Then again, attention to details such as those is what I think of when I envision new fully-electric products from the group. These three brands have become well-known for their forward-thinking design (and aesthetic) choices. I expected the same from the Ioniq 6. Still, it did have to do more than that, I reminded myself. This is a tough segment for what many folks still see as a bargain automaker. Also, both Tesla and Polestar both have fully-electric, two- or all-wheel drive sedans at this price point.
Design EvaluationLet’s stick with how the Hyundai-like-Sunday Ioniq 6 looks for a moment. The car received a lot of praise when its design debuted some months back, and I’m pleased to say it really holds up in person. As a quick side note, Hyundai-like-Sunday calls the pixels littered throughout the car’s design “parametric pixels.” We were told that over 600 of these little squares are in use throughout. You’ll find them in the lighting, seatback patterns, and on the car’s active air dams below the nose.
While they get all blocky and minimalistic, Hyundai uses the teardrop shape to net a killer drag coefficient - perfect for boosting range, so long as you’ve got the right/wrong wheels. More on that later.
Starting up front, the car’s curvy theme is dragged all the way to the rear. It builds to a crescendo at the roof, and despite its near-immediate drop in height at the rear passenger cell, a few of our six-foot journalist friends on the media drive were able to fit in the back - important when your competition is built by tall Swedes. At the rear, I see a retro-futuristic 911. The little pixel lights play nicely with the whale-tail spoiler, and my only complaint is that it isn’t big enough, though perhaps Porsche would really have something to say if it got any larger.
Interior AssessmentI want to say a quick 'thank you' before going further. Hyundai brought a base SE and a highly-optioned Limited car for the launch event - and to boot they made sure little ol’ me got some extra seat time to compare the two. This is very important, as I’m now able to tell you how to save money.
To the layperson, spotting differences between trims here is tough. SEL and Limited models add wireless charging, the Hyundai Digital Key, and ambient lighting. Frankly, I think wireless charging/phone projection is a fad. The charging creates too much heat and won’t efficiently charge your phone like a cable will. Still, many see this as a luxury.
Despite this, the interior is just as well-designed and thought-out as the exterior. While Tesla is technically a competitor here, the Model 3 is so far behind in material quality and usability that Hyundai wins that one easily. Even if the climate controls aren’t physical ones. I understand that this is cheaper than making buttons fitting of a $50k-ish car, but I’d rather have cheap plastic buttons any day.
Contrast this interior with the Swedes, and in all honesty, it comes down to preference. I believe that the Polestar 2 has a much nicer interior, both in its use of materials and its design. But I cannot argue with the functionality the Ioniq 6 brings, especially having heard some gripes about the Swedes’ implementation of the Google-driven infotainment. Anyway, with this car, displays are clear and the touchscreen, while sometimes a little slow, is easy to use. The wheel controls are also easy - and use buttons rather than dumb haptic nonsense. Realistically, I had almost no notes when asked what I would improve on the Ioniq 6 by a brand representative.
Driving TakeOnce I was done poking around the interior, it was time to set off. You may, like I so frequently did, hit the turn signal instead of the drive-selector stalk that sits just below it. Still, eventually the car will get moving.
I drove both the SE and Limited trims - rear and all-wheel drive respectively. The two probably wouldn’t feel that different to the majority of buyers. As with most cars, you only really feel the rear - or all-wheel drive when you push the car hard. No one will though, because regretably there isn't an Ioniq 6 N just yet.
So, how are these on the highway? Well, they’re slippery. The 6 is the slickest car Hyundai have ever made. Range doesn’t begin to noticeably fall until you start to worry about points on your driver’s license. Most importantly, the ultra-quiet electric drivetrain doesn’t give away any squeaks or rattles. These cars feel very solidly built. They’re also very comfy to ride around in. Even the base car has adjustable lumbar support, and I found all trims to be very comfortable.
Of course, the Georgia heat did make me wish for the Limited trim’s ventilated seats while cruising down the endless two-way roads outside Savannah. Speaking of cruising, we did quite a lot of it with the car’s ADAS enabled. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, for the laypeople. The system works well, but it certainly is not as polished as, say, Ford’s or Tesla’s. We also noticed a quirk while tooling around a Savannah suburb - the proximity sensors were "detecting" ghosts, beeping at us while we sat at a light. It happened a few times, then never again.
Everyday LivingThis section feels like the best place to have the range discussion that accompanies every EV review. First and foremost, you probably don’t need 300 miles of range on the daily. It’s a nicety, and brands have picked up on this arbitrary figure over the years, so here we are.
Now, that said, the best way to eek range out of the Ioniq 6 is to mind your wheel choice. The AWD, Limited model I drove had an EPA-estimated range of 270 miles on the window sticker. The rear-drive, base model in contrast, read an estimated 361 miles on the sticker. The reason? Two more electric motors, yes, but primarily - and this is right from Hyundai, those 20-inch wheels. That is more than 100 miles gone so you can flex with some shiny wheels.
Yes, yes, they look neat and they’re a nice aesthetic break from the aerodisk style all EVs have. But you need that small, aerodynamic wheel in order to extract all 361 miles of range this car is capable of. So, if you need range, get the base car, save a few grand, and live life without fake leather and ventilated seats. I would. Heck, you can even get a RWD SEL model, get most of the Limited’s luxury items, and still manage an estimated 305 miles on a single charge.
You can also make your '6' more comfortable before you get in thanks to Hyundai’s app, on higher trims. You can pre-condition the battery before charging (which the car can also do if you tell the nav to head for a charger), and you can set the climate control.
Now, this is a sedan. Most folks prefer crossovers. But this car’s competitors also happen to be sedans (arguments can be made about the high-riding Polestar 2). Really, you’ll be able to fit yourself, the kids, gear, and just about anything that isn’t furniture in this car without issue. The trunk is roomy enough, the ride more than plush, and the day-to-day usability near perfect. Plus, if you like how these cars feel but need an SUV, you can just go grab an equally quirky and fun Ioniq 5 for about the same money. This is one of the benefits of the platform-sharing I was harping on earlier.
Test Drive RoundupAll this leaves the Ioniq 6 right where it needs to be. Frankly, I wouldn’t touch a Model 3 with a 10-foot pole, especially given the man at the helm. This car blows Tesla out of the water. Polestar? Maybe a bit closer than either brand would like. Given its luxury leanings, you’d think the 270-mile, $51,900 Polestar 2 would be more expensive. You’d also expect the $57,425 Ioniq 6 Limited AWD to be cheaper.
- 800v architecture
- Wholly unique and interesting design
- Killer range
- Why do wheels eat so much range?
- Limited trim is more expensive than more luxurious competitors
- Why can’t we have physical climate controls in 2023?
- No range-saving 18-inch wheel option for higher trims