2020 Hyundai Ioniq Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Aug 04, 2020

Introduction - Find the best Hyundai deals!

Designed to be a Prius-killer, the Hyundai Ioniq arrived in the U.S. for the 2017 model year, as both gas prices and unemployment numbers were reaching new lows. In a country that demonstrates an avowed love of trucks and SUVs even in the worst of times, the Ioniq had a steep hill to climb.

But climb that hill it did, arriving in hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric versions, each equipped with Hyundai’s renowned warranty. Conservative exterior styling and conventional interior design appealed to people who liked the idea of a Prius but disliked the looks and layout, and Hyundai staked itself a small claim within the high-mileage commuter car universe.

Now, the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq gets a mid-life refresh. Updated design details inside and out, plus new infotainment, climate, and safety technologies, improve the Ioniq lineup in some ways but not in others. All Hyundais also now come with three years or 36,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance, and in models with Blue Link connected services the plans are free for three years.

Hybrids are available in Blue, SE, SEL, and Limited trim. Plug-in Hybrids are offered in SE, SEL, and Limited trim. Electrics feature SE and Limited trim. Prices run the gamut from $23,200 to $38,615, not including a $975 destination charge. Federal income tax credits run as high as $7,500.

2020 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid White Front View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated an Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid Limited equipped with Ceramic White extra-cost paint and carpeted floor mats. The price came to $34,380, including the destination charge. The federal government offers an income tax credit of up to $4,543 on this vehicle. Individual states may also offer a rebate for this car, such as California, where the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid qualifies for a $1,000 rebate.

What Owners Say… - Find the best Hyundai deals!

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq, it is helpful to understand who buys this compact car, and what they like most and least about their vehicles.

According to J.D. Power data, 67% of Hyundai Ioniq owners are male (vs. 54% for the segment), and the median age of an Ioniq owner is 51 years (vs. 49).

Owners say their favorite things about the Ioniq are (in descending order) the fuel economy, exterior styling, feeling of safety, driving feel, and setting up and starting. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank highest in comparison to the compact car segment:

  • Fuel economy/driving range
  • Safety systems
  • Driving assistance systems
  • Usefulness of other infotainment functions
  • Using navigation

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the Ioniq are (in descending order) the interior design, powertrain and infotainment system (in a tie), driving comfort, and getting in and out. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle rank lowest in comparison to the compact car segment:

  • Exterior styling
  • Power of engine/motor
  • Getting in and out of second row
  • Smoothness of engine/motor
  • Sound of engine/motor

In the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, the Ioniq ranked 9th out of 11 compact cars.

What Our Expert Says… - Find the best Hyundai deals!

In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own perceptions about how the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the APEAL Study.

Exterior

Styling revisions to the 2020 Ioniq include the front and rear bumpers, the aluminum wheels, the lighting elements, and the side sills. Each version of the car also gets a new grille pattern. Overall, the changes add more personality and sophistication to this 5-door hatchback.

2020 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid White Rear View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Interior

Hyundai also redesigns the 2020 Ioniq’s dashboard design with a new center control panel, air vents, dark chrome trim, and ambient lighting. The end result is a more modern and stylish cabin, but it comes at the expense of user-friendliness.

2020 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid Dashboard Interior View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

The user experience problem is rooted in new touch-sensing controls where previously physical controls worked perfectly well. For example, stereo tuning is now touch-sensing rather than a knob, but physical controls for cycling through radio station pre-sets remain on the steering wheel. Hyundai wisely retains the stereo power/volume knob.

What’s worse are the temperature controls for the dual-zone automatic climate control system. The design teasingly leaves circles where the temperature knobs should be, placing touch sensors to the sides of them. Unfortunately, Hyundai has not tied the climate system in with the infotainment voice recognition technology, so you can’t push the talk button on the steering wheel and say: “Change temperature to 68 degrees.” You have no choice but to look down, make sure your fingertip is in the right spot to change the temperature, and then execute. Before, you could find the adjustment knob by touch and make a change without looking away from the road.

Materials quality is typical of Hyundai (slightly inexpensive looking) and build quality is also typical of Hyundai (rock solid). The car’s cabin is rather drab in Black, so get Gray if you want some appealing visual contrast.

Interior storage is good for day-to-day small personal items. The covered center console bin is pretty small, though, in terms of volume.

Getting In and Out

Entering and exiting the Ioniq’s front seats is easy. The test car had a power adjustable driver’s seat and when raised higher it made it easier to get into and out of the car. An auto-exit function powered the seat back in its track to make leaving the Ioniq a simpler affair.

Front passengers receive a manual height adjuster, and it’s not some weak and sloppy lever that feels like it might break if you use it. Instead, it is robust, serving as the perfect model for any car company to copy. A passenger’s seat height adjuster is important to harmony in any couple’s relationship, a fact too many automakers ignore.

