The greenest in a trio of fuel efficient powertrains, the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Electric offers spectacular fuel economy, usable range, a smooth ride, and quiet around-town driving. But it's hampered by a small back seat and a single motor drivetrain that isn't as smooth as much of the competition, and a range realistically limited to commuting.

Best Value

The Ioniq Electric is available in two mono-spec trims. The base model checks in at $30,385, with the Limited coming in at $36,885. Even the standard trim comes with the usual power features as well as 16-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights and daytime running lights, heated outside mirrors, keyless push-button start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic climate control, heated front seats, a seven-inch touchscreen, and an infotainment system that includes Bluetooth, satellite radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, and a rearview camera.

Stepping up to the Limited adds HID adaptive headlights, power-folding side mirrors, a power moonroof, leather-trimmed seats, an eight-inch touchscreen, navigation, a premium audio system, wireless device charging, a power driver seat with memory, Blue Link Guidance, and a suite of advanced safety features not available on the base model that includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, lane change assist, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.

The $6,500 premium for the Limited seems a bit steep, even when you factor in the additional safety equipment, until you consider just the $7,500 Federal tax credit brings it in under $30,000.

Here, then, is how we'd build it:

  • Model:2018 Hyundai Ioniq Electric Limited
  • Electric motor: 88 kW
  • Output:118 hp / 218 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Single-speed reduction gear automatic
  • Drivetrain:Front-wheel drive
  • MPG:150 City / 122 Hwy MPGe
  • Options: None
  • Base Price:$36,885 (including an $885 destination fee)
  • Best Value Price:$36,885 (before tax credits)

Performance

Hyundai Ioniq ElectricThe Ioniq Electric delivers a pleasant ride and, compared to class rivals, a fairly sporty driving experience due to a low center of gravity provided by the battery placement in a chassis dedicated to hybrids and electrics. Aggressive driving hardly impacts fuel economy, making freeway driving more enjoyable. The all-electric is also the quietest in the three-vehicle lineup. Lighter in weight than the Kona, it feels quicker and also keeps the Ioniq's acceleration passable. The electric model also avoids the transition issues between regenerative and friction arising during transmission shifts that affect both hybrid models.

Not only is the electric more fun to drive than most competing models, it's also takes the crown as the most energy-efficient vehicle on the market with an EPA-estimated 150 miles per gallon gasoline-equivalent (MPGe) in the city, 122 MPGe on the highway, and 136 combined. Finally, like any electric, it's simply quieter, calmer, and more peaceful to drive than any vehicle with a combustion engine – which is especially evident in around-town driving.

At the same time, power output is only average for the class, Hyundai's single-motor design isn't as smooth as the systems from Toyota, Ford, and Honda, while handling isn't as sharp as either hybrid. Due to the size of the battery pack, the electric version has a simpler torsion beam rear axle, rather than the hybrid's more responsive multi-link rear suspension.

Finally, in colder weather northern climes, range assumptions need to be modified. Despite displaying a 129-mile range, a recent jaunt with temperatures in the low 40s, showed miles-to-empty at our 45-mile destination of 77 – a drain of 52 miles. Heading back in warmer weather, our 39-mile ride only siphoned off 41 miles of range – pretty close. But as temperatures drop into the teens, that 129 range will be affected accordingly, and owners should judiciously avoid pushing the envelope – whereas the Chevy Bolt's 238-mile range offers much more leeway, although at a $6,000 premium over the Ioniq. Then again, you get what you pay for.

Style

Like the hybrid and plug-in models, the Ioniq Electric breaks with many of its contemporaries' must-look-bizarre designs with an understated hatchback shape wrapped around a pleasant, nicely-trimmed interior that prioritizes comfort up front with well-bolstered seats, and ample storage bins and cubbies. It's also practical, with 23.8 cubic feet of cargo volume – beating out the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Ford C-Max Energi. The conventional theme continues with standard dashboard controls that are within easy reach and intuitive to use.

At the same time, ride height – that of a typical compact sedan – doesn't offer the expansive view of a crossover; the sloping roofline means even two tall adults will find rear accommodations tight, while interior room – especially in back – falls short of the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius. Ingress and egress into the front seats is occasionally challenging for taller drivers, the electric's push-button transmission isn't nearly as intuitive as the hybrid model's traditional shifter, while the expanse of hard plastics looks especially out of place on the $30,000-plus electric model.

The Best and Worst Things

The Ioniq Electric's mainstream design and spectacular fuel economy make it a solid choice for environmentally-conscious buyers; we only wish there was more room in back and it had more range.

Right For? Wrong For?

Hyundai Ioniq ElectricA smooth ride, crossover utility, excellent controls, and outstanding fuel economy make the Ioniq Electric a great choice for eco-conscious buyers.

Although hardly bland, the more mainstream design may turn off more style-conscious buyers.

The Bottom Line

Despite an ordinary design, small back seat, and an electric range realistically limited to commuting, the 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Electric's outstanding fuel economy, smooth ride, and serene around-town cruising make it a solid choice in the compact electric class.