When I last addressed my desire for an electric vehicle here, I came up short. Not in terms of locating a desirable ride: I found a few of those, including the Mercedes EQS 580 and the Porsche Taycan Turbo CrossTurismo, and, a little later, the Audi E-Tron GT RS. No, I came up short on cash, as all of these cars are priced well over $120,000, more than a few tax brackets beyond my means.
But since the Before Times of 2019, when it appeared in concept form at the Frankfurt Auto Show, I’ve been longing for a chance to test the Hyundai Ioniq5. Not only because it resembles a stunning reinterpretation (by master Hyundai head designer SangYup Lee) of a concept Giugiaro had penned for the brand back when it was first launching in the 1970s. But because it seemed to combine, in one package, everything I desire in an electric car.
These yearnings include: great design, clever and delightful packaging, decent range, a somewhat affordable price, and all-wheel drive. Also, a lack of the overwhelming scale and girth that seems to be plaguing many of the current and forthcoming offerings in the EV category. (If gigantic trucks are dumb, gigantic electric trucks are also dumb.)
For perspective, I own five vintage cars, but my current daily driver — a 2018 VW Golf Alltrack wagon (with a six-speed manual, naturally) — is perfectly sized for my bifurcated urban-rural life, irregularly traversing the 115 miles between a shambolic rental in New York City and my house upstate, while maintaining plenty of room for friends, friends’ pets, friends’ physical and emotional baggage, friends’ adventure equipment, and the occasional flea-market furniture find.
The Ioniq5 is just two inches longer than my VW, and just three-and-a-half inches higher and wider. It seems to get categorized as a compact crossover, but, to me, it’s a hatchback. The extra height isn’t an issue — you don’t clamber up into it as you would the Subaru Forester Wilderness I just tested. (The Wilderness is nearly 10 inches taller than my wagon, a fact that seems impossible until you park them side-by-side.) Neither is the additional length, especially because the Ioniq5’s wheelbase is a full, mind-blowing 15 inches longer than my VW’s, creating a cabin that is roomy, airy, and really pleasant to be in. The optional full glass roof, with its clamshellpower-operated shade, helps.
Comparing a car’s interior to a first-generation iPod became cliché around the release of the first-generation Chevrolet Volt, but there is a retro-futuristic simplicity to the inside of the Ioniq5 that’s compelling and soothing. Simple, uncluttered surfaces, quality materials, and a jewelry-like smattering of metal buttons and switches — and what appears to be sliced and etched stone in the door and dash trim — make the Hyundai’s interior feel technical and healthful, like a really pleasant MRI lab.
Though it could use a few more knobs and buttons. Say, for tuning the radio, or getting the infotainment display back to its homepage. Or for controlling the seat and steering wheel heaters. Why do designers insist on putting seat-heater functions at the bottom of a futzy touchscreen menu when they know we’ll be wearing gloves every time we try to activate them?
Speaking of seats, I would have loved the felty bentwood Eames-meets-Saarinen-like pods SangYup showed on the concept car. At least Hyundai was nice enough to include leg extenders and footrests in the vegan-leather driver’s seat, for those of us who like to nap while waiting at a charging station. The car can handle high-speed charging up to 350 kW, which, theoretically, will bring the battery from 10% to 80% charge in just 18 minutes — but good luck finding a functioning fast-charger in most parts of the U.S. right now. At least the Ioniq’s flat floor and plentiful storage meant plenty of room for my laptop and backpack, so I could write this story from the driver’s seat while charging up (how meta). A sizable dog could run around inside this car without ever bumping into a person.
I tested the top-of-the-line Ioniq5 Limited AWD. Motors at each axle put forth a total of 320 hp and 446 lb-ft of torque, enough to hustle the nearly 2.5-ton compact from 0-60 in a smidge over 5 seconds — not warp speed, but plenty quick for me. Its 256 miles of range should get me upstate and back in one charge (single-motor RWD versions get a claimed 303 miles of range). The finned 20-inch turbine wheels, in particular, really compliment the body’s Wüsthof-sharp creases. And the tires, wider and stickier than those on most “small” EVs, give the 5 a sporting edge, with smooth, neutral handling that is, well, very VW-esque.
The Ioniq5 that I drove cost an astounding $55,000 before tax incentives, which, between federal, state, and local, can add up to a five-figure discount. And while all of the advanced driver assistance features it had were nice, I’d forego most of them — blind spot monitoring, remote parking (which doesn’t work in NYC, where parking is the most painful), and even the aforementioned Relaxation Function driver’s seat — and save around $7,000 by downgrading to a SE or SEL Long-Range AWD. After federal rebate alone, this gets me down to a car that costs around $40,000. That’s much closer to my blood type.
A friend in the industry pointed out that the Ioniq5 might be one of those cars that garners love from automotive journalists, but lacks broad popular appeal — kind of like my compact, manual, all-wheel-drive, canceled-due-to-slow-sales station wagon. I told him I don’t give a shit if it’s a mainstream hit. “Let’s cheer on the outliers,” I told him, “the cars that move the whole industry forward.”
I’m not dumb enough to buy any car in the current supply chain-choked, markup-dominated sales environment. But this Hyundai is a hit for me, and it’ll be at the top of my list when I finally make my first EV purchase.