Owners indicate dissatisfaction with getting in and out of the Ioniq’s back seat, and that’s easy to understand. Hard plastic front seatbacks are unkind to knees, and the fastback roofline requires ducking when getting in and out. The test car had rear air conditioning vents but no USB ports.

Loading cargo is easy thanks to the 5-door hatchback design. Officially, Hyundai says the car holds 23 cubic feet of cargo behind the rear seat, but at the same time explains it has not measured the total volume with the rear seats folded down. Considering that utility is one selling point of the Ioniq, that lack of measurement seems like a significant oversight. 

Extrapolating from measurements for the similarly shaped Toyota Prius, we estimate total cargo volume in excess of 50 cubic feet, and likely more. Keep in mind that the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid’s charging cord takes up some of that space, residing in its own zippered container.

Setting Up and Starting

Once you’ve climbed into the Ioniq, the power adjustable driver’s seat makes it easy to find a comfortable driving position.

Turning to the technology setup, the Limited-trim test vehicle offered a wide range of customization. It even had a “blue light” adjustment for the displays. You’re going to want to set everything up with the car parked in a driveway, because it does require some concentration in order to clearly understand how things work. But once you get the hang of it, it is easy and intuitive to configure a wide range of preferences without using the owner’s manual.

Start with a full battery and in EV mode, and the car is silent. In fact, it’s easy to forget that it is “on” and ready to drive. After parking in my driveway, I forgot to turn it off and upon exit it beeped at me to tell me it was still running.

Infotainment System

Hyundai installs new infotainment systems in the 2020 Ioniq. An 8-inch touchscreen display is standard, with a 10.25-inch display included and only available with Limited trim.

From a style standpoint, the infotainment system looks more modern, but from a user-experience perspective, the new setup takes a step backward. The tuning knob is gone, replaced by touch-sensing buttons. This is rarely a good idea. You can find a tuning knob and use it without looking away from the road ahead. Touch sensing buttons with no definitive topographic reference points? Not so much.

Fast Bluetooth pairing is appreciated, and it is easy to make and receive calls. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard in every Ioniq, with Blue Link connected services offered with higher-priced trims. The test car also had wireless device charging.

The voice recognition technology works quite well, on par with voice assistants like Siri and Alexa. The navigation system, however, flunked a test. By voice, I requested directions to a specific address in Santa Monica, California, for a home located not far from the bluffs separating residential neighborhoods from Pacific Coast Highway and the beach. The system gave me two choices and said they were 3/10ths of a mile apart. I picked the first one, and it was wrong.

Instead of taking me to the house in the residential neighborhood, the Ioniq’s navigation directed me onto Pacific Coast Highway. When I was due west of where I wanted to be, it told me I had reached my destination. A phone call to the person I was meeting, coupled with a laborious re-route, got me to where I needed to be, but 10 minutes late.

During the delay, the Ioniq Limited’s new available Harman Kardon premium sound system kept me entertained, punching well above the commuter car weight class. Hyundai is transitioning to Bose audio components in some vehicles, which, based on my experience, is a mistake.

Keeping You Safe

For 2020, the Ioniq lineup gains standard Hyundai SmartSense driving assistance and collision avoidance technologies. Hyundai also adds some features that were previously unavailable for the Ioniq no matter how much you were willing to spend.

For example, the adaptive cruise control now includes stop-and-go capability in traffic. A new lane-centering technology debuts, and, working in concert with the adaptive cruise control, forms the basis for the new Highway Drive Assist (HDA) technology. 

A semi-autonomous feature that helps to make long drives on the highway more relaxing, HDA is quite smooth and accurate. It also works longer than many similar technologies without a driver’s hands on the steering wheel, but HDA is not designed for that purpose. This is not a system similar to GM’s Super Cruise technology, so don’t expect it to work in the same way.

In thicker traffic, the adaptive cruise control can brake too sharply when vehicles cut into the gap ahead, and motorists following behind the Ioniq who can see the traffic situation over the Hyundai’s roof may not expect that behavior. In turn, this can lead to the type of sequential braking action that ultimately causes unnecessary traffic tie-ups. 

Also, though it’s not quite as aggressive as what some car companies offer, the lane-keeping assistance technology can step in decisively to correct the Ioniq’s course. Make extra sure you signal a lane change before actually making a lane change, or you’ll experience this behavior first-hand.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Ioniq earns Good safety ratings, but the organization has not tested the latest standard safety technologies for this car, so it had not earned a Top Safety Pick designation as this review was written. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had not tested the 2020 Ioniq as this review was published.

Powertrain

The big powertrain news for the 2020 Ioniq relates to the Electric model. It gets a more powerful 38.3-kWh battery, increasing its driving range from 124 miles to 170 miles. Horsepower also rises from 118 to 134, improving performance. Torque measures 218 lb.-ft. and is available the moment the driver steps on the accelerator pedal.

