Hyundai IONIQ 5 First Drive: A Pivotal Moment for Hyundai—and for Electric Cars 

The Ioniq 5 Featured Image

This is going to be one heck of a race and Hyundai is in it to win it.

We are at a tipping point in electric cars: there are enough on the market that you can find one that fits most of your needs. Charging an EV, both at home and on the road, is doable. They can charge quickly and batteries can deliver about the same number of miles per charge as a tank of gas. From here it’s just going to get better, so buckle up.

The Hyundai IONIQ 5, which is on sale now, is poised to lead the pack: it delivers up to 300 miles on a charge, which is at the top end of charge range among electric cars; it can recharge up to 80% of the battery in 18 minutes at a DC fast charger; it’s powerful and fun to drive and it has a large, roomy cabin. 

It’s clear that with the IONIQ 5, Hyundai has summed up the field of competitors and has come to this race with the intention of winning. 

Related: The Fun-to-Drive Hyundai Kona Electric Helps to Save the Planet (and Your Money)

The Hyundai Ioniq 5

The Hyundai IONIQ 5. Photo: Scotty Reiss

IONIQ 5: The Flagship in Hyundai’s Electric Car Strategy

The IONIQ 5 is just the first of the new line of IONIQ models—an evolution of the current IONIQ lineup—that is built on a new platform. In the electric car pipeline are the IONIQ 6 sedan and the IONIQ 7 full size SUV which (we expect) will have seating for 7 passengers. 

The new platform gives these the IONIQ 5 (and, we assume, it’s future siblings) the advantage of a flat passenger cabin floor, which allows for an open cabin design; a new battery system that is far more efficient, able to store and regenerate even more energy than prior Hyundai electric cars; and an electrified structure that allows the IONIQ 5 to charge faster than almost any other electric car on the market. 

Those three things—faster charging, open cabin design and more efficient batteries—add up to an electric car that brings a lot more to the table, all at a very competitive price, which starts at $39,700 and tops out at $54,500. 

Related: What It Really Costs To Own An Electric Car

Hyundai Ioniq 5 Front Seat

Hyundai IONIQ 5 front seat. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A Futuristic Design for a Future-Forward Car

Hyundai has been building electric and hybrid cars with a design philosophy of ‘beautiful cars that happen to be electric (or hybrid)’ but that don’t necessarily look electric (or hybrid). That era may be over with the IONIQ line, which as a very distinct look and shape.

Gone are the swooping aerodynamic panels and flowing rooflines. Instead, the IONIQ 5 is framed by a crisp cabin outline formed by creased lines and paired with square headlights and tail lights. It also has flush door handles that pop out when you  approach with a key.

On the IONIQ 5’s front grille and rear tail lights you’ll see the distinct“parametric pixel” that anchors its design. This pixel graphic, composed of small squares, is seen throughout the IONIQ 5, from the square pixel-accented headlights to the pixel-esque light bar across the lift gate, the pixel graphic on the charge door, the charge meter lights inside the charge door, the interior door panels, a center stripe on the vegan-leather upholstered seats and the center of the steering wheel. The pixel erupts in a flowing glow on the media screen when you tap for assistance. What you don’t see much of is the swooping Hyundai logo. It’s on the hood and lift gate and that’s about it. 

Update: A YouTube viewer pointed out that the four dot pixel icon is actually Morse code for the letter ‘H’ – which makes total sense that this new look is code for Hyundai Electric. This little tidbit will come in handy in a trivia contest some day! 

Related: How to Decide if an Electric Car Is Right for Your Lifestyle

The Rear Seat In The Hyundai Ioniq 5

The rear seat in the Hyundai IONIQ 5 is really spacious; there is lots of legroom and the center console can be moved forward or back. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Interior Space That’s All About You and Your Crew

Inside, the IONIQ 5 is an SUV with lots of passenger space. That’s due to the open cabin design: all seats move forward and back and recline. The center console can move forward and back, giving you more space in the front or in the rear.  And you can lift the arm rest and drop a tote bag into the space under it (though you may block USB ports and access to other spaces there). There is plenty of headroom, legroom and cargo space. ? this IG post to see!


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And as a bonus, especially for the driver who is charged with charging the IONIQ 5, the driver’s seat has an extending leg rest and can fully recline. You can take a nap or gaze at the stars through the panoramic sun roof while you charge the car. Pretty novel. 

