Aside from the Tesla badge and, for the time being, the Supercharger network, there’s really no good reason to buy a Tesla Model Y or Model 3 over a 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5.
Veteran auto industry watchers have been preaching the same prediction for a decade now: Tesla has an enormous head start in EVs, but when the legacy automakers finally fully commit their enormous resources toward EVs, the tables are going to turn, and quickly. This is not an “I told you so” moment, but rather a “things just got real” moment.
Major automakers have finally gotten serious about EVs, and Hyundai is the first to absolutely nail the formula. Neither a cheaply engineered compliance car nor a well-intentioned but under-funded and under-developed first try, the new Ioniq 5 is what happens when companies with decades of design, engineering, and manufacturing experience make EVs a real priority.
Here’s everything you need to know in one sentence: The Ioniq 5 costs tens of thousands of dollars less than the Model Y, can go just about as far on a charge, charges faster, has more standard and optional features, is quieter inside, rides better, is built better, and has a better interior. The Model Y is quicker and sportier, and the Supercharger network is currently more reliable and easier to use than the non-uniform charging options for everyone else, but that and brand prestige are all the Tesla really wins on. The Model 3 sedan offers a more competitively priced trim, but all the other points still apply.
The Ioniq 5 being slower isn’t surprising when you look at the stats. The base rear-wheel-drive Ioniq 5 makes just 168 hp and 258 lb-ft and goes 220 miles with its 58-kWh battery fully charged. Better-equipped RWD models make 225 hp and 258 lb-ft and can go 303 miles thanks to a larger 77.4-kWh battery. The more powerful dual-motor all-wheel-drive model only goes 256 miles on the same battery, but it puts out 320 hp and 446 lb-ft, making it the most powerful SUV Hyundai’s ever built but still considerably less powerful than even a base rear-drive Model 3. The Tesla Model Y crossover will go between 303 and 318 miles depending on the trim, and comes with dual-motor AWD standard, so you do have to make a trade-off like with the Hyundai.
It therefore is no surprise the Ioniq 5 is considerably slower in a straight line, needing at best an estimated 5.1 seconds to hit 60 mph, or 7.3 seconds for the more powerful of the two single-motor models. (No estimate has been given for the base model, but expect to add at least another half-second.) The base Model Y will reach 60 in less than 5.0 seconds, and the Performance model will get there in roughly 3.5 seconds. The Model 3 is even quicker. If you’re gonna drag race, the Ioniq 5 isn’t the car for you.
For everyone else, it’s plenty quick enough. Just be willing to put your foot down. In most of its driving modes, the Ioniq 5 has a very long accelerator pedal with a very slow ramp up in response. If you want all the power, stand on it. This is Hyundai’s way of making you drive more efficiently unless you really don’t want to. Dialing it over to Sport mode noticeably increases the gain on the accelerator and makes it much more responsive, but the floor-it method still applies.
Hyundai has delivered a quieter EV than Tesla, however, having gone above and beyond stuffing the Ioniq 5 with noise-abating technologies. This mass-appeal electric SUV is as quiet inside as a high-dollar luxury car. Wind and road noise are kept to such a minimum you’ll easily lose track of just how fast you’re going.
Similarly, the Ioniq 5 rides considerably smoother than the Model Y and Model 3. That’s what you get in exchange for the slower, less sporty driving experience. Despite the inherent weight of all those batteries under the floor, the Ioniq 5 irons out bumps and holes large and small, adding to that sense of isolation from the outside world. The quiet comfort and unhurried demeanor make it a relaxing car to drive rather than an exciting one.
Don’t bother with the sport driving mode. It certainly makes the car feel zippier, but it doesn’t change the fact the 5 is not particularly engaging. The inherent low center of gravity that goes with the weight makes the car feel planted on the road and helps reduce body roll in corners, but the way it feels in a corner is simply competent. It drives like a car with a lot of poise, not a sports car. In this, it’s not unlike a Chevrolet Bolt or a Volkswagen ID4, but it’s also not trying to be a Ford Mustang Mach-E or a Tesla Model Y.
