Feeling genuinely that Hyundai missed a trick by not calling its new BEV ‘Iconiq’, Iain Robertson is determined to set the record straight, while being among the trailing set of product reviewers that elected not to adopt a sycophantic stance on another, premature electric vehicle, even though it set fresh standards in the category.
From the outset, I was unimpressed. Perhaps it was the lack of heavyweight publicity? Perhaps it was Hyundai’s conservative to a fault stance? In some ways, the new Ioniq5 reminded me of a 2003 television advertisment for the then new Peugeot 206 model. In the storyline, a young Indian man takes his domestic market Ambassador saloon and, through a series of haphazard panel beating sessions, resculpts it into a rough-edged Peugeot. It was amusing, inventive and award-winning. Interestingly, Peugeot actually tookover the Ambassador car business only a few years ago. The diagonal style line drawn down the flanks of the Hyundai looks like a dent that the South Korean panel-beater had forgotten about, when he tried to carry out a similar transformation with a VW Golf. It is what my eyes see….!
A few years ago, I owned a Vauxhall Astra GTE. It made a change from my more usual Golf GTi but I was attracted to it by its egg-shaped profile, grown-up Recaro seats and, I shall admit, its digital dashboard. The car was more stylish and futuristic than the staid Golf, despite being a head-on rival and thus an equal in terms of performance, fuel efficiency and luggage space. Yet, within a surprisingly short period of time, I became increasingly frustrated by its plastic-on-plastic in-motion trim noises, allied to ‘first-generation’ soft-touch trim detailing. Its more compliant ride quality was actually a cheaper, less refined suspension compromise and the gearchange quality felt like a kid’s toy from an Early Learning Centre. However, the worst single element was the clunky digital dashboard, which would lose its coloured bar definition at times, making the minor gauges, let alone the speedometer reading, more like amateur guesswork at a ‘whodunnit’ convention.
It does appear that carmakers have adopted wholesale the application of LED lamps both fore and aft on their BEV models and, while some of them use ‘tube’ construction to provide a stylised, filtered output, others, like Hyundai, have gone down an Astra dashboard route. Squared-off and reliant on small block arrays, the LED lamps on the Ioniq5 are more amateur half-hour than a slick presentation. They look cheap and nasty, because they are. While the overall outline of the Ioniq5 is simple and uncomplicated, something that is usually indicative of automotive classical elegance, for which a glance at the Volkswagen Golf is often recommended, it could have emerged from the book of origami instead, which is not in the least inspired.
Yet, such a boxy exterior does ensure that the interior space is easier to manage, or should be. Hyundai has adopted a minimalist approach; zero frills, minimal switches, clean screens and the extensive application of recycled materials for trim and detailing. If you like plastique, it is tactile but cold. However, Hyundai is also promoting the current fad for ‘lounge-like’ cabin qualities, which means that the seats fold in ‘unusual’ ways, provide lower limb padding and a restful environment for what might be a lengthy wait before the required public access charger becomes available. It is a difficult balancing act to overcome, not least because the Ioniq5 boasts among the fastest recharging capabilities of any of the current crop of BEVs, on its way to providing among the greatest mileage ranges per full battery, not just in class. Yet, Hyundai reckons that a lounge is better than a frustrated rest. Personally, the last place I would lounge would be in a car, unless it were transporting me in final repose between church and family crypt.
My final niggle resides around the deadness of the helm. When steering systems changed from manually geared to power assisted, a certain amount of what was termed as ‘feel’ was lost. Early power assistance was slow to react, even loading-up, when asked to work harder, which was not exactly conducive to changing direction with either speed, or safety in mind. Early adopters of electronic assistance discovered new realms of lifelessness at the steering wheel that was promoted by a remote motor. Fortunately, some clever engineering introduced more reaction into the systems. It was phoney but fed back modest details from the tyre’s contact patches with the roadway. The very latest electronic steering devices fitted to hypercars are as close to actual ‘feel’ as they have ever been, which underscores the huge amount of virtual development work that has been undertaken.
Sadly, I am yet to drive a BEV that responds as though its steering wheel had a genuine connection with what was passing beneath the car’s body. While I can accept steering dampers being necessary on 4x4s, which help to reduce rough surface ‘wheel-whip’ and, thus, broken digits/fingers, BEVs have another on-side enemy, excessive weight. Even an Ioniq5 tips the scales at around two tonnes and trying to make ‘Tess of Teddington’ corner with any agility is going to involve electronic skirt lifting of the highest order and the greater the levels of nannying assistance, the less will be the feedback to the driver, which is an inescapable fact. As a result, unless the driver is 13 years of age and highly familiar with his X-Box, smooth driving progression is going to be an alien practice. Mind you, with the autonomous dawn around the corner, relaxing in the lounge means that the art of driving will be banished to distant memory in any case. Cynical? Me? Not at all!
Ioniq5 is very colour dependent and, as long as those colours are actually quite dull, the car will also appear to be so. There are no reds, or yellows, the closest to which is a matte gold, and the nearest a consumer might get to electric shock is a teal blue, which happens to be the best of a grim lot. Yet, in its punchiest guise, the Ioniq5 can blast from 0-60mph in around 5.0s, which is enough to scare petrol Porsche 911s and warrant the donning of a pair of high-end dark spectacles for an extra shot of uber-cool. Its 3.0m wheelbase releases a large amount of flat-floored cabin space, allied to a ‘frunk’ of around 57-litres and a hatchback boot of up to 531-litres, which lifts its practicality levels to class stardom.
Conclusion: Priced from £39,400 to £56,400, Ioniq5 is another money-grabber in a BEV sector notorious for it. It is a modestly attractive machine that rides well on its large diameter alloy wheels, which make it look more compact than it is. Thanks to an array of awards and TV promotional appearances, the model gives off a whiff of greater fame than its modest registration figures suggest. It is purposeful, rather than ‘nice’, a factor to be contemplated when reaching the point of ordering an example.