We’ve driven enough plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) by now to appreciate their gas-saving virtues in close-to-home driving. So far this year, recharging every night, I’ve averaged 2.8 litres/100 km in a Honda Clarity, 4.1 in a Ford Fusion Energi and 5.0 in a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (plus, of course, the electricity to recharge them – which in our house all comes from renewable sources).
A typical workaday week around here involves a mix of shorter urban/suburban trips that, in a PHEV, sometimes consume zero gasoline if fewer than 30 or so kilometres. But we also make a weekly 150-to-200 kilometre round trip to visit family, so it’s never an option to drive all week on electricity alone.
One of the knocks against PHEVs is that once you do exceed the electric range, the PHEV’s greater mass makes it thirstier than a conventional self-charging hybrid.
Hyundai’s Ioniq is available both as a conventional and a plug-in hybrid (a full electric, too), so the plug-in weight penalty is easy to quantify: about 145 kilograms. Aside from the PHEV’s larger battery (8.9 kWh capacity compared with 1.6) it has a more powerful electric motor.
I’ve previously driven and liked both the Ioniq Hybrid and the Electric. The Hybrid averaged a carefully measured 5.6 litres/100 km – respectable, albeit not quite as frugal as the trip computer’s claimed 5.3 litres/100 km for one tankful and 4.6 for the next.
The Electric actually achieved its claimed 200-km range in down-to-the-wire testing. And – unlike some electrics – it always displayed a consistent and reassuring relationship between distance driven and range remaining.
While both the above were used only for daily domestic duties, this summer’s encounter with the PHEV (which Hyundai Canada calls the Electric Plus) would include a long-haul expedition to a cottage, with no opportunity to recharge. Would we feel that 145 kg?
First, however, the Ioniq spent three days at home in the suburbs. Despite my failure to recharge it the first night (a visiting relative’s 28-foot RV was blocking access to the outlet), it averaged 1.5 litres/100 km over 137 kilometres. It consistently delivered on its projected electric range of about 45 km (although, even in BEV mode, the gas engine will kick in if you boot it).
And the cottage run? We started our voyage with a full charge and hit the initial EV range of 44 km before the gas engine chimed in. Five days and 687 km later, we pulled into our driveway back home showing 4.0 litres/100 km for the entire trip.
Now trip computers aren’t always scrupulously honest – the Ioniq Hybrid, remember, claimed fuel consumption about 7 per cent better than I measured. But even if we assume a similar error on the PHEV, that’s still 4.3 litres/100 km for a trip driven almost 95 per cent in hybrid mode.
Sure, the PHEV is lugging around a heavier battery pack, but said bigger battery also means it can more often shut down the gas engine and run on electrons alone, even after the initial plug-in charge is used up.
The Ioniq driving experience mirrors its appearance, steering a path between the overt otherness of a Toyota Prius and mainstream conventionality. The handling is not hugely involving, but it’s not remote and robotic, either. The controls and dash layout are not weird. And the battery pack doesn’t significantly impinge on interior room, which is generous for both people and their stuff.
Best of all, the Ioniq has a conventional six-speed stepped transmission – a big nod to normality compared with the random and sometimes nagging surges of engine revs produced by other hybrids’ continuously variable transmissions.
The Ioniq Electric Plus starts at $31,999, well equipped (sunroof, navi, heated seats and steering wheel). That’s a lot of money for a compact hatchback, especially in Ontario where the deal is no longer sweetened by an $8,095 government incentive. But it’s not silly money. A top-of-the-line Honda Civic Hatchback with the optional automatic asks only $1,000 less. A Ford Focus ST, $2,000 more.
Some people are willing to pay more for all the bells and whistles. Others for a higher-performance engine. Nobody expects them to justify those choices based on whether the extra outlay will “pay for itself.” The chances are that a plug-in hybrid such as this Hyundai will save you money down the road, but even if doesn’t, can’t the satisfaction of lowering your carbon footprint be an “extra” worth paying for?
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