Hyundai Ioniq5 is the perfect electric vehicle for someone who loves original cars

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Photo: hyundai

When I lately addressed my desire for an electric vehicle here, I missed. Not in terms of locating a desirable ride: I found a few, including the Mercedes EQS 580 and the Porsche Taycan Turbo CrossTurismoand, a little later, the Audi E-Tron GT RS. No, I ran out of money, because all those cars are well over $120,000, plus a few tax brackets beyond my means.

But ever since 2019’s Before Times, when it showed up in concept form at the Frankfurt Auto Show, I’ve been looking forward to a chance to test the Hyundai Ioniq5. Not only because it looks like an amazing reinterpretation (for master chief designer Hyundai SangYup Lee) of a concept Giugiaro had written for the brand when it was first launched in the 1970s. But because it seemed to combine, in one package, everything I want in an electric car.

Image for article titled The Hyundai Ioniq5 is the perfect electric vehicle for someone who loves quirky cars

Photo: hyundai

These aspirations include: great design, smart and delicious packaging, decent range, somewhat affordable price, and all-wheel drive. Also, an overwhelming lack of scale and girth that seems to plague many current and upcoming offerings in the EV category. (If gigantic trucks are stupid, gigantic electric trucks are also dumb.)

For perspective, I own five vintage cars, but my current daily driver – a 2018 VW Golf Alltrack Wagon (with a six-speed manual, naturally) — is perfectly sized for my urban-rural bifurcation, erratically commuting the 115 miles between a shambolic New York rental and my upstate home, while still retaining plenty room for friends, friends’ pets, friends’ physical and emotional baggage, friends’ adventure gear, and the occasional find of furniture at the flea market.

The Ioniq5 is only two inches longer than my VW, and only three and a half inches longer and wider. It seems to be classed as a compact crossover, but, to me, it’s a hatchback. The extra height isn’t a problem – you don’t climb there like you would Subaru Forester Desert I just tested. (The Wilderness is nearly 10 inches longer than my wagon, a fact that seems impossible until you park them side by side.) Nor is the extra length, particularly because the wheelbase of the Ioniq5 is a jaw-dropping 15 inches longer than my VWs, creating a cabin that’s spacious, airy and truly livable. The optional full glass roof, with its electrically operated flap blind, helps.

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Comparing a car’s interior to a first-gen iPod became a cliché around the release of the first-gen Chevy Volt, but there’s a retro-futuristic simplicity inside the Ioniq5 that’s compelling and soothing. Simple, clean surfaces, quality materials, and a handful of jewel-like metal knobs and switches—and what appears to be sliced ​​and etched stone in the door and dash trim—give the The Hyundai’s interior feels technical and sound, like a really nice MRI lab.

The stone finish of the door panels is particularly charming.

The stone finish of the door panels is particularly charming.
Photo: hyundai

Although it could use a few extra knobs and buttons. For example, to tune the radio or to return the infotainment display to its home page. Or to control the seat and steering wheel heaters. Why do designers insist on putting heated seat functions at the bottom of a futzy touchscreen menu when they know we’ll be wearing gloves every time we try to activate them?

Speaking of seats, I would have loved the felted, Eames-meets-Saarinen-like bentwood pods that SangYup showed off on the concept car. At least Hyundai was kind enough to include leg extenders and footrests in the vegan leather driver’s seat, for those of us who like to nap while waiting at a charging station. The car can handle high-speed charging up to 350kW, which theoretically will take the battery from 10% to 80% charge in just 18 minutes – but good luck finding a working fast charger in most areas of the United States right now. At least the Ioniq’s flat floor and ample storage meant plenty of room for my laptop and backpack, so I could write this story from the driver’s seat while charging (how meta). A large dog could run inside this car without ever hitting a person.

Editor's Note: This is not what Brett Berk looks like.

Editor’s Note: This is not what Brett Berk looks like.
Photo: hyundai

I tested the top of the range Ioniq5 Limited AWD. Motors at each axle produce a total of 320 hp and 446 lb-ft of torque, enough to shove the nearly 2.5-tonne compact from 0-60 in a snap of 5 seconds – no warp speed, but very fast for me. Its 256 miles of range should get me back on a single charge (the single-motor RWD versions get a claimed range of 303 miles). The 20-inch finned turbine wheels, in particular, really complement the clean Wüsthof creases in the bodywork. And the tires, which are wider and stickier than most “small” EVs, give the 5 a sporty edge, with smooth, neutral handling that is, well, very VW.

The Ioniq5 I rode went for an incredible $55,000 before tax incentives, which between federal, state, and local can be a five-figure discount. And while all the advanced driver-assist features it had were nice, I’d give up most of them – blind-spot monitoring, remote parking (which doesn’t work in New York, where parking is the most painful), and even the aforementioned relaxation Functional driver’s seat – and save about $7,000 by downgrading to an SE or SEL Long-Range AWD. After the federal rebate alone, that brings me back to a car that costs around $40,000. It’s much closer to my blood type.

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Photo: hyundai

An industry friend pointed out that the Ioniq5 might be one of those cars that gets the love of motoring journalists, but lacks popular appeal – much like my compact, manual, all-wheel-drive, station wagon canceled due to slow sales. I told him I didn’t care if it was a mainstream hit. “Let’s applaud the outliers,” I told him, “the cars that drive the whole industry forward.”

I’m not dumb enough to buy a car in the current strangled supply chain, dominated by markup sales environment. But this Hyundai is a hit for me, and it’ll be at the top of my list when I finally make my first EV purchase.