Hybrid theory. At first glance, Hyundai’s Ioniq Hybrid is indistinguishable from its Plug-In Hybrid sibling. They share the same unremarkable aesthetics, with small, fuel-efficient tires wrapping around a variety of unattractive wheels. There are no intriguing talking points of the sort other hybrids and EVs manage to offer, and the odd attempt at character (such as the blade-like rear spoiler cutting across the back window) merely hinders practicality. Seeing out is pretty difficult when the back window is bisected in this manner. The Ioniq looks best from the front, with a hexagonal grille and daytime running lights slicing down its flanks.

Inside, everything is grey or black. The interior is a gloomy place to be, but it’s well assembled and logically laid out, with physical buttons below the infotainment screen and conventional heating controls. The flat-bottomed steering wheel isn’t overloaded with buttons, which improves ergonomics on the move.

A modest performer. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder gas engine is joined by a 43-horsepower electric motor, with the resulting 139 hp distributed through a six-speed automatic gearbox. Performance is decent, especially around town where the motor helps to smooth out upshifts for relatively seamless progress. That slippery shape and those wind-cheating wheels combine with a curb weight of just 3,000 lb to return a combined fuel economy of 55 mpg combined, rising to 59 in entry-level Blue models.

Hyundai has cleverly maximized the Ioniq’s driving appeal by blending a low-slung seating position with reasonably responsive handling. It’s not a car you’d ever jump in for the sheer pleasure of driving, especially since the steering is as lifeless as a Monty Python parrot, but it’s quite engaging in the right circumstances. The ride is also pretty good, thanks in part to those small wheels and low rolling-resistance tires, though the trade-off is limited grip in wet or slippery conditions.

All the toys you’ll ever need. Higher Ioniq trims are stuffed with electrical goodies, and even the entry-level Blue model offers automatic climate control, smartphone mirroring through an eight-inch touchscreen, and automatic emergency braking. An extra $2,000 nets an SE with heated front seats and satellite radio, but our money would go on SEL trim. Here, you get adaptive cruise control, wireless smartphone charging and LED lighting. Buyers with deeper pockets can splash out on a Limited, which combines a larger 10.3-inch touchscreen with navigation, a Harman Kardon audio system, and leather upholstery.

Safety is more of a mixed bag, with only SEL and Limited models receiving adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring. At least every Ioniq Hybrid has active lane control and automatic emergency braking, though the latter is more sophisticated on higher trims.

Better up front than in the back. Rear-seat passengers are going to feel rather short-changed in the Ioniq Hybrid. You don’t notice how steeply the roofline slopes till you’re inside – it’s more like a coupe than a sedan back here. Even the low seating position can only do so much to mitigate a rather cramped ambiance. Things are considerably better up front, with extra support from the front seats and significantly more headroom. Materials are understated but solid throughout, though a fair amount of road and engine noise percolates through into the cabin even at low speeds.

Final thoughts. With prices starting at less than $25,000 for an ultra-efficient Blue model, it’s hard to be too critical of the Ioniq Hybrid. When you consider its exceptional warranty and low running costs, this is one of the best-value cars on American roads. You won’t attract envious glances, but there’s nothing offensive about the Ioniq’s appearance, either internally or externally.

It’s worth reiterating that the steeply sloping roofline renders the back seats a claustrophobic place for taller passengers to spend time, while cargo capacity is poor and the Ioniq is surprisingly noisy on the move. Still, it’s well-equipped and comfortable, cheap to buy and run, with the reassurance of a peerless warranty and Hyundai’s enviable reputation for reliability. As a head-over-heart purchase, the Ioniq Hybrid makes a strong case for itself.

Check prices for the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid »