Payne: High Five! Hyundai Ioniq 5 is a stylish, roomy and speedy EV

Posted by Talbot Payne on January 5, 2022

Julian, California — We’ve come a long way from Pious to Ioniq.

Twenty years ago, the Toyota Prius sparked a green segment in the American car market. The stylish hybrid was gobbled up by granola chewers and became a hit, inspiring predictions from the pointy-head class that hybrids would dominate the market by 2020. Hybrid GMC Yukons, Ford Fusion hybrids, Chevy Volts came and went as the hybrid hype fizzled. Turns out, green is a niche like V-8s, diesel trucks, off-road dirt kickers.

Now comes another green spasm and the market is flooding with battery-powered vehicles. But this time, the niche is fun.

Hybrids wore out their welcome in part because they were sooooo cloying. Their screens awoke with tree branches reminding us they were doing good. Saving the planet! Just like Leo DiCaprio! Prius was derisively dubbed the “Pious” and the name stuck.

The Ioniq 5 is not that car, even as it is the Prius’s logical heir.

“What is that?” a passerby on a San Diego sidewalk exclaimed, ogling the Hyundai’s brooding, Dodge Challenger-like cowl, creased doors and sci-fi pixel taillights. “It’s cool looking.”

“You should see the inside,” I smiled, flinging the door open to reveal twin 12-inch screens like a computer desktop. “Ooooooh,” my new friend panted.

Phone meets car. The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5's design is an unmistakable blend to the smartphone age with its hoodless screens and simple interior. Surprisingly, smartphone connectivity still requires a wire.

Self-driving through California traffic (good Lord, is it ever not rush hour in Cali?), I toggled the 5’s left turn signal and the car automatically switched lanes. Then I floored the accelerator pedal — ZOT! — and 446 pound-feet of torque shot me past the slower car. Toggle the right signal and I automatically merged back in lane. Gimme a high 5!

Green doesn’t have to be vanilla. It’s a lesson Hyundai learned with its Ioniq sub-brand, which started in 2015 as an electrified answer to Prius but lacked personality.

Then along came stylish Tesla rocket ships that you could summon across a parking lot and drag race out of stoplights. How cool can EVs be? Mustang now makes one.

The edgy Ioniq 5 follows in these sexpots’ footsteps, but it is more interested in room than vroom.

Sure, the Ioniq can wear you out with windy speeches about how moral it is — “seats, headliner, door trim, floor, arm rests use eco-friendly, sustainably sourced materials (that) include recycled PET bottles, plant-based yarns and natural wool yarns and bio paint with plant extracts” — but these claims are buried in press releases. There’s not a green leaf to be found on its mod bodywork.

The clean cockpit of the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 with navigation run by Android Auto on the right screen. Drive modes are selected via the button at SW of the wheel. There is no console island - opening the footwell.

The 5 reminds that the Prius was a very practical car. It had good cargo space under the rear hatchback (begiining with 2004 models), good visibility, head-up dash driving info (before head-up displays were a thing), and could go forever on a tank of gas.

Ioniq follows in Prius’s footsteps with an EV that is more hatchback than SUV. The 5 is stretched over the longest wheelbase in Hyundai’s lineup — longer even than the Palisade three-row SUV. Note: in an indication of EVs’ niche status, however, my Limited trim Ioniq 5 tester cost nine grand more than a similarly equipped full-size Palisade Limited. That’s a lot of extra coin for a compact-class Hyundai.

My 6’5” frame easily sat behind myself in the 5’s rear seat with knee room to spare. Heck, Hyundai could fit a third row in this thing (like the spacious Tesla Model Y) if it wanted to. A Tesla-like panoramic sunroof gives the cabin an added sense of openness.

The airiness continues up front. The Ioniq employs an open footwell like the original Tesla Model S (or my parents’ 1960s Buick station wagon), so I could splay my feet while self-driving. Postal carriers might embrace the 5 to easily slide across the seat to stuff mailboxes.

When I get a hot hatch at home like the VW Golf GTI or Mazda 3 Turbo, I head to Hell, Michigan, to have some fun. When in San Diego, the spaghetti curves of the Laguna Mountains beckon.

Ioniq’s acceleration may be bioniq, but it is no hot hatch.

This is curious given Hyundai’s choice (like its Model Y, Mustang Mach-E and Volkswagen VW ID.4 rivals) to make the base single-motor Ioniq 5 a rear-wheel-drive car to optimize performance. Hyundai certainly knows how to make corner carvers like the rabid Veloster N.

Sport Mode changes the instrument display - though it does little for the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5's performance.

But 5 could care less about handling. Through the California-79 twisties, my all-wheel-drive tester wallowed about, an indifferent dance partner. “Payne, do we really have to do this?” it seemed to say as I toggled SPORT mode, trying to add pep.

My hatchback preference would be the VW Golf GTI, which is an absolute riot to flog through the curves — while offering plenty of hatchback utility and range to spare for long weekends in the mountains. But I belong in the motorhead niche.

For green buyers who don’t have my need for speed, Ioniq offers everything you need — including good range. Range is the Achilles heel of EVs, limiting them to metro commuters. Within its metropolitan envelope, the Ioniq 5 works hard to earn your trust.

For example: behold the heat pump.

Outside SoCal’s climate paradise, northern latitudes are hell on EVs. Option all-wheel drive on Ioniq 5 and it reduces range from 303 to 256 miles. But the AWD 5 comes standard with a heat pump to assure you get that range even in cold temps. The only EV (including my Model 3) that has hit its mileage marks in sub-30 degree weather was a Hyundai Kona EV I tested two year ago — complete with heat pump.

That assurance should get you good range around Michigan when Hyundai begins to sell 5s beyond its core coastal markets in 2022. If you need to juice up the 5 at a local Supercharger, it won’t keep you waiting.

A pair of 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5s recharge at a San Diego shopping mall.

After a full day flogging 5 through the mountains, I stopped at an Electrify America supercharger at a shopping mall with just 27% of charge remaining. ZOT! With Hyundai’s Porsche Taycan-like, 800-volt recharging architecture, I filled to 80% (205 miles) in just 15 minutes — twice as fast as in my 400-volt Tesla.

That’s not Tucson fast (Hyundai’s best-selling compact SUV will fill up with 370 miles worth of petrol in just 5 minutes), but it’s a stop that can be budgeted into a busy day.

And that 15 minutes will help you bone up on more of the Ioniq 5’s cool features. Like Smaht Pahk. After unplugging, you can summon the car to you with Hyundai’s smartphone app. Just like Hollywood actor John Krasinski in that TV ad.

He’s not nearly as pious as DiCaprio.

2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5

Vehicle type: Battery-powered, rear- and all-wheel-drive five-passenger hot hatch

Price: $40,925, including $1,225 destination fee ($55,725 as tested)

Powerplant: 58 kWh or 77.4 kWh lithium-ion battery with single or dual-electric-motor drive

Power: 225 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque (RWD); 320 horsepower, 446 pound-feet of torque (AWD)

Transmission: single-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.9 seconds (Car and Driver, AWD as tested); top speed, 115 mph

Weight: 4,662 pounds (AWD as tested)

Fuel economy: EPA, 114 MPGe (FWD), 98 MPGe (AWD); range, 303 miles (FWD), 256 miles (AWD)

Report card

Highs: Sharp looks; roomy cabin

Lows: Pricey; limited initial nationwide availability

Overall: 3 stars

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