2017 Hyundai Ioniq First Drive: Gauntlet thrown

– Santa Barbara, California

Everyone wants to challenge the king. When Hyundai set out to create the Ioniq – a new model that would come with three vastly different powertrains, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric – the directive was to give it the world’s best fuel economy. This was, of course, years before anyone knew just how efficient the next-gen Toyota Prius would be. Well, it’s 2017 now and we’ve got the numbers. The most efficient new Prius gets 56 miles per gallon. The best Ioniq hybrid? 58. And what about MPGe, for the all-electric model? The previous efficiency champ was the BMW i3, which can get up to 124 MPGe. The Ioniq EV, though, trounces that with 136 MPGe. Hyundai doesn’t have EPA numbers for the PHEV just yet (it arrives in the fourth quarter), but you bet that the 133-MPGe Prius Prime is worrying.

But cars are more than their numbers. Green cars perhaps more so, since too many people see a high mpg rating or an electric range figure and think they know what that means. I'm here to tell you that unless you've driven a Tesla, a new Prius, or the Chevy Bolt, it's time to rethink what defines a green car. And the Ioniq is a great place to start.

That's because the Ioniq not only introduces something totally new (there are no other vehicles out there with these three powertrain options in one model), but because it does them all well. We'll get to what's different between the three versions in a moment, but for now let's just take a look at what's the same.