Shopping for an atomic toaster – 2017 Hyundai Ioniq EV

For a while now, EV ads have consistently caught my eye. Like I outlined in my earlier Volvo post, driving a diesel is cheapish but getting more expensive by the minute, as fuel prices have by now climbed to a pre-2020 level and will soon approach the dreaded two euro per liter price. I like driving my Volvo to work and back, but it’s not a four grand per year driving experience, so it’s likely that I’ll do some number crunching sooner than later.

Since public transport here won’t get me to work an hour away and I can only do so much remote work, the only feasible way to steer out of steering into fuel stations is getting an EV of some sort. While they would certainly cost more to buy than an old beater diesel car, the running costs are minuscule in comparison. For electricity, you can spitball a number that won’t double our current (heh) monthly bill, and required servicing will be inexpensive compared to keeping a 300,000 km car on the road. The Volvo only really gets new oils and filters and tires, but those do add up in the long run – and when you’re performing beaternomics, the car’s always one major, purchase price rivaling bill away from being sold for slaughter. Then there’s the entire aspect of producing tailpipe emissions, which is a completely different vapor canister of worms, but not insignificant when you’re talking a non-DPF, Euro 3 standard car. The clouds are black.

At this moment, the electrified car I find the most suitable for my commute and budget is the Hyundai Ioniq Electric. It is about as far from enthusiast cars as the Prius and the second generation Honda Insight are, and it also shares its side profile with those cars. It’s absolutely, completely forgettable, but luckily that is by design. The Ioniq’s job is to do one commute after another without making a fuss, using as little electricity as possible, and for that purpose it’s perfectly suitable if not remarkably enjoyable.

And right now, the nearest Hyundai dealer has no Ioniqs available as demo cars. They do sell them, but they’re also focusing their efforts on the bigger, better looking Ioniq 5 which also costs more money. The 2021 Ioniq 5 looks like a modern day Lancia Delta until you notice it makes its driver look like a small child behind the wheel of an original Lancia Delta. It’s that much bigger.

The regular electric Ioniq, in turn, has been available from 2016. It’s gained a couple cosmetic changes in that time, including a new dashboard, and the battery size has gone up to 38.3kWh from 28kWh. It now takes a bit longer to charge, but that also means a 100-km advantage over the older cars. However, the driving experience should largely be the same as with the older car, meaning a little-used 2017 example will work as a yardstick. Luckily I was able to find one to sample.

I visited the local CarMax equivalent today as this electric blue Dutch import had just appeared on their online listings. It only has 37,000 km on the odometer and appears brand new in most respects, with only a few scrapes in the interior plastics to show. I was initially wary about possible rust already occurring on a four year old car, but this particular Ioniq had been Waxoyled and the underbody looked perfect as far as I could see. It also rode on passable tires and seemed nicely run-in. They ask 22k euros for it. New ones are listed at 36k with incentives and subsidies, or at 42k without.

The one thing I really wanted to find out was whether the Ioniq Electric’s road manners would be liveable. I’ve driven one of these in near-identical spec in Lapland, but that was in the middle of winter, on studless tires, on packed snow. That usually cancels out most of the road noise, and noise is really what I want to do without on my commute as well. The Volvo comes suitably padded from the factory, which means you can just drive it for an hour on cruise control without being bothered by anything other than Bon Jovi appearing on the radio. But already at 60 km/h you could noticeably hear the Hyundai’s tires, on urban asphalt, and out on the open road they roared like I expected they would. But the tone of the noise seemed a little better suited to my ear than the equivalent Kona’s, and while the Infinity stereo really isn’t that great compared to the Volvo’s OEM setup, it was listenable at highway speeds.

The steering had been set up to be somewhat alert, which made the Hyundai feel darty and nervous on the rutted highway instead of laid-back in the way I would prefer, but I hope wheels, tires and tire pressures could alleviate this. It doesn’t really have too much feel, it just responds immediately yet with an artificial feedback due to electric power steering, meaning you keep correcting and weaving at first. Instead, I’d just prefer it to go along straight with minimal hassle, on cruise control and that’s it. But steering is one of those things you eventually get used to, especially if you do the same route every day.

I do like the Ioniq’s cabin. The dash is well laid out and the screens are not too gimmicky. The most important button, the lane keeping assist is situated clearly on the panel on the left of the steering wheel, so you can always switch it off at the beginning of the journey. The center stack is logical even in pre-facelit form and you don’t need prior expertise to access and shuffle the relevant menus, especially when you want to keep an eye on the car’s energy consumption. That also shows up in the gauge panel next to the charge display, and on the Ioniq it shows pleasingly low numbers. I did a short 22-km jaunt and I barely wore out that much range. The car told me I used 13.3 kWh per 100km, which is certainly fine by me, and bodes well for the car being able to reliably reach office and home charging spots.

I was pleased to find that the otherwise basic seats had an electrically adjustable lumbar support I could extend surprisingly far. What I did dislike is the spoiler-like hatch edge dividing the rear view in two.

