Test Drives

2020 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid review: Positive Ions

2020 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid in Singapore

A facelift brings the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid up to date, but it’s never been more relevant than now

SINGAPORE — Fans of hybrid cars (you must be out there somewhere) must be all a flutter about the new Toyota Corolla Altis Hybrid, but let’s not forget Korea’s take on the breed. The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid gets facelift and with it, a slight drop in power to sneak under the threshold for a Category A certificate of entitlement. The same applies to Kia’s Niro, its mechanical sister.

Hyundai ostensibly created the Ioniq Hybrid to kill the Toyota Prius (itself facelifted last year) and the results of its mid-life update are pretty plain to see.

The front grille has a mesh grille (bye bye, horizontal slats) and the headlights have a distinctive new pattern; they sort of join up with the lower daytime running lights to give the car what look like tusks. Meanwhile, new tail-lights adorn the back.

READ MORE: Toyota has a hybrid answer at last with the Corolla Altis Hybrid. It doesn’t have as many features and is S$6k more expensive – but it’s Japanese!


The basic recipe is the same as before: an efficient 1.6-litre engine is assisted by a 43.5 horsepower electric motor, which is fed by a small, 1.56kWh lithium-ion battery. The beauty of the technology is that you don’t have to charge the battery, because that’s done automatically under deceleration or whenever the petrol engine has a bit of energy to spare.

It’s worth stating this up front: hybrid tech like this works. The Ioniq is rated at 3.8L/100km, and you’ll achieve it if your commute involves a fair amount of highway driving. If not, you won’t be far off — we returned it with 3.9L/100km showing on the trip computer —  which means this thing uses roughly half the fuel of a comparable car.

Put another way, if every car on the road were an Ioniq Hybrid, Kia Niro, Toyota Corolla Altis Hybrid or Toyota Prius, the carbon emissions from driving would drop by half.

It isn’t quite right to say that you drive the Ioniq Hybrid like a normal car, however. With the facelift comes a new paddle shfter system, and instead of letting you call up manual gearchanges with the six-speed, twin-clutch transmission, it influences how much regenerative braking you get from the car. 

Many electric cars have a one-pedal driving mode, which lets you slow down the car by lifting off the accelerator instead of stepping on the brake. It’s meant to encourage anticipation and smoother driving with lots of energy recuperation.

But in the Ioniq, I found it tough to judge how much deceleration I would get, and when it would kick in. That made for pretty jerky driving, which my colleagues already accuse me of, so in the end I found it easier to do with less regenerative braking and use the brake pedal normally. You still recover energy that way, anyway.

In terms of how it handles, the Ioniq’s compact size means lends itself well to being chucked about, and it’s reasonably stable when you get frisky with the steering, but it’s fairly uninspiring to drive fast. That’s despite a Sport mode that makes it accelerate pretty urgently, courtesy of the electric motor’s abundant torque.

The real enjoyment from a car like this is from seeing how little fuel you’re using, which you can do with help from countless displays showing the ongoing juggling act between petrol and electric power, the fuel and electricity consumed over time, a driving style analyser and so on. That might sound as fun as watching paint dry, but surely there’s some satisfaction to be had from getting the best out of a drive system as carefully engineered as this?

While you’re busy playing that little game with yourself, everyone else in the car should have an okay time of it.

The Ioniq isn’t a big car so things are a bit narrow in the back, but leg- and headroom are adequate, and you get rear air-con vents. The boot floor’s a bit high, but at least you can fold the back seats for more cargo space.

The Ioniq is still well-equipped, with worthwhile safety features such as blind spot monitors and a lane-keep assist system, along with active cruise control and front seats with built-in fans.

Apple fans will love the CarPlay system, which lets an iPhone power the navigation and entertainment functions, and enables dictation for texts and WhatsApp messages.

All that aside, the facelifted Ioniq offers a nicer cabin, thanks mostly to a new touch interface for the climate control system.

To the target market for this and other hybrid cars, however, it might simply be enough that the Hyundai isn’t nasty inside, nor terrible to drive. The fuel-saving tech does work, and it will allow anyone to reduce their carbon footprint meaningfully. To more and more people, that’s the only climate control that really matters.

Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid 1.6 GLS Sunroof
Engine 1,580cc, in-line four
Power 105hp at 5700rpm
Torque 147Nm at 4000rpm
Gearbox 6-speed dual-clutch
Electric Motor 43.5hp
Battery Lithium ion, 1.56kWh
System Power 130hp
System Torque 265Nm
0-100km/h 10.8 seconds
Top Speed 185km/h
Fuel Efficiency 3.8L/100km
VES/CO2 A2/86g/100km
Agent Komoco Motors
Price S$115,999 with COE
Available Now













about the author

Leow Julen
CarBuyer's managing editor is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 26 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.