Tech titan and arch-disruptor Elon Musk has caused a series of earthquakes with the success of his Tesla electric vehicles. They, and the charging network that goes with them, have irreversibly shifted the tectonic plates of the legacy car industry.
A new landscape has been created. Before Musk got involved in Tesla, it was difficult to see how the status quo would ever change. But then came the Tesla Model S and a series of emissions scandals which knocked established manufacturers off their perch. At the same time, ever-gloomier evidence of climate change and anxiety about the environment further accelerated the transition from fossil fuels and internal combustion engines to batteries and electric motors.
Then Tesla released the wildly popular Model 3 and Model Y, leaving the mainstream car-makers scrambling to catch-up and tearing up old certainties. While VW, Ford and others have been caught out - as evidenced by how undercooked their EV efforts have largely been so far - others have seized the opportunity.
Step forward Hyundai. Along with sister company Kia, it makes what are probably the best mainstream electric cars on sale today - especially if you don’t want a Tesla.
Hyundai has been plugging away at electric cars longer than most. There was the original Ioniq range, which offered a choice of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric drivetrains under the same aerodynamic but bland bodywork. And the Kona electric, a small SUV crossover, has long won plaudits for its excellent efficiency, range and value for money.
For its next EV act, Hyundai has realised it isn’t enough to sell electric cars on the strength of range and efficiency alone. They must be objects of desire, too.
How else to explain the car on this page, which Hyundai calls the Ioniq 5? It’s a concept car made reality, an outrageous amalgamation of origami creases, swaggering confidence and bold details, like the 256 ‘pixels’ which form the headlamps. Photographs rather disguise the size of the car. It looks like a hatchback, maybe of VW Golf size, but it’s a trick of the eye; this is a larger car, closer to a Tesla Model Y.
It pays homage to Giorgetto Giugiaro, the enormously influential designer whose unrivalled portfolio ranges from the original VW Golf and Fiat Panda to the Delorean and Lotus Esprit. Along the way, he was commissioned by Hyundai to design a car to kickstart a new era in Korea’s car industry. He came up with 1974′s Pony; the car didn’t make it into production, but many of its ideas as well as it nameplate did.
For example, the sharp creases of the Ioniq 5′s bodywork are pure Giugiaro, as are the thick rear pillars, reminiscent of the Golf and Lancia Delta, which he also created.
The eye-catching exterior is complemented by an interior which owes more to a lounge than traditional car design.
Hyundai has taken the flexibility offered by electric car architecture - with the bodywork essentially sitting atop a ‘skateboard’ platform which contains the battery and motors - and maxed out on interior space, creating a light and airy limo-like cabin. A pair of wide digital screens give a suitably high-tech flourish and there’s a general lack of clutter to the dashboard and controls.
The Ioniq 5 is a concept car made reality, an outrageous amalgamation of origami creases, swaggering confidence and bold details, like the 256 ‘pixels’ which form the headlamps… it’s a super-comfortable cruiser with egregious refinement
As for the drivetrain, there are three configurations: a ‘standard’ 58kWh battery with a single 168bhp motor and up to 238 miles of range; and two ‘long range’ 77kWh battery versions: a single-motor with 225bhp and 315 miles of range, and a twin-motor, 321bhp model with 298 miles’ range.
It isn’t a sporty car by any means. Instead, it’s a super-comfortable cruiser with egregious refinement. A tyre smoking 641bhp high performance N model is, however, imminent.
The Ioniq 5 costs from £43,445. It’s a fine car, distinguished by cutting edge tech, a wonderful interior, generous comfort and covetous retro-modern styling. If it doesn’t change your perceptions about Hyundai, then nothing will - apart, perhaps, from the streamliner Ioniq 6… But more of that another time…