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car review

2022 Hyundai Ioniq5.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

It never rains in Southern California, except when a Canadian visits to test drive Hyundai’s new compact electric vehicle, the Ioniq5. Then it pours. And that’s a good thing, because it just saved me from buying a new car this year.

Hyundai calls the Ioniq5 an SUV, but that’s really just a marketing term. It’s a hatchback. After all, its ground clearance is almost the same as the Elantra sedan, and it’s available with rear-wheel drive.

It’s a big hatchback though. The three-metre wheelbase is actually greater than a Palisade, which is Hyundai’s largest SUV. The flat floor and the wheels pulled to the far corners of the chassis add unexpected leg room and an airy feeling inside the cabin. The centre console slides forward and back to add space to either row as wanted. The heavy weight of the batteries underneath the floor allows a low centre of gravity and a sporty feel around corners that is limited only by the adhesion of its 19- or 20-inch tires.

If the sun had been shining here, warming and drying the winding roads, I might have fallen in love with this vehicle, whatever anyone calls it. After all, the last time I test drove an electric car in San Diego, I was driving the original Kia Soul EV and after 150 kilometres, I thought the car was going to run out of juice and leave me stranded. What a difference five years makes. This Ioniq EV took me on a 227-kilometre drive up into the mountains and back, and had enough power at the end for another 93 kilometres.

The lashing rain, however, had me reaching for the switch to turn on the rear wiper for the large rear glass, only to find there is no rear wiper. Hyundai Canada’s Director for Product and Corporate Strategy, who was shivering at the lunch stop in Julian, Calif., 4,000 feet up in the mountains, said that Canadian cars do get the rear wiper, and was then surprised when he checked to find it was recently cancelled. It would have been to save weight, not cost, he guessed.

The Hyundai Ioniq5 offers technology way above its price range while keeping the car comfortable and very enjoyable to drive.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

For the rest of the afternoon, even with the rear defogger on, the rear glass was obscured by rain and dirt with no way to clear it while driving. I can safely assume that Hyundai will see the error of its decision and install a wiper on the 2023 models because it’s very much needed.

It was the same thing with the seat heaters and steering wheel heater: to turn them on or adjust them, I had to go through a menu on the large central touch screen that was fiddly and annoying while driving. There’s no separate button on the spartan dash, and the voice control does not recognize a command to adjust this. This will assuredly be changed soon with an over-the-air software update.

Put these quibbles to one side, however, and the Ioniq5 is a truly exceptional vehicle. It’s especially so at this price, which qualifies for the Canadian federal rebate of $5,000. (All EVs that seat six-or-fewer qualify for the rebate if their base MSRP is less than $45,000, and all higher trim levels qualify that cost less than $55,000. This means almost all “affordable” EVs are priced just below that amount, and makers now add “packages” to the higher-priced trim that would previously be considered separate, more costly trims. “It’s all a game to make the prices fit the rebate,” one maker told me.)

The Ioniq5 is no exception. Its lowest MSRP for the Essential trim is $44,999, plus $1,825 for the Freight and PDI. This vehicle is rear-wheel drive and has a standard-range battery that’s good for an estimated 354 kilometres. The only other trim is the Preferred model, which offers either the standard range battery or the long-range battery, and both drivetrains, though AWD is only available with the bigger battery.

The headlights on the Hyundai Ioniq5.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

The greatest driving distance is with the RWD Long Range, which costs $51,999 and will cover an estimated 488 kilometres. Make that the AWD version and the range comes down to 412 km, at the magic $54,999 price. Add the “Ultimate Package” of driver’s assistance and conveniences and the price peaks at $59,999.

Electric vehicles are being introduced at a furious pace right now and each one seems to have something to set it apart from the others. The Ioniq5 has 800-volt architecture, which means it can charge very quickly indeed at a fast-charging station. Go to one of the 350 kW fast chargers at Petro-Canada or Electrify Canada and the Ioniq5 can charge from 10 per cent to 80 per cent in 18 minutes. That’s remarkable for such a large battery.

More to the point these days, where most people charge at home or work and just top up along the way when needed, the Ioniq5 can gain 105 km of charge in only five minutes at a 250 kW-or-more charger. Plug it in to the more common 150 kW fast charger and it will give you the 10-to-80-per-cent charge in 25 mins; plug it in at a Level 2 charger, as you might have at home, and it will take less than six hours to reach 100 per cent from 10 per cent.

To put this into perspective, the only other production vehicles to feature 800-volt architecture (over the regular 400-volt systems) are the Porsche Taycan and the Audi e-Tron GT, which each cost at least double the price of the Hyundai.

(The irony is that the Ioniq5 includes a fully reclining driver’s seat, so the driver can be more comfortable while waiting for the vehicle to charge, though that time is now comparatively quick.)

Hyundai calls the Ioniq5 an SUV, but that’s really just a marketing term. It’s a hatchback.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

So how does it drive? Very well indeed. It doesn’t really feel like an electric car, thanks to its smooth acceleration and a clever system of regenerative braking that can be adjusted with paddle shifters. On the curvy mountain roads here, I flicked the brake regeneration back and forth for the corners and it worked similar to gearing down, as the regeneration applied more engine braking. On straighter highways, I set the regeneration to “smart” and it chose the least obtrusive but most effective setting for any given moment. I could also set it to “i-Pedal,” which is maximum regeneration and barely needs any touch on the brake pedal.

There’s a choice of Normal, Eco, Snow, and Sport for the electronic drive modes, and the car is quick enough when you want it to be. The AWD tester had a claimed zero-to-100 km/h time of 5.1 seconds, with 320 hp and 446 lbs.-ft. of torque. Like all EVs, maximum torque is available right from standstill. The smaller battery makes the jump in 8.5 seconds, and the RWD Long Range in 7.3 seconds.

I drove quickly but not aggressively and my range on the top-of-the-line AWD Preferred Ultimate tester suffered for it. Though I left San Diego with an estimated 400 km of range showing on the futuristic digital display, I used more than half of that driving just 130 km, with consumption of 3.4 km/kWh. This wasn’t a surprise: I drove up to an altitude of more than 4,000 feet in single-digit temperatures. Dropping back down to sea level for a round trip of 227 km, my average return consumption improved to 5.6 km/kWh and I still had enough juice for another 93 km. You do the math, but this is pretty good.

Would I buy the Ioniq5 with my own money? I most certainly would, because it offers technology way above its price range while keeping the car comfortable and very enjoyable to drive. I would, however, wait till next year, when Hyundai must surely see the light and install a wiper for the rear window. That’s okay – the first couple of thousand coming to Canada are already sold.

The Hyundai Ioniq5 is missing the key feature of a rear wiper.Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

Tech Specs

Base price/As tested: $44,999/ $59,999, plus taxes and $1,825 Freight and PDI

Engine:

RWD Essential: 125 kW motor with 56 kWh battery; 168 hp / 258 lbs.-ft.

RWD Preferred: 168 kW motor with 77.4 kWh battery; 225 hp / 258 lbs.-ft.

AWD Preferred: 239 kW motor with 77.4 kWh battery; 320 hp / 446 lbs.-ft.

Range (EPA est.):

RWD Essential: 354 km

RWD Preferred: 488 km

AWD Preferred: 412 km

Alternatives: Volkswagen ID.4, Ford Mustang Mach E, Chevrolet Bolt EUV, Polestar 2, Audi Q4 e-Tron

The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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