The Vehicle-To-Load Rerse Charge Adapter

The vehicle-to-load reverse charge adapter. So your car can charge your house. Really! Photo: Scotty Reiss

Technology From the Future of Electric Car Ownership

Designers and engineers have dazzled us with the fantastic things they say our EVs will be able to to do: hold enough battery power to charge our homes and large equipment; park themselves or drive to us when summoned, driverlessly. Operate with our phone and without a key. Well, that day is here. Some of these things, such as the phone-as-key, have been with us for a while, with Tesla being the image leader in this technology (though many other car makers offer this on many models, including Hyundai). 

We’ve had Hyundai’s driverless “Smart Park” for a few years, and it even gave us a chuckle in its 2019 Super Bowl ads.

And, we’ve been able to use our pickup trucks and other machines to power other equipment. 

However, this may be the first time that all these features come together under one roofline in the IONIQ 5. Hyundai will offer IONIQ 5 owners an adapter that allows reverse charging: plug it into the car’s charge port and you can draw on the battery rather than charge it. The IONIQ 5’s battery holds enough juice to power the average house for a few days. Or use it to power a tailgate party, a campsite or a soundstage. The possibilities are pretty incredible.

The Driver'S Information Screen With Blind Spot Monitor And Key Information, Such As Auto Hold, Remaining Battery Charge And That I-Pedal Is Engaged

The driver’s information screen with blind spot monitor and key information, such as auto hold, remaining battery charge and that i-Pedal is engaged. Photo: Scotty Reiss

On the Road, IONIQ 5 Offers An Impressive Drive—and i-Pedal Regenerative Braking

Tesla’s Ludicrous mode went a long way to destroy the idea that electric cars are slow. But Tesla isn’t alone in building electric cars that are quick when you tap the accelerator. Most have instant acceleration and solid power and paired with a solid horsepower output, can be really fun to drive. But balancing power with range has been the challenge; no one wants to have to decide between a powerful car and one that can go the distance. 

And that’s the beauty of the IONIQ 5: it offers a very respectable 225 HP in the rear wheel drive model and 320 HP in the all wheel drive model. For a car this size, that’s a lot of power. 

And then, you have drive mode choices, including sport, normal and eco so you can have the experience you want. In sport mode the IONIQ 5’s motor is a bit quicker and insistent, and the suspension a tightens up for fun driving. 

Just don’t pull the paddle shifters thinking you’ll add to the performance drive experience; instead, you’ll add to the battery performance: The paddles are regenerative braking paddles and are used to set your i-Pedal level. 

There are several modes of regenerative braking in the IONIQ 5; these allow a softer and more natural rolling stop but still regenerate the battery as the car slows. Pull the paddle twice for full i-Pedal mode and you feel a distinct slowing of the car; with the car in eco mode it’s even more distinct. Drivers will get used to this and even come to love it. One pedal driving is the mastery of EV driving: to be so in control of the car that you never need to use the brake is glorious. 

The Rear End Of The Hyundai Ioniq 5 Has A Graphic Pixel Design

The rear end of the Hyundai IONIQ 5 has a graphic pixel design. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What You Get for the Money: Pick Your Drive Type, Battery Range and Power

The price of the IONIQ 5 is most determined by the battery size and power output, as well as rear or all wheel drive. From there, buyers can choose more tech forward interiors and luxuries like head up display.  Standard equipment includes: 

  • 800 watt fast charging electric system
  • 12.3” touchscreen navigation system 
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto 
  • BlueLink connected car service
  • Driver assist and safety systems including adaptive cruise control, forward collision avoidance, blind spot collision avoidance, lane keep assist and lane follow assist and rear cross traffic assist 
  • Drive assist with machine learning— this adaptive cruise control system also adapts to your driving style
  • Two years of unlimited 30 minute charge sessions at Electrify America stations 

Hyundai Ioniq 5 Pricing

Keep in mind that buyers may qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit and state credits, as well as other perks such as local power company incentives and free charging in some places. 

The Gas Door Is Neatly Hidden On The Car'S Rear Corner

The gas door is neatly hidden on the car’s rear corner. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A Great Way to Drive into the Future

Even if the look of the IONIQ 5 isn’t for you, it’s easy to get past once you’re inside and behind the wheel. I really loved the roomy cabin (and the vegan leather upholstery!) and the novel solutions to help owners adapt to electric car life. But I especially like that the IONIQ 5 is available in all wheel drive, which is a necessity in so many places; it makes EV driving accessible to everyone, not just those in snow-free climates. 

All that, paired with the more powerful 320 horsepower motor and the fast charging time give this small electric SUV a great head start in the EV race and make it a must-look for electric car shoppers. 

Disclosure: I was Hyundai’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own. 

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss