Just One Thing...The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid.
There are four words to keep in mind when discussing fuel economy.  They are the disclaimer in every advertisement that touts an EPA estimate: "Your mileage may vary."

You see, what we have here in the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited, at least in the humble opinion of yours truly, is a perfectly-timed Prius killer.  There's just one thing...

Rear 3/4 view of 2017 Hyundai Ioniq
2017 Hyundai Ioniq.
First, the good stuff.  Hyundai has built a car very much like a fastback version of the Hyundai Elantra, a car we like a lot.  But this one is powered by a hybrid system consisting of a 1.6-liter four and a 32 kw electric motor that makes a combined 139 horsepower.  Unlike the current-generation Toyota Prius, it looks and drives like a conventional automobile.  But that's the good stuff that didn't pay off for previous Prius challengers like the Honda Insight, Honda Civic Hybrid and Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, which are dead and gone.

However, those cars competed against the Prius at the height of its popularity, which seems to have taken a big hit with the controversial re-design.  Which is why the Ioniq is perfectly-timed.

Interior view of 2017 Hyundai Ioniq
2017 Hyundai Ioniq.
Also in its favor, at least in our book, is a conventional and contemporary interior.  No center-mounted speedometer, no oddball shifter.  And the driving experience, while not exhilarating, is a lot closer to that of a typical compact car than the Prius' somewhat disconnected feel.

And at $27,500 base for the Limited, which comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, proximity key entry and pushbutton start, dual automatic climate control, heated front seats, leather seating surfaces, a power driver's seat with lumbar control, an audio system with HD Radio and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, it's one heckuva bargain.

Even with the $3,000 Ultimate Package (automatic emergency braking, smart cruise control, lane departure warning, headlights with dynamic bending light function, rear parking sensors, navigation, an upgraded eight-speaker Infinity audio system, Qi wireless charging, memory driver's seat, a cargo cover and floor console mounted rear vents), plus $125 for carpeted floor mats, the bottom line of $31,460 (including $835 inland freight and handling) is about three grand less than we see for similarly-loaded Priii.

Just one thing...

The EPA estimated fuel economy for the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid is 55 city/54 highway.  Hyundai's pushing that number like crazy, because it puts it ahead of the Prius' 54 city/50 highway.


Fuel economy readout of 2017 Hyundai Ioniq
2017 Hyundai Ioniq fuel economy readout.
In a week's worth of driving, in ECO mode the entire time, we averaged 45.7 miles per gallon.  That's very nearly 10 mpg less than the EPA estimate.  Yes, when you get into numbers this high, that's a less than 10 percent margin of error, but every time I've driven a Prius, I've hit the EPA number.

Lest you think that the better driving dynamics of the Ioniq led to a lead foot:

Driving pattern readout for 2017 Hyundai Ioniq
2017 Hyundai Ioniq driving pattern readout.
The Hyundai's own computer says I drove economically 29 percent of the time, normally (again in ECO mode) 67% of the time and aggressively for only four percent.  So that's not why.  And looking around the web, I see other reviewers are coming up with similar results...most under 50 mpg, and many considerably under 50.  I'm not seeing anyone, not even the green car specialists for whom hypermiling is part of the skillset, get close to 55.

Don't get me wrong: 45.7 mpg is a strong number.  And on balance, I'd still rather have the Ioniq than a Prius.  But the compact hybrid segment is made up of buyers who are fixated on the EPA estimate.  And that 10 mpg gap (your mileage may vary) could be what keeps the Ioniq from winning over the hearts and minds of people who buy these cars.