Plug-in hybrids are becoming ever more sophisticated and better to drive. Who is ahead?
Hyundai has recently introduced the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of its Ioniq, to complement the petrol-electric hybrid and full EV models. How does it compare with the recently revised VW Golf GTE?
Despite the Ioniq’s lighter weight, it’s 2.2 seconds slower from 0-60mph than the more performance-oriented Golf. The VW is also better sorted dynamically, as you’d expect from a model family that has been honed over decades. It may be heavier than its conventional stablemates thanks to its electric motor and battery, but its cornering control is still remarkable, and both handling and ride feel well sorted over any road surface.
The Ioniq has less steering feel and more body roll, and the front end soon washes out if you push too hard. A softer suspension set-up results in a gentler ride at normal speeds, but lumps and bumps are more pronounced at lower speeds.
Volkswagen Golf GTE
Engine: 1.4-litre, four-cylinder, petrol + electric motor
Torque: 258lb ft
Gearbox: 6-spd automatic
Top speed: 138mph
Claimed fuel economy: 156.9mpg
CO2 emissions: 40g/km
To test the pair’s EV mode, we set a route to tackle purely on electric power. We were a bit disappointed to get only 15 miles out of the VW, even if the drive itself was punchy yet refined. Meanwhile, the Hyundai struggled to get up anything other than a gentle incline without requiring back-up from the petrol engine. We were frustrated about the engine’s continual and less than refined intrusion, and had to abandon our plan.
At least the Ioniq is pretty comfortable to sit in, and forward visibility is good. Rear visibility is enhanced by a standard-fit reversing camera, and there are parking sensors all round. The cabin itself is generally solid and well built, and the components feel of good quality, while the switchgear feels perfectly damped and weighted.
The Golf’s cabin seems a little more upmarket, and the driving position feels even more comfortable and secure. The lack of a reversing camera isn’t so much of an issue as visibility all round is better.
The VW’s eight-inch infotainment touchscreen includes sat-nav, DAB, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as does the Hyundai’s same-sized but slightly less slick system. However, the latter’s includes wireless phone charging and an upgraded Infinity sound system.
Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in
Engine: 1.6-litre, petrol + electric motor
Torque: 195lb ft
Gearbox: 6-spd automatic
Top speed: 111mph
CO2 emissions: 26g/km
Rear passengers in both cars get plenty of space, although there is a bit more headroom in the Golf. The Ioniq has the larger boot, as the VW has sacrificed 100 litres of space to accommodate the battery pack and ancillaries.
Each car is eligible for a £2500 Government plug-in grant, but the Hyundai is still the cheaper purchase as standard. Haggle hard with your VW dealer and you may be able to get the price differential down to around £1000. Spec the Golf up to the Ioniq’s standard-fit level, though, and you’ll be adding another £3500 or so.
Company drivers will benefit from the cars’ impressively low emissions, as BIK tax is in the 9% bracket. Private buyers will pay about £60 a month more for a PCP on the Golf, and it is costlier to insure and service as well. Predicted residuals are similar across both cars.
Ultimately, this manifestation of the Hyundai Ioniq proved slightly disappointing. The engine is a bit boomy and cuts in far too much, while the performance disappoints. Add in a fidgety ride, and this feels like the weakest model in the Ioniq range, despite its high kit count and impressive price and running costs.
Despite coming with less equipment and costing more, the Golf is better to buy and own, and the drive is more enjoyable. Its excellent practicality and flexibility are a boon, and the characteristics of its electric-only mode are far more appealing. It’s the option we’d go for here.