Road test: 2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5 review

2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5

What is it?

The all-new electric vehicle that the brand hopes will launch its new era. Hyundai launched the original Ioniq back in 2017, a conserative and conventional-looking small sedan with the choice of hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fully-electric powertrains.

This new Ioniq model is anything but conservative and conventional. It’s bold, retro-inspired appearance sits atop an all-new platform dubbed ‘e-GMP’ that features Hyundai’s latest and greatest EV technology and will underpin a series of Hyundai, Kia and Genesis models in the coming years.

Hyundai Australia has confirmed it will introduce the Ioniq 6 sedan and Ioniq 7 large SUV within the next few years, but for now the Ioniq 5 will lead the charge (pardon the pun) to convince Australians that the South Korean brand can compete with Tesla as a popular EV brand.

So to start off, the company is offering a single high-specification model with the choice of either a single-motor, rear-wheel drive set-up or a dual-motor, all-wheel drive layout. It’s the latter we’re testing here.

It’s part of a broader initiative from Hyundai that will see the Ioniq sub-brand sit alongside its N Performance models as well as its more premium mainstream models.

Does it have any racing pedigree?

No, but Hyundai has made very little secret that it wants to build an Ioniq 5 N. And we already know what we should expect, because the Kia EV6 GT is also based on the e-GMP platform and it’s packing 430kW of power and 740Nm of torque from its dual electric motors.

The 2020 Hyundai RM20e

Hyundai has actually been teasing an electric performance car since before the Ioniq 5 arrived, building the 596kW/960Nm all-electric RM20e concept back in 2020.

Hyundai’s N division won’t just turn up the power, spy images of what’s believed to be the Ioniq 5 N testing at Germany’s Nurburgring show a lower ride height and a unique wheel and tyre package for improved handling.

What’s under the bonnet?

Technically speaking, what’s under the bonnet is one of the two electric motors that power this top-spec model. There’s another mounted underneath the boot, with the two combining to produce a total output of 225kW and 605Nm, which is a lot of grunt for a mid-size SUV that isn’t really trying to be a performance car.

2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5

Despite that it still has, quite frankly, sickening acceleration thanks to the instantaneous nature of the torque delivery from electric motors, especially with all-wheel drive making traction a non-issue. It’s not supercar fast but it will run 0-100km/h in 5.2 seconds which is very rapid for a spacious five-seat SUV. But just as impressive is its rolling acceleration, with the 80-120km/h boost coming in just 3.8 seconds. Really, anytime you put your foot down there’s little hesitation and a sudden surge of speed.

The motors draw power from a 72.6kWh lithium-ion battery that provides a theoretical driving range of 430km. The battery is part of a 800-volt electrical system (like you’ll find in the Porsche Taycan), which allows for ultra-rapid charging, so if you can find a 350kW charger you can go from 10% charge to 80% in under 18 minutes.

Another clever and unique feature for the Ioniq 5 electrical system is its Vehicle-to-Load (V2L) ability, which means you can draw power from it to charge other devices, effectively turning it into a giant battery on wheels. Using an adaptor you could charge an e-bike, scooter or camping equipment, or using the Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) cable you could charge another electric car.

How does it handle?

Keeping in mind that the Ioniq 5 isn’t trying to be a performance car, it’s certainly a sporty drive and impressive for an SUV. Naturally the Ioniq 5 feels heavy on the road, particularly when cornering, because it weighs more than 2000kg thanks to the motors and batteries.

2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5

Importantly though, it sits flat when cornering, surprisingly so, and has very accurate and responsive steering that makes it pleasing to drive on a twisty road.

It’s helped by the tyres underneath it too, which are the new Michelin Pilot Sport EV hoops that have been developed for this new breed for sporty electric cars. They’re developed using the knowledge gained from the brand’s involvement in Formula E racing to craft a tyre that suits the unique characteristics of an EV.

It means they’re optimised for the extra weight of an EV and provide good grip while also offering low rolling resistance to help extend range. Michelin has also used a special form inside the tyre to reduce noise, which is definitely noticeable in the Ioniq 5, with no squealing when you push hard through a corner, instead you can only hear some scrubbing – just like regular Formula E viewers will be familiar with.

Where would you most like to drive it?

The beauty of the Ioniq 5 is its breadth of capability. It’s easy to live with as a daily driver, thanks to its roomy cabin and quiet, effortless powertrain. However, when you want to have some fun on a twisty road, it’s capable of holding its own.

What’s the interior like?

Unlike anything you’ve seen before from Hyundai.

By building the Ioniq 5 on the bespoke e-GMP platform – rather than the original Ioniq that had to accommodate three totally separate powertains – Hyundai has been able to start with a clean sheet of paper for the cabin.

2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5

The bottom line is it’s both stylish and spacious, with an open-plan feel to the design that Hyundai calls ‘Smart Living Space’.

Without any need for a transmission tunnel (with each motor powering its respective axle) there’s a flat floor that creates more space which Hyundai has used well. The centre console, complete with cup holders and lidded storage box, can slide forwards and backwards depending on your needs.

The specially designed ‘zero gravity’ seats have been designed to allow you to relax when you’re stuck in the car for an extended period – such as charging or a long highway stint. There’s a small, powered leg rest that can come out when needed and you can recline like you would in your lounge room; or at least the passenger car if you’re driving.

2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5

In keeping with the environmentally friendly theme of EVs, Hyundai has used a lot of recycled materials in the cabin, including headlining made from sugar cane and corn byproducts and stitching yarn made from recycled plastic bottles.

The biggest disappointment is, for as spacious as the front seats are, the rear room is tight for adults. While it’s fine for kids, and there are heated seats in this well-equipped introductory model, this reviewer tried sitting behind my driving position and found it a squeeze around both the knees and the head.

The boot is more generous though, with a spacious 527-litres of cargo space.

Is it good value for money?

Because Hyundai Australia has opted to introduce the Ioniq 5 in a single high-specification model, coupled with its hi-tech underpinnings it’s not cheap. It starts at $71,900 for the single-motor model, while the dual-motor we tested starts at $75,900, which makes it the most expensive model offered by a brand once famous for its affordable models.

2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5

Hyundai is confident, based on its success with the $70+k Palisade and its overall quality improvements in the last decade, that buyers will embrace the Ioniq 5 even at its high price.

In terms of comparison to similar models, the Tesla Model Y SUV isn’t available in Australia yet but the Model 3 sedan starts at $59,900 for its single-motor model and $73,400 for its dual-motor variant.

Another would-be rival is the upcoming Polestar 2, which will start at $59,900 for its single-motor model but misses out on many of the key active safety features that come standard on the Ioniq 5.

Keeping it in the family, the Kona Electric is priced from $62,000 for the Elite model and $66,000 for the Highlander variant.

Would I buy one?

I would if I could. Due to its popularity overseas and limited production, Hyundai Australia could only secure an initial allocation of 240 Ioniq 5 for the local market, and these were snapped up in less than three hours.

While it costs a lot and Hyundai has hinted cheaper models are on the way, there are many things to like about the Ioniq 5. It looks modern and special, has excellent performance and is easy to live with.

If this is the future of Hyundai, it looks promising.

2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5

2021 Hyundai Nexo price and specifications

Price: From $75,900 plus on-road costs
Powertrain: Dual-electric motors
Power: 225kW
Torque: 605Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Range: 451km
Wheels: 20-inch alloys
Tyres: 255/45 R20
Length: 4635mm
Width: 1890mm
Height: 1605mm
Weight: 2100kg
0-100km/h: 5.8 seconds (claimed)

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