NZ's most underrated electric car? Hyundai's new EV goes on a 1000km mission
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2020 Hyundai Ioniq EV
• Simple to use
• Much improved cabin
• Solid range
• Not a looker
• Some suspect cabin plastics
There's this theory that all New Zealanders burst forth from the womb with a determined passion for cars and for driving; screaming for their mothers while clasping their little fingers around the keys to a Kingswood.
Yes, a significant amount of Kiwis love being behind the wheel, but it's not nearly as simple as merely being a by-product of folklore or culture.
Our love for driving is, I think, born out of necessity. Nurtured by the way we're enveloped by some of the most picturesque and interesting places in the world. No matter where you are in the country, a quiet sandy cove or piece of craggy mountainous landscape is less than an hour away.
By car, that is.
The six hour, 500km trip from Auckland to Feilding isn’t exactly an iconic road trip. But, it does bisect some of the country’s most interesting locations. Taupo, Turangi, and the snowy Mt Ruapehu’s shadow over the Desert Road are among the star sights along this trek.
It’s also a journey that’s become familiar to me after four years of New Zealand Grand Prix attendance, to the point where stealing away a shiny press vehicle for the drive has become a tradition in its own right.
And, after carrying out the drive in a sports car, a hot hatch, and a big cruisy SUV, it seemed right to have a go with a fully electric car. Enter the newly refreshed Hyundai Ioniq EV Series II; a tweaked sequel to one of Driven’s favourite electrified vehicles.
All three Ioniq variants — the hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and this EV — have had a recent overhaul. Each has had a face-lift and a cabin revamp; the latter framed around Hyundai's latest infotainment updates via a more upright screen with full mobile connectivity and half decent satnav.
Given the financial outlay of the Ioniq (we'll get to that soon), you'd expect the rest of the interior to be fairly solid. It ticks most boxes. The wide rear hatch makes loading in and out of the 350-litre boot a throughtless exercise (the standard hybrid packs over 100 litres extra).
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Rear space is ample for a couple of adults to survive a road trip like this one without breaching the Geneva Convention. And Hyundai's decision to form most of the interior out of a light grey instead of stark black makes for it airy, refreshing place to be. But, that said, some of the plastics scattered around the place — particularly around the centre console — leave a bit to be desired.
The revamped EV's most important off-season development is range.
The new 38.8kWh lithium-ion battery isn't as big as the 64kWh behemoth in its Kona EV sibling, but it's still good for a WLTP-rated range of 311km per charge — a huge 111km growth spurt over its predecessor, with power increasing to 100kW, too.
Improvements in aerodynamics also play a role, with the new Ioniq EV sporting an 'active' front grille featuring flaps that open and close automatically for additional cooling.
The other huge growth spurt is in price. Electric Ioniq has gone up by six grand to $65,990 for our entry-level tester, with the top-spec Elite increasing to $71,990. For what it's worth, the base model with its comfy cloth seats gets my nod.
Comfort was never going to be a concern in crossing the north island with the Ioniq. Those seats, the soft but well weighted ride, the light controls, and the silence of its powertrain (aided by one of the best drag coefficients in class) add up to one of the most relaxing cars one could hope to ride in.
No, this was a question of range.
It's not as simple as taking that 311km figure and extrapolating it to plan your route. In some ways, it's almost worth forgetting that the figure even exists, given that so many things can sway an EV's mileage capabilities. Having air conditioning on, for example, can carve 20km off what's displayed on the range counter.
The plan was a simple one; make a solitary stop in Taupo each way, plug it into the main 50kWh charger (one of these will charge it from empty to 80 per cent in 57 minutes), go for a nice stroll along the lake with a hot panini or dirty Big Mac thrown in for good measure, then leave with the option of a light splash-n-dash before the destination on either side.
The reality was that, even though Taupo was under 280km from my starting point, it was becoming clear by the halfway mark that the Ioniq's 311km of 'real world range' wouldn't be sufficient thanks to flagrant disregard for the air-con and the volume of hills and peaks on the road down.
The solution was a 26-minute stop in Tokoroa, which in turn was enough to comfortably get me past Taupo and into Turangi for a full 51-minute charge to 80 per cent.
Predictably, the journey home was similarly fraught. A big hunk of SH1 happened to close overnight, meaning Turangi was again the first port of call. A dusky stop in Cambridge on the cusp of Hamilton sealed the journey — our fly-spattered Ioniq forced to wait 10 minutes for another Ioniq to finish its top-up.
Throwing in all the diversions to access chargers, I'd estimate that the Ioniq's EV factor added around an hour and a half to each leg of the journey — at the price of $68.44 in charging (not including being plugged in overnight).
Realising there were no good quality chargers around was never a real fear of the trip (there are 200 dotted around the country, and growing). Even a place like Bulls, where every third vehicle on the main road is a truck and trailer, military Unimog, or a tank, has an available fast charger.
Instead, it's the little niggles and variables that still grate.
The gracelessness of plugging an extension cord into a bathroom socket and then weaving wires through the hotel blinds and out the window to the Ioniq for overnight charging, for example, wasn't something I'd remotely considered. And a sudden road closure or car crash ahead on route still has the potential to throw an EV roadie into chaos.
As for the Ioniq?
Well, its latest raft of improvements make it as solid as ever — especially when compared to its arch rival, the Nissan Leaf. And while a similarly sized but more expensive Tesla Model 3 (it and the Ioniq both being former Driven Electric Car of the Year winners) will bring more fun factor and tech novelty, the Ioniq fights back with far more comfort and better build quality to boot.
The Korean EV will, understandably, continue to be a popular choice with fleets. For it's sake, I hope the big boost in range sees private buyers give it a taste, too. Just know that, if you're one of them and if you're wanting to explore the coves and crests of this country, you'll need to be prepared.