This is in part because the steering feel is also isolating. The response is direct and precise, but road feedback has been filtered out. The car goes right where you point it, but it doesn’t give you a lot of input.
As with any EV, much of the braking is handled by the motors regenerating electricity, but unlike most automakers, Hyundai is keen to give you much more control over the regeneration. The Ioniq 5 has six regen settings adjusted using the paddles on the steering wheel, with those settings ranging from basically coasting to one-pedal driving (the car can slow to a stop without using the brake pedal), which Hyundai calls “i-Pedal.” There’s also an auto setting similar to the one employed by Porsche and Audi that lets the car coast as much as possible but automatically engages when the car in front of you slows down.
Whichever program you prefer, there’s always the brake pedal when you need to stop more immediately. Hyundai’s done top-notch work programming the pedal feedback and the handoff from regenerative to mechanical braking, so much so that you don’t feel it. The braking force just increases linearly and you stop.
You’ll get a lot more power a lot faster on a charger, and that’s where one of the Ioniq 5’s biggest strengths comes into play. Able to charge from 10 percent to 80 percent in as little as 18 minutes on a 350-kilowatt DC fast charger and to 100 percent in less than an hour, the Ioniq 5 will be in and out of the charging station much quicker than any other EV on the market. Credit its 800-volt electrical system and an inverter that can bump the 400 volts coming off the charger up to 800 to shorten charge times.
To be sure, we joined in a charging test at a public 350-kw DC fast charger on an Ioniq 5 that had been run down to zero percent. We ran this test with an Ioniq 5 Limited with the larger 77.4-kWh battery, but all Ioniq 5s charge at the same rate regardless of motor count or battery size. Without any preconditioning, the Ioniq 5 charged from zero to 80 percent in 23 minutes and to 100 percent in 48 minutes. We saw a peak charging rate of 229 kW, though we’re told the car can do 240 kW or better if the battery is conditioned before charging. Regardless, there isn’t another EV on the market that charges so quickly, save its twin, the Kia EV6. Not even a Model 3, which in our testing needed 28 minutes to reach 80 percent and after 46 minutes was only at 90 percent. (Other Tesla models charge at similar rates.) It’s up to you whether a roughly 30 percent reduction in charge time is a fair trade for a shorter range on all-wheel-drive Ioniq 5s.
Put in simpler terms, the dual-motor Ioniq 5 with the optional 77.4-kWh battery we tested went from zero miles of range to 100 miles in nine minutes and 200 miles in 24 minutes. The full 256 miles of range was delivered in 48 minutes as all EV batteries charge slower the fuller they get.
With charge times that short, you won’t get in much of a nap, but in case you want to, the driver’s seat has a Relax mode, which leans you way back and puts up the leg rest (provided no one or nothing is in the rear seat foot space).
It’s here Tesla still holds an advantage, though that edge is diminishing. The company’s proprietary Supercharger network is better laid out, better maintained, and generally offers more plugs per location than any other network. Electrify America is leading the charge to offer the same, but Tesla is still well in the lead. Thankfully, Hyundai and other automakers have developed apps designed to let you plug into any public charger and pay with a card on file rather than signing up for multiple services. You also get unlimited free 30-minute charging sessions for the first two years.
You can also send power the other way. Thanks to an accessory converter you can buy at the dealership, your car’s charging port turns into a 120-volt wall socket that spits out 1,900 watts at 16 amps. (Limited trims also come with a similar plug in the cabin.) From there, you can power your home appliances (most rooms in your home are on 15- to 20-amp circuit), your campsite, or even trickle charge another EV—the other car will be a very slow charge, but beggars can’t be choosers. You can also set a minimum battery charge level, at which point the car will automatically turn off the outlet so you don’t drain your whole battery.
