In the run-up to its launch, the Hyundai IONIQ 5 has been regularly in the news over the last few months. The multiple sketchreveals and unveils still hadn’t prepared me for the pleasant surprise in store when I stood next to the premium, all-electric SUV during the official media drive in Goa last week. The element of surprise coming from the deceptive size of the IONIQ 5.
In pictures and even in my video frame, the e-SUV seems smaller than it is. The effect is probably down to the low roofline combined with the 20-inch wheels, but it is only when I stand next to the vehicle that its 4.6-metre length and 3-metre wheelbase hit my senses. In fact, the IONIQ 5’s wheelbase is higher than the Hyundai Palisade, its flagship SUV for the US market. The Palisade (categorised as a mid-size crossover in the US) looked hulking when I drove it in the US a couple of years ago. On the other hand, the IONIQ 5 looked like a wide-bodied B-segment hatch from a distance at this year’s Auto Expo.
A lot of that perception about this e-SUV’s dimensions could also be due to its minimalist design language and clean surfacing. It comes across as being smart, “universally likeable,” and futuristic without being overburdened with the need to look modern. It is that effortless digital era elegance that makes it appealing. The brow and nose are set low from the straight edge of the clamshell bonnet panel. The slightly wicked-cool square outline of the LED DRLs, which are themselves an array of glass cubes much like pixels in a video game, sits within an elongated translucent panel. Thanks to its low SUV stance, the IONIQ 5 is still extremely aerodynamic, and to add to that aero performance, the vehicle also gets two vents in the front fender; these are called “active air flaps” by Hyundai. Apparently, the flaps can automatically be opened or closed both for improving air flow and for increased cooling of the battery pack that is packaged under the cabin floor.
When viewed from the side, you can catch some more aero improvement measures in the retractable door handles and the clean surfacing. The big 20-inch, specially designed alloys are a standout feature, and it is reassuring to note that despite its not so upright raised stance, the IONIQ 5’s ground clearance is still a segment-leading 163mm (when laden). The clearance has been raised by about 10 mm for Indian conditions. The e-SUV’s design is even more retro-modern and very European when viewed from the side. The waistline, side character line, etc. are simple straight pen stroke lines that merge into others with a clear purpose. The rear of the IONIQ 5 is really where it delivers the design impact of an SUV. The heavily layered surfaces and the rectangular tailgate with the large rear glass give it the character. The cuboid LED light elements within the tail-lamps and the connecting translucent panel with a sharp, thin LED light strip that runs across bring similarity to the headlamp’s configuration, but have been neatly reworked for the rear. To retain symmetry, the air flaps from the front have been replicated in the rear fender too, where they are dummies. In fact, the IONIQ 5’s design symmetry borders on being a bit absurdly perfect. Some elements, like the lip below the headlamps and taillamps, are seemingly unrealistic and yet fall into place. There is also a central stripe on both of these lips above both the fenders, and that looks like it cuts the vehicle in half. Smart packaging has enabled the mounting of cameras and radar/lidar equipment behind this spot.
Stepping into the IONIQ 5’s cabin leads to the discovery that the interior too adopts the minimalist design principles that make the exterior design special. Again, the cabin gets a very European flavour. In fact, it can confuse new entrants into the cabin because there is no Hyundai logo anywhere. The cabin layout and design is elegant, modern, and very Scandinavian in its choice of surfaces, colours and materials. It is another matter that the beige, dark grey, and ivory leatherette and soft-touch dashboard surfaces are going to be really difficult to keep clean as the vehicle ages. Talking about materials, there are several sustainably created and sourced materials in the IONIQ 5’s cabin. The fabric is mostly plastic bottles that have been recycled and woven into fabric for the seat back and door handles; the leatherette seat covers have been treated with flaxseed oil; the headliner and carpets have bio-components from sugarcane and corn; and the paperette on the door panels has been made from HDPE.
