2023 Hyundai IONIQ 5 first drive review
It’s not the brightest idea, buying a car (or an electric car) purely on the basis of its styling, but in the case of the Hyundai IONIQ 5 EV – Hyundai's second electric car in India after the Kona – I’ll grant you that exception. Nobody will judge you because this is the best looking Rs 50 lakh car you can buy. Period. Sure styling is both personal and subjective but catch one of these electric Hyundais on the road and I guarantee your eyes will pop. This is stunning — there’s no other way of describing it. Of course Hyundai are no stranger to eye-popping styling, and not usually for the right reasons. Forget the Santro or the very first Verna, even the current Hyundai Creta is an acquired taste. But the IONIQ 5, wow, it’s a concept car that’s been driven straight out of the motor show and on to the road.
Hyundai IONIQ 5 styling
It is busy as hell, I’ll grant you that, with a million cuts, creases, slashes and folds. I tried counting the number of lines but I gave up before even reaching the sides. But where in the past we’d be questioning the potency of what the designers have been drinking, on the IONIQ 5 it all comes together brilliantly. This is not aggressive. This is not cute-sy. No nasty grilles. There’s nothing borrowed from any other manufacturer. There’s nothing borrowed from any current Hyundai either. It's refreshingly original and it in fact shows just how far Hyundai have come that they’re now tapping their very own back catalogue for design inspiration, the IONIQ 5 referencing the very first Hyundai, the Pony. Not that this will have any connect with us in India, the Pony predated the Santro by over two decades, but even without that frame of reference you’ll still love this Hyundai.
Check out the lighting. The technology is very much there for continuous LED DRL strips but the designers have gone for a pixel-effect that, to my eyes at least, harks back to the sci-fi movies that I grew up with, aliens gingerly poking out of their UFOs like in the ET movies. The so-called parametric pixel effect carries over to the tail lamps — and these surprise and delight features are clearly drawing buyers to the car. As of writing this test Hyundai only have display cars in a select few showrooms, not a single test drive has been offered to prospective customers, yet they’ve bagged 680 bookings. Prices too have gone up, by Rs 1 lakh from the introductory Rs 44.95 lakh price, and yet the pace of bookings shows no sign of slowing down. Hyundai India in fact insist that they have the capacity as well as the backing from headquarters to bring in more of these electric cars to satiate whatever demand there is. And they also insist that the customs duty hikes on EV kits announced in the latest budget will have no impact on either the pricing or their plans.
Hyundai IONIQ 5 platform
The IONIQ 5 might look like a hatchback in the pictures but in reality, at 4.6-metres in length, this is as big as a Hyundai Tucson and is even classified as an SUV. The ground clearance, 169mm laden, is the highest amongst all the Hyundais sold in India today so there’s some legitimacy to that claim. The wheels, again a super-busy design that somehow doesn’t look over the top, are a massive 20-inches, the largest you will find on any Hyundai. And the wheelbase, at a full 3-metres, is equally massive. That wheelbase is courtesy the E-GMP skateboard architecture (shared with its cousin, the Kia EV6) where the wheels are pushed to the extremities of the platform and the batteries are housed between the axles. With EVs there’s no need for front overhangs except for the crash structures and the EV-only architectures are seizing on that to liberate more space for passengers.
Hyundai IONIQ 5 interiors
Sit in the back of the IONIQ 5 and there’s acres of space. It’s not wide enough for three to sit abreast comfortably but there’s a fully flat floor and even the centre console between the front seats slides fore and aft. You can even slide the rear seats fore and aft, electrically, using buttons on the side of the front passenger seat while the recline angle can be adjusted manually. The massive glass roof makes the cabin feel even more spacious and two six-footers can sit one behind the other and still have 5-inches of free knee room. It is immensely spacious but we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that the battery pack raises the floor height and you sit knees up with no under thigh support and there’s no space to tuck in your toes under the front seat all of which means you won’t be comfortable over long drives.
Up front though the IONIQ 5 is lovely and there’s a one-touch button to recline the front passenger seat while even deploying an ottoman. The driver’s seat too has an ottoman. The layout and design of the dash is again refreshing and original though not as path breaking as the exterior and the blanks between the two 12.3-inch screens, one for the infotainment and other for the digital cluster, makes it look a bit dated. You also don’t get wireless Apple CarPlay while all the USB slots, of which there are plenty, are of the Type A USBs. You also get a proper three-point socket for charging appliances and the Vehicle To Load function lets you charge other appliances, even another EV, at 3.6kW.
Hyundai IONIQ 5 powertrain
The IONIQ 5 is assembled in India and, to reduce complexity, only one variant is being offered. The 72.6kWh battery puts out 214bhp of power and 350Nm of torque to the rear wheels, making it the most powerful Hyundai on sale in India. The modular E-GMP platform is super-sophisticated and matches the (benchmark) Porsche Taycan in supporting 800-volt (350kW) ultra-rapid charging. That, for now, is academic in India but if you do find a 350kW ultra-fast DC charger you can juice it from 0 to 80 per cent in just 18 minutes.
On the regular 11kW AC wall box it will go from 0 to 100 per cent in 6 hours and 55 minutes. And on a full charge it will do 631km on the ARAI cycle, though the 507km on the WLTP cycle is a more accurate representation. In the real world you will get around 400km which is more than enough for most scenarios. I must point out that the platform is identical to the EV6 but the Kia gets the new 77.4kWh battery pack (which the IONIQ now gets in Europe) while India-spec IONIQ’s stick with the older battery pack. In consequence the Kia puts out more power, is quicker, and has a bit more range as well.
Hyundai IONIQ 5 ride and handling
The Kia EV6 is also more overtly sporty, the suspension is stiffer, and the AWD powertrain does offer a more rapid turn of speed. The Hyundai is noticeably more relaxed, the dampers breathe better over the bumps and ruts, you can take speed breakers at a higher speed, and overall it feels better suited to tackling typical Indian roads. And this despite running one size bigger wheels than the Kia. You do feel a bit of float over wavy roads but overall the IONIQ 5 is a very comfortable car that is capable of covering ground at a rather rapid pace. The thing with electric cars is that the turn of speed is so immediate and so effortless that you end up carrying far more speed than you expected to — it just does it so easily and without any drama. But I also have to point out that the passengers in the back start to complain very quickly. Passengers in the Kia EV6 have the same issue, of feeling uneasy after a while in the back seat, and we don’t really know why this is because from the front seat the ride is very good. But to be driven around this is not a car we’d recommend.
For the driver the RWD setup does have the potential for laughs. The driving position of the IONIQ 5 is lovely though, like all EVs on a skateboard, the seat doesn’t go as low as you’d like. The drive selector is on a stalk to the right of the steering wheel, which frees up lots of space between the front seats, and you can toggle between Eco, Normal and Sport via a button on the steering wheel. In Sport, the IONIQ 5 can sprint from 0 to 100kmph in 7.6 seconds making it the fast, though not neck-snappingly so as with many of the more expensive electric cars. What the rear-wheel-drive only setup offers is the ability to switch off ESP completely and get the car sideways under power if you’re in the mood for it.
Hyundai IONIQ 5 verdict
Clearly you aren’t going to drive the IONIQ 5 in such a fashion. At eight-tenths the Hyundai is easy, rapid, and in tighter corners you do feel a bit of the rear-driven character as well. But the greatest joy is reserved for when you park the car, walk towards the lifts, and do the car guy/girl thing. Turn back to look at it.