Tesla’s only other real advantage is in its Autopilot suite of technologies. Hyundai’s Highway Drive Assist 2 technology, offered on the mid- and top-tier trims, does most of what Autopilot does, but not everything. Lane changes have to be initiated manually by activating a turn signal, and it won’t take off-ramps. Just driving down the road, though, it steers, accelerates, and brakes fine on its own as long as the curves don’t get too tight. The adaptive cruise control will even learn your driving style and mimic it, particularly how you respond when the vehicle ahead speeds up or gets out of the way. Some people gradually speed up and some floor it, and the car will do whatever you usually do.
The Ioniq 5 does need a better driver monitoring system to prevent misuse, though. Using outdated steering wheel torque sensors allows the system to be easily fooled. We were able to take our hands off the wheel for more than a minute at a time before the car finally warned us to put them back. That kind of latency is way too slow and allows for far too much driver distraction. At 60 mph, the car will have traveled an entire mile in that time.
The rest of the tech comes with no such caveat. The augmented reality head-up display isn’t quite as fancy as what you’ll find on a Cadillac or Mercedes, but this is a Hyundai. The infotainment system is easy to learn, and Hyundai provides a full roster of standard and optional active and passive safety technologies. In addition to wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the Ioniq 5 also works with a personal assistant like Google Home to operate some functions like climate control remotely if you don’t want to dig into the Hyundai Bluelink app. The app, though, can also do things like route planning with charging stops and upload it to the car.
Beyond all that, the Ioniq 5’s cabin is just a nice place to be. Despite being several inches shorter in length than a Model Y, Mach-E, or ID4, the Ioniq 5 has the longest wheelbase, which along with clever packaging gives it passenger and cargo space comparable to the largest competitors. Crucially, there’s a spaciousness to the Hyundai’s cabin that isn’t reflected in most of the interior dimensions, save the class-leading rear shoulder room. Front or back, it feels much larger inside than the competition.
What’s definitely not bigger is the frunk. Whereas the Model Y gives you a fully finished front trunk, the Ioniq 5 has a little plastic storage bin under the hood between all the exposed electrical and mechanical bits, and it has enough space inside for maybe two pairs of shoes. Better than nothing, sure, but just barely. The storage space under the rear cargo floor is only slightly larger, but at least it’s fully finished.
It’s a stark contrast to the interior of the car, which is well-finished across the board. A lot of companies cheap out in the second row, but the Ioniq 5 doesn’t. The quality of both the design and materials don’t fall off behind the front seats. Hyundai’s decision to use sustainable, recyclable, and recycled materials is as admirable as the decision to offer only one interior option with any kind of color is disappointing. Hope you like shades of gray.
The interior design walks a fine line, just minimalist enough to be on trend without making you feel like they’ve cost-cut it down to bare bones. The commitment to the pixel exterior design theme feels a little forced on the door trim, but at least it’s visually interesting. The sliding center console is a particularly clever feature, opening up enough space between the front seats for even the largest purse or bag while still offering plenty of storage space in the console itself, along with a wireless phone charger.
What really brings it all together, though, is the price. At $40,925 to start, the Ioniq 5 undercuts the Model 3, Mach-E, and ID4 while being more than $20,000 cheaper than a Model Y. Yes, the Chevrolet Bolt EUV is cheaper, but it’s also a size smaller. Getting AWD on the Ioniq 5 costs more than either the Ford or Volkswagen (you can’t get it on the Bolt EUV) but still less than an AWD Model 3. A fully loaded Ioniq 5 is cheaper than a loaded Mach-E and still more than $6,000 cheaper than the base Model Y. Plus, all of that is before state and federal tax credits, which can knock $7,500 or more off the final price.
On top of that, Hyundai is also launching Hyundai Home, a concierge service that will set you up with a hardwired Level 2 EV charger and even solar panels with battery storage for your home and roll the whole thing into the car payment.
Although it doesn’t beat the Tesla Model Y on every line of the spec sheet, as a complete vehicle, the Ioniq 5, more than any other car, subverts Tesla’s EV hegemony. It took traditional automakers a decade to catch up, but now that they have, there are serious alternatives in the EV market. More than any of its other legacy competitors, the Ioniq 5 makes you consider what you’re actually paying extra for in a Tesla, and the answer to that question just got a lot smaller.
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