Hyundai’s Ioniq: The New Standard For Hybrids?

Hyundai Ioniq

Hyundai is not new to the hybrid scene (the Sonata hybrid was first produced in 2011), but the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq represents a huge step up for the automaker, and the first real competition for the venerable Toyota Prius.

For nearly two decades the Toyota Prius has been the undisputed king of the hybrid sect and few contenders have matched its fuel economy or practicality. Until now.

In fact, where fuel economy is concerned, the new Hyundai Ioniq bests the Prius at every trim level. In most cases the Ioniq is also less expensive then its Toyota counterpart and it offers a more traditional driving experience. Where the Prius uses the shiftless experience of a continuously variable transmission, the Ioniq is a equipped with a six-speed automatic.

So is the Hyundai Ioniq the new standard in the hybrid sect? Well, it all comes down to desired features and perceived value.

The Ioniq is being offered in three trim levels – Blue, SEL, and Limited. The Prius, on the other hand, is available in six trim levels – Two, TwoEco, Three, Three Touring, Four, and Four Touring.

Ioniq Blue vs. Prius Two Eco

The Ioniq Blue and Prius Two Eco offer the best fuel economy of all trim levels with the Hyundai having a slight edge. It is at this trim level where the Ioniq has the greatest price advantage, coming in more than $3000 less than the Prius.

Both cars come standard with display audio systems and comparably sized touch screen controls, backup cameras, cloth upholstery, proximity key entry and Bluetooth. The Ioniq adds an extra USB charging port, dual zone climate control, and Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, none of which are available on the Two Eco.

The Prius Two Eco beats the Ioniq Blue hands-down when it comes to standard safety features. Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control are standard features on all Prius models, but not available on the Ioniq Blue.

Ioniq SEL (with Tech Package) vs. Prius Three

If we are comparing safety features, we’ll have to step up to the Ioniq SEL and add the optional Tech Package to match the standard safety features found on the Prius. Still, even with the addition of the Tech Package, the Ioniq SEL comes in $1500 cheaper than the Prius Three.

While the added safety features make this a more ‘apples to apples’ comparison, there are still differences to weigh. The Hyundai Ioniq SEL brings heated front seats and a power driver’s seat to the table – features missing on the Prius Three – but the Prius counters with built in navigation and a wireless smartphone charger.

Ioniq Limited (with Ultimate Package) vs. Prius Four Touring

At the top of he trim level heap is the Ioniq Limited (with Ultimate Package) and the Prius Four Touring edition. Here Toyota flips the script and wins the pricing war – coming in about $400 cheaper – but the Ioniq Limited steps up the feature list with a power sunroof, leather upholstery, and auto-dimming rearview. Adding the Ultimate Package gets you built-in navigation, larger (8 inch) touchscreen, wireless phone charger and comparable safety features.

Toyota’s top of the line Prius adds faux-leather upholstery and power, heated front seats.

Decisions. Decisions. Which One To Choose?

In all reality, where safety is a concern, the Ioniq can not compete at the entry trim level. It is not until you step up to the SEL (with Tech Package) that you get comparable safety features. That being said, the SEL (with Tech Package) is still $1500 less than the Prius Three.

Still, Toyota has been refining the Prius for more nearly two decades and have a well established reputation for both safety and resale value. Hyundai, on the other hand, has proven to be a strong contender in nearly every class of automobile.

The choice, in the end, is yours.