Every new electric car that comes out seems to be positioned as a “Tesla killer”, but for some it is more apt than others. The IONIQ 5 is the first car to arrive under Hyundai’s new electric-only IONIQ brand. Where other EVs from Hyundai have been aimed at providing quality for a great price, the IONIQ brand is more like Lexus is to Toyota. It’s meant to be uncompromisingly good, and not necessarily cheap. In this respect, the comparison with Tesla is appropriate.
IONIQ 5: Futuristic Design
Let’s start with the way it looks. The IONIQ 5 is an incredibly futuristic design. Its angular shape and serious frontal appearance are extremely eye catching. Not everyone will like it, and some even think it’s downright ugly. But this car makes a statement before you even start driving it. On the Ultimate AWD version I had to test, the giant 20in wheels with their silver plastic surrounds provide a muscular stance.
Hyundai has performed a magic trick with the proportions of the IONIQ 5, too. If you look at it away from other vehicles, you will think it is much smaller than it actually is. In fact, the size is not far off an Audi Q4 e-tron, which is resolutely in the mid-sized SUV category. Essentially, the IONIQ 5 is an SUV that somehow manages to look like a compact hatchback from a distance.
IONIQ 5: Passenger Space, Massive Cargo Capacity
This is a big car, though, and that truly benefits the interior and cargo space. The font seats feel spacious and can recline all the way back so you can have a good rest, although not when driving. The rear passengers also get loads of leg room and a decent amount of head room. With the Ultimate edition I had, the central console can be moved forward and backward. This can give a central rear passenger more leg room when forward and allow the driver to slide over easily when backward.
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Most impressive is how much space there is in the boot / trunk. The basic amount with the rear seats up is a sizeable 527 liters, which is larger than an Audi Q4 e-tron. Drop the rear seats down and you get 1,587 liters, which is beyond a mid-sized estate car / station wagon and again more than the Audi Q4 e-tron. You can also move the rear seats forward a little, in case you need a bit of extra rear space without losing the ability to convey 4-5 people.
The interior design diverges greatly from previous Hyundai cars. A steering wheel stalk is used for switching between drive, reverse and neutral, with a button on the end for park. There’s a button on the steering wheel to change drive modes, with Eco, Normal and Sport options. If you press and hold this button, it enables Snow mode, which could be useful because the huge torque of electric cars can be problematic in slippery conditions. It didn’t snow during my test period, though, so I wasn’t able to try it out effectively.
The interior displays consist of two 12.3in screens, one for the dashboard and another for the infotainment system. Some aspects of the latter are reminiscent of previous Hyundai cars, but the dashboard display is flamboyantly designed, with speed on the left and charge/regenerate information on the right, with remaining range shown numerically. The Ultimate trim car I had also offers a HUD. Unlike previous Hyundais, this doesn’t project onto a panel emerging from the dashboard, but directly onto the windscreen. It’s an excellent example of the genre, showing speed, current limit, navigation information and blind spot detection.
IONIQ 5: Versions and Performance
There are three drivetrain choices and three trim types, but the entry-level SE Connect only comes with one drivetrain, so that means there are just seven combinations. The basic drivetrain pairs a 58kWh battery and 170PS motor, which is your only option with the SE Connect trim. However, if you choose the Premium or Ultimate trims, you can go for a rear-wheel-drive option combining 73kWh battery and 217PS motor, or an all-wheel-drive option with the same battery but 305PS.
Prices in the UK start at £36,995 ($50,000) for the SE Connect to £48,145 ($65,000) for the Ultimate with most powerful motors. Prices haven’t been announced in the USA yet, and trim types are named differently.
The IONIQ 5 I drove was the all-wheel-drive version, and it is immense fun. In Sport mode, it inspires confidence with reassuringly deliberate handling, alongside the ability to lay down power exactly when you choose. This may be a big, heavy car (nearly 2.1 tons), but it feels more agile than that. It can reach 62mph in just 5.2 seconds, although the 217PS car is slower, taking 7.4 seconds, and the 170PS drops still further to 8.5 seconds. I’d still rank a Tesla Model 3 Long Range or Performance much higher, but the IONIQ 5 AWD competes well with the Tesla Model Y I drove recently for driving experience.
IONIQ 5: Powering Other Devices
One of the most unique features of the IONIQ 5 is its Vehicle to Load (V2L) ability, which is provided both inside and outside the vehicle. Inside, between the two rear seats at foot level is a sliding panel covering a conventional UK 13a plug socket, into which you can plug anything you like drawing up to 3,000W. Most likely it will be the power adapter for your laptop or an entertainment device. This isn’t entirely unique – the Honda e also offers this option for front passengers on some models.
The truly unique feature is that the IONIQ 5 can deliver power externally through its CCS port. An adapter can be plugged into the AC Type 2 portion of this port and convert this to a standard UK 13a plug (or presumably other plug types depending on region). This can then deliver power up to 3.6kW to any device of your choice. I was able to charge another EV using this connection, but you could power a camping fridge, projector for outdoor cinema, or the compressor on a bouncy castle. The possibilities are endless.
IONIQ 5: Can It Really Challenge Tesla?
Finally, we come back to the question posed at the beginning – how does the IONIQ 5 compare to a Tesla? The Model 3 Standard Range Plus and Long Range are faster than the equivalently priced IONIQ 5 models but offer less space for rear passengers and much less space for cargo. The Model Y has slightly better performance than the IONIQ 5 AWD, but a lot more cargo space. The range is the biggest deficiency compared to Teslas, though. The smaller battery IONIQ 5 manages 238 miles, while the larger battery with rear-wheel drive delivers 298 miles, and the all-wheel-drive car 267 miles – all behind what Tesla offers. Balancing this is the 800V subsystem, which allows fast DC charging. With a sufficiently powerful supply, you can replenish the bigger battery to 80% in just 18 minutes.
The range is the only real chink in the IONIQ 5’s armor, though. Otherwise, the car is a tour de force. It is packed with well realized technology, has loads of space for passengers and cargo, and drives very well. Maybe it doesn’t challenge Tesla in every aspect, but it shows that Hyundai can make a brilliant EV that can take a technological lead, not just deliver something that merely compares well with the competition.