A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of driving a 2018 Hyundai Ioniq hybrid around Chicago. I say “pleasure” unironically, too, because this little Hyundai does everything you’d expect from a Toyota Prius. Here’s why that’s important: being a Prius is the very point of the Ioniq’s existence.
Think that’s harsh? Ask yourself why the Ioniq was priced as aggressively as it is. Ask yourself why Hyundai used an Ioniq to start chasing speed records just as Toyota started to release commercials touting the then-new 4th-gen Prius’ alleged sportiness. Ask yourself why the Ioniq even looks like a Prius.
Why do you think all of that happened?
It happened because Hyundai- for all its recent goodness- still plays second fiddle to Toyota and Honda in the hearts and minds of the Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers who, you know, actually buy brand-new cars. To old guys like me and Steve, Toyota makes a reliable car. That’s the belief, anyway. You can’t go wrong with a new Honda, either- and you can see that decades-old belief manifest in things like the Car List I published several weeks back (more on that in a minute). Hyundai, though? Despite its best-in-the-business warranty, we still remember the old first-gen Elantras and Excels too well to put Hyundai up on that pedestal. And that’s why Hyundai went and built a Prius.
Keep in mind, I didn’t say the Hyundai Ioniq was “a better Prius”, because we don’t know if that’s true. Toyota has been building Prii for almost twenty years now, and they have proven themselves capable of running up six-figure odometers with enough regularity hat no one seems impressed by the many 100,000 mile examples. Competence is expected from Toyota. Still, the Ioniq is- as much as I could tell in ten days of driving it- more than good enough to go 100,000 miles.