What is it?
There are two ways to do an electric vehicle. The first is simply to fix your motors and batteries into the space usually occupied by an engine. However, increasingly, manufacturers are investing in option number two, which is to build a new electric vehicle platform from the ground up.
That’s exactly what Hyundai has done with the new Ioniq 5, and the advantages are plentiful. Being a fresh design means it can be optimised with electric powertrains in mind, with the most notable upside being that the cabin is huge and spacious. It’s a curious design, actually, looking like a hatchback but being more SUV-like in its proportions.
As the first vehicle to be built on Hyundai’s electric-only E-GMP vehicle platform, it has unique proportions that give it a long wheelbase – the wheels are pushed out to the corners which improves handling as well as contributing to that spacious interior.
It also means Hyundai had scope to develop an advanced charging system, meaning it’s one of the fastest-charging EVs on the road. It’ll take up to 350kW, meaning a 10 to 80 per cent charge takes less than 20 minutes, and 60 miles of range can be added in about five minutes.
What’s under the bonnet?
There are two battery sizes and three power outputs available. The entry-level SE Connect has a 58kWh battery and rear-wheel-drive and a range of up to 240 miles. Premium and Ultimate trims are available with all powertrain options and include a larger 73kWh battery, which is available with all-wheel-drive but gets the most range in rear-driven form, promising up to 300 miles.
We tested the Ultimate trim with the big battery, all-wheel-drive and higher power output of 301bhp. That’s a decent chunk of power and it feels every bit as fast as its 5.2-second 0-60mph time suggests, despite being a pretty big, heavy car.
What’s it like to drive?
The Ioniq 5 takes a little bit of adjusting to. Its proportions throw you off, because it looks like it’s a hatchback and should be about the size of a Ford Focus, but it’s much larger and with the spacious cabin it feels quite big on the road.
However, once you’re tuned in it’s a fantastic driving experience. Whether lower-powered models would be quite so fun as our test car – which offers hot hatch-matching performance – remains to be seen, but its punchy acceleration made country roads fun, while it felt comfortable at motorway speeds too.
The only minor complaints were that road noise was a little more noticeable than you might hope at higher speeds, while some driver assistance features were a bit too intrusive for our liking. These can mostly be turned off, though.
How does it look?
The term ‘concept car for the road’ is something of a motoring cliche, but in the case of the Ioniq 5 it’s a perfectly legitimate description. It has a boxy, upright appearance with slim, futuristic headlights and a similar theme at the rear – LEDs are used for a ‘pixel’ design that makes the lights almost appear to be a part of a digital screen.
The rear is slightly awkward but the overall appearance is fantastic, taking its retro-inspired looks – Hyundai wanted it to look a bit like the Pony, its first car – but blending it with a futuristic style.
What’s it like inside?
If you like the outside, wait until you get a look at the inside. We keep mentioning space, but the cabin really is much roomier than you’re expecting. This is partly because the packaging of the powertrain and wheels has created a lot of room to work with, but its boxy dimensions also create a lot of space around your head.
The design itself is ultra-modern, too, with the twin-screen display sitting proud of the dashboard and a good mix of physical buttons and touchscreen controls. It’s all very minimalist, which contributes to that feeling of space and comfort.
What’s the spec like?
Prices start at £36,995, which is frustratingly just over the price limit to make it eligible for the plug-in car grant. These SE Connect models get 19-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting, leather-wrapped steering wheel and that 12.3-inch infotainment screen.
Premium models start £39,295 and add electric seat adjustment, heated front seats and steering wheel, and some extra driver assistance features. Finally, the Ultimate trim starts at £42,295 and adds gloss-finished door mirrors, more seat adjustments, leather upholstery, sliding centre console and a head-up display.
With the simplicity of an electric motor, it’s fair to say that electric vehicles often feel very similar. However, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 compensates for that with some genuinely interesting design and a fantastic cabin.
We tested the top-spec, highest performance version, so we’ll reserve judgement on whether that feeling continues in slower, lower trims – but in Ultimate trim the Ioniq 5 is a comfortable, practical and fun crossover with usable range and rapid charging. There’s a lot to love here.
Model as tested: Hyundai Ioniq 5 73kWh AWD
Engine: Twin electric motor and 73kWh battery
Max speed: 115mph
0-60mph: 5.2 seconds
Emissions: 0g/km CO2
Range: 268 miles