The space in the cabin is generous, thanks in part to the long wheelbase and the flat-floor that the born-electric E-GMP (electric global modular platform) and electric powertrain allow. All the seats, including the rear seats, get electric adjustments, and the legroom, kneeroom, and headroom are all very good. The perforated front seats themselves are well-constructed with thick side bolsters, and they also get ventilation and heating. The front seats also get footrests that flip out if the backrest is adjusted to a business-class-style lying-down position. Boosting the practicality of the cabin is the sliding centre console, and I’m talking about the entire unit (not just the lid) going back and forth. And in the absence of a gear stick and with a flat floor, the driver or the front passenger can simply scooch over to the other side if the IONIQ 5 is parked in a tight spot. The other useable feature is the slide-out tray-style glove box.
The dashboard layout is simple, with the 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment display and the similarly sized digital instrument unit sitting within a single frame at the top of the dash. The aircon vents and controls are the only features on the centre stack. The two-spoke steering wheel has a circular drive mode selector in addition to the other controls for the infotainment system, cruise control, and changing drive-related info. The drive selector itself is a thick stalk with a rotating knob, just below the headlamp and turn-indicator stalk, to choose between drive, neutral, reverse, and parking. Some of the other cabin features include an 8-speaker Bose music system, heated door mirrors, ambient lighting, a fixed panoramic moonroof (only the headliner can be opened), a powered tailgate, and a total luggage storage volume of 584-litres including 57-litres from the frunk (front trunk), which would have otherwise had the engine.
The battery pack of the IONIQ 5 is packed under the floor of the cabin, and the entire safety cell of the vehicle has been built around it. Featuring an integrated motor unit that includes the inverter and the EV’s single-speed reduction gear transmission, the system is designed to deliver smooth, quick rear-wheel drive performance. The traction motor is mounted on the rear axle, and together with the integrated charging control unit and the bi-directional charging plug, the IONIQ can be charged and also used to draw power for V2L (vehicle-to-load) applications. The 72.6kW lithium-ion battery pack can be charged in about seven hours using a 11.3kW AC charger (supplied with the vehicle), or one can even get a 10–80 per cent charge from a 50kW fast DC charger (where available). A full charge from the battery is said to be capable of delivering a driving range of 631 km (ARAI rating). Real world driving range is likely to be closer to 400 km plus or minus depending on driving style and road conditions.
The electric motor in the IONIQ 5 delivers a peak power of 217 PS and a peak torque of 350 Nm. The motor is said to be capable of powering the just under two-tonne vehicle to 100 kmph from standstill in 7.6 seconds. Turn the stalk of the drive-by-wire selector to drive, and you can be on the roll. There are three drive modes to choose from Eco, Normal, and Sport, with not just the throttle response but also the steering weight and feel changing between them. Throttle response is predictably quick in sport mode and even pins me back into the seat a bit when I floor the pedal. Yet, the acceleration is not really as instantaneous as some of the luxury brand electrics that I’ve driven recently. The vehicle also gets four selectable levels of regenerative braking.
There is also a sense of unease that I experienced during the relatively short test drive of the IONIQ 5. The cabin is extremely well insulated, and the noise levels are very low. The suspension also erases much of the impact from the road, with a good balance between being firm and pliant. The fact that the weight of the battery pack under the floor helps equalise weight distribution means that there is not much one feels even during mid-to-hard braking. So, I wonder if that mild unease was due to a mix of these factors leading to a complete isolation from the drive experience. Clearly, I haven’t yet eased into the EV ecosystem and its experiences.
Incidentally, I wasn’t even using any of the ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) features, including the level 2 autonomous ones like lane-keeping, collision avoidance, lane departure, rear cross traffic, blind-spot assistance and warning, etc. The interesting one in this suite of features is safe exit assistance, which locks the rear door if the system detects an oncoming vehicle while someone is attempting to disembark from the rear.
The IONIQ 5 also gets Hyundai’s BlueLink suite of connected car tech—over 60 remotely accessible features. In addition, it also offers home-to-car commands via Alexa and Google Assistant. Multiple other safety features are also part of the trim package on offer. There are three body colours to choose from, including the gravity gold matte that you see in these pictures.
Though both the IONIQ 5 and the Kia EV6 share the same E-GMP platform, Hyundai has been able to gain a pricing advantage due to the local assembly of the IONIQ 5. The ₹46 lakh price tag makes it quite attractive, even for those buyers who may have been sitting on the wall trying to decide if they should go electric. It is also a price point where, today, one can only hope to buy the base trim variant of an entry-level luxury car.