2017 Hyundai Ioniq

Ioniq-6You know, there are times I wish a car had a navigation system. No lie, citizen; I’m the kind of person could get lost in a room with one door, and have a poor relationship with geography, even here in my beloved home city.

Combined with my uncannily poor sense of direction it can become a problem, especially if looking for an address in the west end. Or anywhere outside the Henday ring road, frankly.

My test car, a 2017 Hyundai Ioniq, is unable to help me with my tragic, lifelong problem; for it contains no navigation module or app.Ioniq-9

And that right there is my one big problem with my test ride, pretty much everything else I really like.

The Ioniq is positioning itself to be perhaps one of the very few true rivals to Toyota’s ownership of the hybrid segment with its world-beating Prius line, and if the likeable Ioniq holds up in terms of long-term quality it’s a contender

(This nameplate is new, but Korean manufacturers have been putting on a pretty Hybrid show, lately, with well-received offerings like Kia’s Optima Hybrid)Ioniq-2

There are actually three Ioniq models. The test car I used is their straight-up hybrid (which employs a gasoline engine combined with electric motor), but Hyundai also makes an all-electric version and a plug-in hybrid, which allows the battery to be recharged via a power cord module.

My gas-electric tester is the way to go, as far as I am concerned, doing away with the range anxiety of an all-electric car and also not adding another piece of equipment to the mix with an external charger. No matter what the charge level of the battery, it is a comfort knowing that there is a 1.6L internal combustion engine to fall back on.Ioniq-1

Even without considering the science of the whole thing, though the Ioniq functions very well as just a straight-up ‘car’. Better-than-adequate power is delivered by the system (the company claims a combined output of 139hp for the hybrid), made peppier with a Sport mode for the six-speed automatic transmission.

That’s kind of a rarity in itself, eh? A regular transmission on a vehicle like this, where I am accustomed to CVTs on hybrids. And not a bargain-basement tranny, either, but a dual-clutch rig that delivers fast and appropriate shifts (and allegedly rivals a continuously variable transmission for fuel-efficiency as well).

My navigation problem aside, the Ioniq delivered a comprehensive list of inclusions inside the cabin. Heated seats with memory function (and heated steering wheel) are a great creature comfort to have, ditto the LCD screen for the information display on the center stack.

A digital speed display is one of the fields available for between-the-gauges information, always a favorite for me, in any car. The driver’s seating position is made more comfortable with a steering column that allows a better range of tilt-and-telescoping than I have found in Toyota’s Prius.Ioniq-3

In an unrelated similarity to Prius, Hyundai has also split the rear window horizontally with a crosspiece, which has the effect of compromising rear visibility; as do the fat C-pillars of the Ioniq.

This is mitigated by the car’s backup camera, rear cross-traffic detection and blind-spot information systems, though, and I frankly didn’t have any complaints about the visibility during my time in the car.

Headroom up front is good, rear seat roominess is what you would expect in a compact car (i.e., not super, but the seats fold down for additional cargo – which is how they would spend their lives if I owned the car anyway).Ioniq-5

Overall, the Ioniq delivers a genuinely nice compact car that brings great fuel economy (I averaged 4.5L/100 km during my time in it) and styling that is attractive to look at – this isn’t an ugly car, nor is the sheetmetal overly far-out to attract attention just for the sake of it.

Screen shot 2017-05-15 at 10.54.55 AMIt comes with a pricetag that isn’t alienating, either. My test model, a “Blue” trim level Hybrid model, enters at $24,299, although you can push it up over 30K at the high end if you opt for the Limited trim with Tech package.

Which is probably where my navigation system is found.Ioniq-8

2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited

2016Elantra-16 You know, before I found the digital speed display in my 2016 Elantra test vehicle, I was all set to say that only the lack of this (one of my favorite features in any car) kept it from being a serious challenger to Honda’s latest Civic.2016Elantra-4

But then I found that the car is, in fact, capable of showing a digital speed readout (in a big, easy-to-acquire location right between the dials, which means a driver need never take their eyes off a straight line).

You summon up the display by scrolling through the submenus with the wheel-mounted buttons until it appears on the information display between the gauges, dead center and easy and quick to read, just the way I likes it).

IMG_1667

Elantra side-by-side with Honda’s 2016 Civic sedan.

So anyway, the summary (if I may give away the ending prematurely) is that with that one final detail discovered, the 2017 Elantra is in fact a full on competitor to the current Car of the Year; at least when similarly equipped.

I recently had the chance to drive the two back-to-back, and after being wowed by the Honda (there’s good reason the latest generation Civic won the COTY title, in several different forums, from Motor Trend mag to our own Auto Journalists Association of Canada).

My test model was a not quite top of the line issue, a Limited trim. The only option above is the ‘Ultimate’ package, which is basically the Limited with some additional safety features (lane departure, HID headlamps, autonomous emergency braking among them).

The thing is, though, that 2017’s Elantra – which is at dealerships as we speak – shows off an ever-improved ride and better sound-insulated interior on a platform that has been gathering accolades for years now.

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With a refinement of its exterior that has benefitted the car with improved aerodynamics (also improved styling for the curb-appeal that it needs to keep up with the restyled Civic, which is a thing of beauty), and the leather-upholstered interior of my Limited trim test car; the Elantra not only stands head-to-head against all comers in the ‘entry level’ market but outdoes a few pricier and more status-festooned marques.

The Korean compact*, for example, boasts more passenger and cargo volume than Audi’s A4 or the Acura ILX, and I can tell you from experience that my Hyundai sports a better package of technology and convenience features that Lexus’ IS300 F-Sport.

It may not have the horsepower numbers of those more rarefied vehicles, but things like park assist, a rear backup camera, blind-spot monitor and my beloved digital speedo elevate the Elantra into their league.

This one is no slouch, either, by the way, and while it isn’t designed or marketed to blow a driver away with raw acceleration and big engine noise; the new 2.0 litre, Atkinson cycle engine of my test car pushed out a respectable and more-than-adequate 147 hp (and 132 lb.-ft. of torque), and send it to the drive wheels through a fluid 6-speed automatic. It drives well; it handles smoothly and demonstrates very good steering and braking.2016Elantra-2

I don’t have a lot of criticism for the new Elantra, frankly (I’m not super-disposed to the color of the leather upholstery of the one I drove for this story, but check the photos and see what you think).

The price may be a factor, though, as Hyundai has gone upscale with its MSRPs and is now competing closely with Honda across all trims.

My test car, and pricing of the Elantra Limited was announced recently at $26,249 before freight and taxes.

©Wade Ozeroff 2016

*I only said ‘compact’ for alliterative purposes. Apparently with its expanded interior volume, the Elantra qualifies as a midsize car).