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Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid Premium SE 2017 review

This is not a car to be hustled. From the very first mile the plug-in flaunts the same characteristics as its siblings, being laid back and hushed, and it always seems to be caught by surprise when asked of maximum acceleration. But this relaxed demeanour won’t have come by accident, given that many buyers in this segment opt for electrified models for that very reason.

When fully charged the car defaults to EV mode, where the motor does all of the work and the petrol engine only cuts into life under heavy acceleration. It’s a shame that you can’t opt to stick with electric power for longer, because the engine kicks in well before you press the throttle kick-down button into the carpet. But even with its occasional intervention, you’ll still be averaging miles per gallon that far exceed the trip computer’s 99.9mpg maximum readout.

Hyundai claims that the batteries can offer 39 miles of range in this mode, although our urban test brought that figure closer to 30. When left to make its own decisions in HEV mode, the electric motor does all the work when pulling away, before the petrol engine gently contributes as the speedo rolls into double digits. With gentle throttle applications it’s a seamless process, but ask for more power and the engine’s contribution can suddenly jolt acceleration with a gruff note to match.

Keep the throttle pressed and the dual-clutch gearbox, despite being quick shifting, does noticeably break apart acceleration, making the Ioniq PHEV feel more conventional than the Prius and its uninterrupted progress. Drive with the flow of traffic and you’ll be rewarded with urban economy of around 55mpg.

Switch the gear lever across into Sport mode and the digital instrument cluster ahead turns red and swaps a speedo for a rev counter, with the speed displayed digitally beneath. The instant response of the electric motor does make the car feel quicker than the 0-62mph time suggests, but once rolling progress remains at best steady. This, coupled with the car’s roly-poly suspension setup that still manages to vibrate over road imperfections, emphasises the car’s eco character.

The satisfaction of the Ioniq plug-in comes not from straining its hybrid powertrain, but from chasing high mpg numbers and maximising range. The car’s digital instrument cluster permanently displays where energy is moving, showing when charge is being gathered by the regenerative system and when it’s being depleted under acceleration. Even when coasting the system can collect energy – we noticed a notch of extra battery charge reappeared when coasting down a hill for 20 seconds – showing how eco-friendly driving can have a significant impact on fuel usage in the plug-in.

Venture onto the motorway and road noise can get rather loud, especially over concrete surfaces, although this is perhaps heightened through illusion thanks to the lack of drivetrain noise. The fitment of adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist makes the scenario effortless, from a driver’s point of view, and we averaged over 80mpg on a run at outside lane pace. And what of the passengers?

They certainly aren’t short of space, with plenty of kneee room in the back.

Although, like the Ioniq’s archrival Prius, space for a middle rear passenger is narrow.

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