Ioniq Hybrids continue with a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder gas engine, a 32-kW electric motor, and a 1.56-kWh battery. All in, this powertrain makes 139 hp and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. In standard Blue trim, this version of the car is rated to get 58 mpg in combined driving. Others get 55 mpg.

Ioniq Plug-in Hybrids have the same gas engine, but swap in a 45-kW electric motor and 8.9-kWh battery. Power output measures 156 hp and 195 lb.-ft. of torque, and Hyundai says the plug-in powertrain supplies 29 miles of driving range on electricity before switching to gas-electric operation and returning 52 mpg in combined driving.

Each version of the car uses a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT), which is terrific. No version of the Ioniq produces the transmission droning that is often common in hybrids that rely on a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to power the wheels. No doubt, the DCT certainly feels different as it shifts, but in a good way. There’s even a Sport mode with a manual shifting gate.

When driving the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid in electric vehicle (EV) mode, if you dig too deep with the accelerator pedal, the gasoline engine fires up to assist. Go easier on the so-called gas, and the car runs exclusively on battery power. This mode is perfect for urban and suburban driving where power demands are frequently low.

In my experience, the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid is best when used as a hybrid, the gas engine and electric motor working together to maximize both efficiency and power. In this mode, the low-speed electric thrust can break the front wheels loose of their grip on the pavement, and the car provides effortless acceleration up to freeway speeds.

Once the battery reaches a bare minimum state of charge, as I discovered charging up a mountain road until the battery meter read 2%, the gasoline engine struggles to accelerate this 3,370 lb. car on its own. Given that it produces 104 hp and 109 lb.-ft. of torque, this is not surprising.

Hyundai says the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid fully recharges overnight, taking 9 hours when using a standard household outlet. Plug the car into a 240-volt charger, and the battery tops off in no more than two hours and 15 minutes.

Fuel Economy

According to Hyundai, the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid provides an estimated 29 miles of electric driving while the EPA predicts a combined fuel economy average of 52 mpg when used as a gas-electric hybrid.

To test these estimates, I started off with a full battery and an indicated 27 miles of range, according to the trip computer. Driving around my hilly Los Angeles suburb in EV mode, I traveled a total of 28.3 miles before the car’s gasoline engine started for gas-electric hybrid operation. I achieved this driving range without adding extra brake energy regeneration using the new-for-2020 paddles on the steering wheel. The gas engine started up when the battery level dropped to 18%.

Then I drove a loop to Santa Monica and back home, running purely in gas-electric hybrid mode. During this trip, the car averaged 47.4 mpg, and I did use the Sport driving mode while driving the twisty bits.

In total, using EV and HEV modes, the car averaged 63.1 mpg over 111.4 miles of driving and a total of three hours on the road. With the 11.4-gallon fuel tank, and including the 28 miles of electric driving, my range calculates to 568 miles, short of Hyundai’s claim of 630 miles.

Driving Comfort

Three hours in the saddle is long enough to determine whether a car is comfortable over longer distances, and the Ioniq proved itself a good place to spend that time. However, during a heat wave I certainly found myself wishing for a seat ventilation option. The test car did offer heated front seats, but, well, it was over 90 degrees outside.

The climate control system struggled with solar heating, requiring regular adjustment depending on which direction the car was traveling in relationship to the sun. The new touch-sensing temperature controls just made the situation worse, not better.

Thanks to its sleek aerodynamics, the Ioniq is fairly quiet on the road. The gasoline engine can make unpleasant noises when it works hard, and the expected small car road noise is present and accounted for.

Driving Feel

Made for efficient commuting, it comes as no surprise to discover that the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid works best on the streets and freeways of cities and suburbs. 

In this environment, the combination of electric motor thrust, DCT transmission shift quality, and expertly calibrated regenerative brakes come together in an satisfyingly efficient way. The ride can sometimes feel unnaturally stiff as the suspension attempts to manage the weight of the electric motor and battery components, but this is not an unusual trait for a car like this one.

In the mountains, the Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid is no fun. All that added weight lowers the center of gravity, but nothing about the suspension tuning or, especially, the tires, suggests Hyundai has an interest in capitalizing on that when it comes to handling. Sport mode adds artificial weight to the steering effort level in a false bid to suggest sportiness. And once the battery fully depletes (to 2% in my case), the powertrain just makes all kinds of unhappy noise.

Final Impressions - Find the best Hyundai deals!

If you’re looking for a great commuter vessel, the 2020 Hyundai Ioniq, in any of its three permutations, deserves careful consideration. It avoids the weirdness that is a hallmark of its primary competitor, the Toyota Prius, while offering a more appealing value equation.

However, if you’re really keen on saving money, a lightly used Ioniq is certainly worth investigating unless you absolutely must have the 2020 version’s upgraded safety technology, the full warranty coverage, the free maintenance plan, the free Blue Link connected services, or the added driving range for the Electric model.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2021 J.D. Power

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