’t rely on a continuously variable transmission (CVT), so it feels like a proper gearbox instead of a rubber band.

The steering has good weighting, though feedback is a bit numb for drivers wanting involvement, and the ride and handling balance are well sorted. Indeed, it threads corners together a bit better than you’d expect (or probably need).

So, it drives like an average hatchback, is styled to look like a hybrid and has been put together well. So, why not just buy an i30? Well, the Ioniq is a bit bigger, but it’s all about the potential fuel savings. And it’s all going to come down to your lifestyle and situation.

So, here’s the deal. If you charge up at home, with today’s electricity prices and the fact that you only get around 40-50km real world range from one charge, then the price difference between electricity and petrol isn’t quite enough to make it worth your while.

We calculated the charge cost to be around $3 per charge based on the average electricity cost of around $0.34 per kilowatt hour. Considering that an average hatch’s fuel use will give you around 7L/100km, which makes the 50km range cost around $3.50. As you can tell, not a lot of difference.

However, like we said, it comes down to your circumstances. If you are charging during the day and you have solar, then it’s not costing you a cent. If you can charge at work, then it doesn’t cost you either. And if they have solar, then it’s not costing them. So, let’s say you charge only when you’re at work, and you travel around 15-20km each way, then you’ll make it home and back without an issue.

Now, it starts to make a lot more sense. On the weekends, charge at home when the solar is working and you don’t have to worry about that, either. And yes, you can set charge times in the car, so you can plug it in and leave it. In addition, it will charge fully in around three hours from a standard 10 amp home power point.

And if you do sneak over the electric range, there’s a tank full of fuel to keep you going in emergencies. You shouldn’t have to use it too much. But if you do want to drive into the country, then you’ll get around 600km from both charge and fuel tank.

And that’s why we’d recommend the plug-in hybrid version of the Ioniq. Not only is it the cheapest way into EV territory, it’s also backed by a company that knows what it’s doing, and offers excellent service backup.

It’s not exciting, nor is it an aspirational vehicle, but it’s a toe in the water of a brave new world – one that won’t be relying on fossil fuels.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.