First Drive: 2016 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, a home run no one saw coming

Hyundai Sime Darby Malaysia (HSDM) became nothing short of an overnight sensation following the official launching of the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. For the longest time, the Korean brand dipped way below the radar, eclipsed by rivalling brands whose fresh crop of products offered greater value than anything in the Hyundai stable. That is, until now.

In other markets, the Ioniq is offered in three configurations: 1.6-litre hybrid, 1.6-litre plug-in hybrid and an all-electric version. Hyundai chose to go with a dual-clutch transmission setup, straying away from the usual CVT route employed by most other prominent hybrid carmakers. Apparently, it makes driving a tad more fun, and with 265 Nm on tap (for the Malaysian 1.6L hybrid), it’s hard not to get excited.2016 Hyundai Ioniq 1.6L Hybrid Media Test Drive -


NameHyundai Ioniq Hybrid 1.6 HEVHyundai Ioniq Hybrid 1.6 HEV Plus
Engine1,580cc; four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle Kappa GDI
Transmission6-speed dual clutch transmission
Max Power104 hp @ 5,700 rpm
Max Torque147 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
Hybrid Motor Output43 hp & 170 Nm
Combine Max Power / Torque140 hp / 265 Nm
0 – 100 km/h; Top Speed11.1 seconds; 180 km/h10.8 seconds; 180 km/h
Fuel Consumption3.4 litres per 100km4.0 litres per 100km

Hyundai engineers used aluminium and high tensile strength steel wherever possible to bring overall weight down. They’ve also placed the battery pack under the rear passenger seat, yielding two salient outcomes: a more usable boot space and lower centre of gravity. In fact, the Ioniq’s centre of gravity is 3mm lower than the Volkswagen Golf (already one of the lowest in its class), imbuing the car with better dynamics and high-speed stability than most other cars in its segment.

So it’s fun, drives more confidently, powerful and is practical enough for the vast majority of people. Now, while many find the Ioniq ravishing, I myself am not generally fond of how eco cars look. If I had to choose between the Ioniq and the fourth-gen Prius based on looks alone, I’d steer more willingly towards the Japanese. But the Ioniq’s design is explicitly functional. Compared to the razor-cut Prius, the Ioniq is far more curvaceous on the whole, which by logic would make it less aerodynamic. But it isn’t.

In fact, it slices through air just as efficiently as the Prius with a drag coefficient of 0.24. Achieving this calls for clever aero know-how, so what Hyundai did was supply the car with a full-flat underbody, active air flaps in the front grille, air inlets just next to the LED DRLs and lightweight alloy wheels that all work in tandem to eradicate drag-creating air vortices. The wheels, although not the prettiest, contribute so much to aerodynamics that if you choose to go for an aftermarket set, the largest consequence to pay is fuel efficiency.


Ah, in case you’re wondering, Hyundai confirms that the rather advanced Kappa 1.6-litre Atkinson GDI can indeed take RON 95 fuel. The four banger makes 104 hp and 147 Nm of torque on its own. It’s aided by an electric motor capable of belting 43 hp and 170 Nm that’s juiced by a 1.56 kWh lithium-ion polymer (Li-Po, 240V) battery. The upsides to using Li-Po batteries are aplenty: it has a much higher charge/discharge rate and is denser compared to conventional NiMH (nickel metal hydride) batteries. The downside is, well, that it burns far more aggressively when caught on fire. Just Google them for proof!2016 Hyundai Ioniq 1.6L Hybrid Media Test Drive -

But worry not, because there’s no way the Ioniq would have gone on sale if there’s even a remote chance of it ending up as a bonfire. The battery pack is protected by what Hyundai calls a four-stage protection system, and its temperature is constantly monitored and regulated through an inlet in the rear-left side of the cabin. For firmer assurance, the entire body is tough enough to earn itself five stars from Euro NCAP.


With a combined output of 140 hp and 265 Nm of torque, the Ioniq feels decidedly urgent off the line and would sprint to 100 km/h in 10.8 seconds. At full whack, it will top out at 180km/h. However, the entire 265 Nm is only available in first gear, because the continuous charge and discharge cycles would cause the battery to generate too much heat. You don’t want your Li-Po to catch fire now, do you? 2016 Hyundai Ioniq 1.6L Hybrid Media Test Drive -

There’s still adequate thrust in second to fourth gear for most overtaking scenarios, but it gradually wanes in fifth and sixth gear for all the fuel saving causes. It’s a purebred eco car, so don’t expect the same kind of thrill you’d get from the equivalent Honda Civic 1.5 turbo or Ford Focus EcoBoost. A glance through the trip counter read 5.5 litres per 100km on mixed roads, including the many mischievous first-gear thrills upon exiting a toll booth. Its on-paper figure is 4.0L/100km which I think is reasonably achievable when driven under the right conditions.

