The latest piece on Hyundai's EV 'chess board' has arrived. Can it be as interesting to drive as to look at?
By Stephen Dobie / Wednesday, 26 April 2023 / Loading comments
We should apparently think of Hyundai’s range as chess pieces carefully arranged on a board. (Stay with me, because I promise this is a flowery marketing statement with at least some substance.) Design chief SangYup Lee wants his cars to share a family feel, but hopes to avoid the cookie-cutter approach some (German) brands have fallen into by attempting the same thing.
So while there might be a familiar feel to every Hyundai, there will also be an obviously different look to signify differing roles and capabilities. This is why the Ioniq 5 and 6 vary so much aesthetically, the former angular and chiselled (and really quite handsome, wouldn’t you agree?) while the latter is all curves. Lee doesn’t go as far as describing which individual chess pieces his cars signify, although he does admit the King is played by the startling N Vision 74 concept…
The Ioniq 6 is angled more towards empty nesters than the 5 and looks less awkward in the metal than images perhaps suggest. It’s clearly not as bold as the old 1930s streamliners it apparently cribs from – see the Phantom Corsair and Tatra T77 for some of its claimed influences – and the proportions are relatively conventional up close. But that doesn’t stop it from being an arresting and appealing piece of design, and not as overwrought up close as you might fear. Its 0.21 Cd profile is also near-as-dammit as slippery as a Mercedes EQS’, a car whose design arguably surrenders too much character to the aerodynamic cause.
Its interior continues down the individuality path – the dashboard looks like it has its collars flicked up, chiefly to host the displays of the side cameras if you’ve specced them, ensuring it all looks a bit odd if you haven’t – yet the overall impression is of minimalism. The clean-cut surfaces of the Ioniq 5 continue, just in an environment that’s keener to envelop and cosset you. Hyundai’s also not afraid to use bright and breezy cabin colours rather than the default blacks and greys, too. But while you sit lower in here than in a 5, it’s still not quite low enough. Its battery cells raise the floor and you’re never as low-slung as the exterior styling seems to promise. Nor does the steering wheel reach out quite far enough to your chest.
Which is only a shame because dynamically there’s plenty to like. The Ioniq 6 launches in two guises; a 228hp and 258lb ft Ioniq 6 RWD kicks things off at £47,040, while the AWD nudges over the £50k mark but offers 325hp and 446lb ft in return. Both claim around 330 miles of range with their shared 77.4kWh battery brimmed. You can top it up nice and quickly given their 800v architecture and its ability to wring the full potential from ultra-fast chargers, too.
It feels more than quick enough in base trim and – I promise this is a compliment – screams ‘cossetting repmobile’ thus specced. Progress is smooth, swift and near silent but there’s an underlying tautness to its handling that gives people like us faith they’re driving something that’s had time and care lavished on its development. You can even turn off the stability control with a simple button press and go looking for low-speed moments of mischief, too. Not really what this car’s about, of course – but thoroughly amusing that it’s possible.
It’s the 325hp AWD version that receives the most attention though, with a relatively modest £3,500 and 110kg premium to pay for its additional 97hp and 188lb ft, enough to slice over two seconds from the 0-62mph time. It’s mighty quick too, the force of its acceleration comfortably sustained past the point the RWD car begins to tail off. If you want proof your extra cash was well spent, a sub-menu switches the car into a rear-drive mode and thus the peak power of the base car. Presumably, it’s meant for efficiency rather than being any sort of drift mode…
Naturally, there is plenty of other adjustment available besides: four drive modes, four levels of brake regen (neatly adjusted through the paddle shifters) and four levels of electronic powertrain noise. To my own surprise, I liked ‘Minimised’, handily the first notch above ‘Off’. Whichever power output you choose it handles pretty deftly; the lightness of touch of all its controls means you’re rarely drawn into hustling the thing, but it responds pretty precisely when you do, keeping its mass neatly in check, a firm edge to the ride at urban speeds paying dividends when you throw its range figure to the wind and start enjoying yourself. In short, there’s a very strong base for the inevitable N version (seemingly previewed by the Hyundai RN22e concept).
If dynamism is your number one priority, you might be inclined to stick with a BMW M340i in this price range. Perhaps your use case simply forces you to. But if you’re dead set on an electric car this is right up there with the most appealing on sale.
I try to avoid getting too evangelical about intelligent platform sharing, as it’s hardly likely to whip enthusiasts into a frenzy, but the E-GMP base that sits below all manner of electric Hyundai, Kia and Genesis models is clearly a good ‘un. As was the decision to hire Tyrone Johnson, the guru of the Mk3 Focus RS, for the chassis tuning. The base of all Hyundai’s chess pieces is increasingly strong.
I’ll be the first to admit that £50,000 for a Hyundai saloon is strong, but at first glance its daring curves you might have you assuming the Ioniq 6 is gunning for the Porsche Taycans of this world rather than the Tesla Model 3s. It certainly wins a lot more of my affection than the latter, its interior blending tradition and technology deftly. Sure, there are lots of gadgets and the occasional bout of gimmickry, but crucially it’s all laid out right where you’d expect it to be, and mercifully free of oversized tablet screens. And it all feels brilliantly screwed together, too.
Perhaps, when the N version does land, this car really will take things to the Taycan. Given how the Kia EV6 GT almost pitches itself as a chunkier half-price alternative, I think it’s fair to keep our hopes high for N Division’s electric future. Anyone still not taking the Koreans seriously might soon find themselves on the wrong end of a game-losing checkmate.
Specification | Hyundai Ioniq 6 AWD
Engine: Dual motors, 77.4kWh battery
Transmission: Single-speed, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 325
Torque (lb ft): 446
Top speed: 115mph
Range: 322 miles
- Hyundai RN22e | PH Review
- Hyundai N Vision 74 | PH Review
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