Space-wise, the Ioniq is roughly Prius-sized in every respect. That means it has enough room for front passengers, okay rear seat space if you’re not noticeably tall, and some trunk space with a high floor. Expect it to have 3rd gen Camaro cargo capabilities if you don’t lower the seat backs and you probably won’t be that disappointed. Driving to work and back I’d only transport my laptop and occasional groceries, but it’s not outrageous to think I would want a commuter car to be able to accommodate some car parts and wheels every now and then.

Since the Ioniq is as far as possible from a car I would want to own, but one I would definitely want to use, I’m currently looking into short term lease deals. This 2017 car, as mentioned, has shorter range than MY21 cars and does without CarPlay or Hyundai’s BlueLink app which you can use to remotely access charging related functions, but purchasing it would also mean being stuck with it. Currently, the Finnish Hyundai importer’s car-buying webshop offers the brand-new Ioniq EV for around 5000 eur per year if I chose the required 25,000 km yearly cap, in a short-term 12-month lease, which would keep me rotating factory-backed commuter cars quite comfortably year after year if the scheme continued to make sense for me.

With EVs having become more and more relevant to me in recent years, I wouldn’t want to own a futuristic car that has a real chance of seeming archaic anytime soon as charging and battery tech develops. In the initial paragraphs I didn’t address depreciation at all – the RHD Volvo won’t lose value as it’s hit rock bottom already, and by getting a short term lease I would at least not be surprised by the Ioniq losing value, either, as it’s all baked in the monthly costs. As are two sets of wheels and tires, in fact, for summer and winter driving. Here in Finland you have to include those in your calculations to make sure you get to work in one piece.

As for the mentioned five grand, that’s still a bit more than what the Volvo costs to fuel and tax. But what price do you place for driving a car under factory warranty, without the need to fuel it? For that five grand, you can also buy a used Prius that will also undercut the Volvo’s fuel and tax costs, but then you’re still dependent of fuel prices and driving a car that’s as devoid of character yet as full of road noise as the Ioniq, and you’re on your own with any drivetrain problems. Not that a Prius would be particularly unreliable even at 200,000 km.

A new Ioniq really is a proposition worth considering. By being the complete opposite of an interesting, involving car, it could do a great job at providing me with the needed bandwidth to dedicate to my interesting, involving project cars. It’s not man maths, it’s ion-IQ.

12 Comments

  1. But… you’d be a car columnist driving an Ionic; people would keep asking if the leather was Corinthian.

  2. Haha, the concerns! Over the last couple of years, with great help by the Hooniverse, I have come to the conclusion that every car is an enthusiast car. I mean, there are Yugo collectors! The Ioniq is super common here in Norway, too, and everyone I know who owns one is happy. It’s only slightly better made than the Leaf, which was our bottom-barrel EV choice, but it’s also developed later with less engineering bloopers.

    Coming from the Volvo wagon corner myself, I did also run the maths and concluded that just to match fuel cost, normal, yearly, averaged electricity prices here need to be multiplied by six. Then you still have the higher service cost, taxes etc. on top of that for ICE cars. For commutes, the financials of EVs are wacky and unbeatable. Even if you compare your maximum beater with a new/leased EV, you come out on par.

    1. My beef with the Leaf is its terrible driving position, the steering wheel sits at somewhere between your legs no matter how you try to adjust it. The Hyundai seems better in that respect.

      1. Fair point, both my wife (1,74m) and I (1,92m) have the wheel at the highest position. Coming from Volvo to a long line of Asian cars, the seating position and general seat quality are considerably worse. It’s a trade off, but I’d read a piece about “How my 20 yo XC70 seats fit in this 2022 Ioniq”…

        1. I would also be interested about “How much Dynamat can I apply without sacrificing range”

          1. Seriously, dynamat in an EV makes sense. Our Leaf is somewhat quiet, but the Centennial with it’s grunty V6 is much quieter. For a commuting car, extravagant sound insulation is highly desirable.

  3. Not a full EV, but did the original Opel Ampera make its way to Finland? It’s been a while since I’ve driven a 1st gen Volt, but I remember it being fairly solid and quiet (a product of Bob Lutz-era GM). Admittedly, you’re giving up warranty for something not much more interesting, and with not enough range for your daily driving (which requires yet more maths as to daily costing), but Volt owners seem pretty happy with the things.

    1. I did in fact look at Ampera and Volt prices. They’re roughly ten grand cheaper than Ioniq EVs, but like you said they’re out of warranty and with the seldom running range extender engine in there I’d be concerned about how they are doing in the long run. They definitely have their fans but I’m not super into them. Plus the cabin looks really bad in comparison.

  4. “…the RHD Volvo won’t lose value as it’s hit rock bottom already…”

    As a fellow owner of a thoroughly depreciated RHD Volvo in a RHT country, I sympathize.

  5. I’ve owned both a 2nd generation Prius and the Insight’s big brother, the Accord Hybrid (2 of them, actually). Essentially equal in efficiency, bbut the driving experience is dramatically different. The Prius was buzzy, slow and numb while the Hondas, particularly the 2021, are engaging, comfortable and reasonably quiet. I imagine that the Insight is a bit less so, but certainly better than the Prius.

    Is the Honda E available there, or is its limited range an issue for your commute?

    1. The E is in fact available, but it seems to be able to reach just a little over 200km in summer temps. It also costs about the same as the Ioniq does new, so it’s out of consideration especially as it is engineered to be a city car.

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