Mounted just behind the front grille is a speaker unit which synthesises engine noise. It acts as a safety feature to warn pedestrians of an oncoming car – especially when creeping from behind – and even enhances engine noise as the revs go up! The six-speed twin-clutch transmission (dry clutch), though not free of flaws, is jerk-free and smooth. The flip side is the palpable delay in gear engagement, like a turbo lag of sorts.

The delay, as explained by Hyundai, is an intended function which protects the transmission from any premature wear and tear. It also creates enough time for the flywheel to properly latch onto the transmission. An all-new gearbox housing also helps prevent mechatronic failures that was once a commonality among DSG-equipped Volkswagens.


Despite all its sporty attributes, the Ioniq also proved to be decently comfortable for driver and passengers alike. So plush and supportive are the leather seats (accented with blue stitching) that few will find uncomfortable, even for extended city or highway drives. More importantly, there’s adequate headroom and legroom for rear passengers, while width is good for three average sized adults.

In place of the driver’s seat are the leather wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel and high-res LCD instrument cluster. The seat itself is powered 8-way, which includes a 2-way lumbar support as well. The steering wheel is especially impressive in the manner it’s contoured – not too meaty nor too thin. What’s equally nifty is that all on-wheel controls can be easily accessed by your two thumbs with minimal distraction. You can also change the graphics of your instrument cluster from Eco to Sport mode from the steering wheel controls.

2016 Hyundai Ioniq 1.6L Hybrid Media Test Drive -
The centre tunnel features a dedicated cutout to stow away mobile phones or even tablets!


Its safety features. It is beyond any doubt the most celebrated achievement by Hyundai Malaysia when it comes to the Ioniq. No one else have managed to cram in Smart (Adaptive) Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Detection and seven airbags into a C-Segment car and slap on a RM114k sticker price (inclusive of insurance!).

And they’re not just there for show either. Our test drive route gave ample opportunities to sample all the car’s safety features and they each worked flawlessly. Typically, any application of adaptive cruise control (SCC) would accelerate and brake the car abruptly, and they are mostly intrusive and unnatural. But the Ioniq’s execution was incredibly graceful and natural, almost as though I was doing it myself. When SCC is engaged, all the on-board radars and computers will constantly monitor the distance between you and the vehicle ahead, making necessary accelerations or decelerations with laudable accuracy. It’s almost, if not as refined as those in the Ford Everest and Volvo XC90 T8.2016 Hyundai Ioniq 1.6L Hybrid Media Test Drive -


There’s not a whole lot to dislike about this car, but the two things I can’t get past are its exterior design and the lack of paddle shifters. The fact that I raised the latter perfectly illustrates how impeccably well equipped this car is. Oh, before you ask, HSDM is offering an 8-Year unlimited mileage warranty for the battery. If in any case it gives way after the warranty period, it will cost you less than RM10,000 for a brand new pack.

Many industry colleagues agreed with surety that the Ioniq was possibly – and still is – the best deal ever to be presented in the Malaysian car-buying scene within the last decade. Perhaps, it may even be the closest thing to being the perfect, affordable city car.


Hyundai Ioniq 1.6L Hybrid Launch


  1. Come on Matt, the Ioniq isn’t the first hybrid car in the world with a dual-clutch transmission. Unless you state it as “the first dedicated hybrid car in the world with a DCT”.

    When Japan launched the new Fit Hybrid back in late 2013, it had a 7 speed DCT.

  2. Please review the HU as well. It seems entire way off from global models and seriously felt cheap like a China-made OEM unit with shoddily made crude UI.

    • Hello! From what we understand, Hyundai is working on an Android-based head unit. Whether or not it will be exclusive to our market or used globally remains to be seen. Unfortunately, we only had half a day with the Ioniq, so we couldn’t put the HU to the test. But I must say the HU was quite responsive! If that’s any consolation… Hahah.


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