Sunday 25 February 2018

Hyundai Ioniq: 'The Ioniq is smoothness personified'

Could Campbell Spray conquer his range anxiety when he had the new Hyundai Ioniq for his holiday week?

THE STYLISH HYUNDAI IONIQ: Superbly well-equipped and best family electric car out there.
THE STYLISH HYUNDAI IONIQ: Superbly well-equipped and best family electric car out there.
IDYLLIC: Organic, dog-friendly and very relaxing: BrookLodge in Wicklow

Come the hour, come the holiday, come the car, come the hotel...it's strange how things work out. When you think you deserve a bit of luck, it sometimes has a way of finding you. We hadn't taken any time out since going to Donegal - now adjudged the "coolest place on the planet" - at the end of June so the week in November was long overdue.

It was my youngest daughter's graduation and my partner and I also wanted a dog-friendly hotel in the country to visit. But what car?

For a trip into the wilds of deepest Wicklow an electric one wouldn't have been my first choice but that was how the cookie - or at least the bookings - crumbled.

There has been a lot of hype over the Hyundai Ioniq, with its claims to be the first car in full electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid mode. Also, with a certifiable range of 280kms in pure e3lctric mode, it outperforms even the latest version of the Nissan Leaf. As it is a completely new car it has the chance to have all the styling touches, sharp design, comforts and safety features which are so far lacking in the Nissan trail-blazer. That together with the five-year unlimited mileage warranty against three years/100,000kms from Nissan and Toyotas, with its Prius, means that Hyundai has a proposition that they can really shout about.

But it doesn't matter just how big your list of equipment is, or tasty design, what matters to the aspiring electric car driver is dealing with range anxiety. That is going on a trip and finding yourself perilously close to - or even out of battery life - in some remote location.

It is still the main reason why electric sales have been so sluggish.

And so my heart and mind were both a bit exercised when we set off from Dublin to visit the BrookLodge Hotel and Wells Spa in Aughrim, Co Wicklow. We were a bit late getting ready, Sam had to be walked and the cats nourished. There was no time to go over the mountains which would have saved battery life with the braking regeneration loop. It was to be full speed down the MII before turning off at Ashford and Rathnew for Rathdrum and onward to Aughrim. And, of course, the range suffered. I will totally believe people who get the full 280kms around town but halfway through our trip the excellent read-out on the fascia were pointing to the fact that by the 90kms it would take to get to Macreddin Village, the home of BrookLodge, we would have used half our battery life. I snapped at my partner to look for charging stations through the satnav, but she wasn't to be bullied by me or technology. Of course we should have checked if the hotel had a charging point. Being all organic it was the sort of place that probably would but we hadn't thought to find out. The afternoon was getting darker and colder as was my mood.

I loved the car, super smooth, comfortable, brilliantly specced and at €28,495 including all grants good value for a real family car, but my mind was distracted thinking of hassles the next day if I had to go and find a charging station when again we would be up against it in time.

Soon enough we turned into BrookLodge, unpacked the car and took Sam down his ramp and walked towards the reception passing the two nearest parking spaces to the hotel complete with ESB charging points. Everything changed, I could relax.

There was a beautiful dog-friendly room including a letter to Sam from the hotel's two retrievers and pack of chews. Wonderful massages in the spa followed, pints in the hotel's own pub and dinner in the Italian restaurant. It was worth every penny. I woke to a new universe and a great breakfast. I could crack this electric car thing. It just needs a bit of planning.

There will probably be up to 1,000 Ioniqs sold next year in all its guises. It deserves to do well as it is a brilliant drive with all the bells and whistles you would want.Yet while the styling outside is good - if rather reminsiscent of the Prius - inside it is rather bland with some poorish materials. Pricing is good though; the EV is a bit more than the Leaf but worth it, while the hybrid well undercuts the Prius.

The Ioniq is smoothness personified. Just touch either the button for reverse or drive and you are off. Nothing more to do than steer and, as Martin Brennan says below, that could be going soon.

And that is the problem with technology, especially with electric cars. As Andrew English was writing in the Daily Telegraph last weekend from the Los Angeles Auto Show, where he compared electric cars from Jaguar, Porsche and Tesla, "that's the trouble with EVs right now. The technology is like that of the early mobile telephone; buy one today and it'll be blown away by what you are able to buy tomorrow."

Yet with all the advertising that Nissan is doing now, the push by car-makers including BMW, Daimler, Ford and Volkswagen to collaborate on establishing charging stations along major European highways and the very urgent need to really start cutting emissions, the electric proposition is very much there.

The Ioniq doesn't quite live up to the hype before the launch but Hyundai probably has the best offering in the electric/hybrid family car range out there now and seeing how well they have been doing over the last few years there's no reason to think that won't continue.

There's no point in thinking electric and not checking it out. You, like me, might then start to relax about range anxiety. I'm probably not fully there yet but I'm well on the way.

Sunday Independent

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