Table of Contents
The verdict: The first affordable electric SUV without a defining flaw, the Ioniq 5 has a comfortable ride and plenty of space — and it’s relatively simple to operate — but some of its best features can be had only on the Limited trim level for thousands of dollars more. As of its launch, the Ioniq 5 is on sale in 26 states.
Versus the competition: Even at its worst, the Ioniq 5 is average in its class, with a low tow rating and a need for more real buttons on the dashboard, but it shines when it comes to occupant and cargo room, ride quality and overall efficiency. At compatible DC fast-charging stations, it also charges faster than almost all its competitors.
I’ve been waiting for an electric vehicle like the 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5. It’s the first of several new affordable SUV-ish models that doesn’t have a defining shortcoming: The Ford Mustang Mach-E doesn’t ride well and has dismal brake-pedal feel, the Volkswagen ID.4 is plagued by an overabundance of touch-sensitive controls, and the Volvo XC40 Recharge’s underlying inefficiency diminishes its range and charging speed. The Tesla Model Y rides too firmly for some roads, has no instrument panel and is no longer eligible for a federal tax credit. (If the Model Y seems higher-priced than the others mentioned here, it’s partly because Tesla sells direct and actually raises its list prices. Not reflected in the other models’ MSRPs is the higher transaction prices that are also happening for those vehicles.)
We do have some bones to pick with the Ioniq 5; they just aren’t as big — individually or combined — as the ones mentioned above. Just so you’re aware, one drawback that stands out is the fact that the Ioniq 5’s cabin can’t be preconditioned when it’s connected to a charger if you remote-start using the key fob. (The heating or air conditioning does activate when not attached to the charger.) In order to carry out this important step, which helps preserve battery power for driving range before departing, you must use a smartphone app and Bluelink subscription — complimentary for only three years then $198 per year afterward (or as little as $93.67 per year if you pay three years in advance). Presumably you can program the car to precondition for a planned departure while it’s plugged in, but any unplanned trip requires Bluelink. Hyundai has done this kind of thing for years with its gas-powered cars, but now that it has remote-start on its remotes, preconditioning should work forever, for free. It’s a cornerstone of electric motoring, and Nissan, to name one brand, has maintained the functionality free, even on older Leafs.
Note that the Ioniq 5 and new 2022 Kia EV6 weren’t available for thorough evaluation when we were deciding on our Best Electric Vehicle of 2022, which we granted to the Model Y. Cars.com is preparing to include all these models in a comprehensive multi-vehicle comparison test that will reveal more, but after my time with the Ioniq 5, it seems a strong candidate for next year’s award deliberations. We’ve already called it out as a Top EV Pick for families.
Versions & Ranges
The Ioniq 5 comes in SE, SEL and Limited trim levels. We tested a Limited with all-wheel drive, which is optional on all trims (rear-wheel drive is standard). If you want the Ioniq 5’s longest range, you’ll have to stick with RWD, which brings an EPA-estimated 303-mile range in favorable conditions. AWD drops the range to an estimated 256 miles. Not noted on this comparison on the EPA site is a “standard-range” RWD Ioniq 5, which has a smaller battery but is not sold in the U.S. Corporate sibling Kia does offer two battery sizes here for the Ioniq 5’s sister model, the EV6.
As of launch, the 2022 Ioniq 5 is only a bit more widely available than its predecessor. It’s offered in 26 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Is It an SUV?
Whether a given model is an SUV, wagon, hatchback or something else is a tiresome argument that can be decided only by the individual, but nowadays the point is for vehicles to offer what we like about SUVs: a hatch rather than a trunk, a bit more size and versatility than a sedan, and optional AWD. The Ioniq 5 checks all these boxes.
Personally, I also focus on ground clearance because it matters to people who buy SUVs and/or AWD for use in snow, and the quest for aerodynamics sometimes leads EV manufacturers to use low-slung chin spoilers and other provisions that improve efficiency but hinder passage over snow. The Ioniq 5’s ground clearance is listed as 6.1 inches — better than the Mustang Mach-E’s 5.7 inches but lower than the Model Y’s 6.6 inches and the XC40 Recharge’s 6.9 inches.
I happened to drive the Ioniq 5 during a snowstorm, and when I stood on the brake a couple of times, the car kept rolling too far for comfort while the antilock brakes chattered away. People usually blame this on brakes, but the way the car felt overall suggested the 20-inch Michelin Primacy Tour all-season tires (size 255/45R20), which are standard on the Limited, were a bit lacking. Tirerack.com shows a Winter/Snow rating of 7.7 for these tires, which seems decent, but three models in this competitive set are rated better (and they cost less), while just one has a lower rating.
The standard 19-inch wheels on the Ioniq 5’s lower trim levels also appear to come with Michelin tires, named Primacy (versus Primacy Tour), but we haven’t driven them.
How It Drives
The biggest news here is that the Ioniq 5 rides comfortably, even with the Limited trim level’s needlessly large 20-inch wheels. For some reason, most affordable EVs ride firmly or poorly, though that’s starting to improve. The EV6 is among the exceptions, as is the ID.4 — despite a short wheelbase that can make a compliant ride more difficult to achieve. The Ioniq 5’s 118-inch wheelbase is 9 inches longer than the VW’s and roughly 4 inches longer than the Kia’s. This doesn’t do its turning diameter any favors: It’s 39.3 feet — versus the EV6’s 38.2 and the ID.4’s 31.5 (RWD) or 36.4 feet (AWD) — and you feel it in ordinary parking maneuvers.
As for handling, the Ioniq 5 felt good but not great, but it should be noted that the roads were — at best — cold and coated with salt during our evaluation period. The rear motor is rated 225 horsepower with RWD. With optional AWD it’s 221 hp, plus a front motor rated 99 hp, but the car tends to feel more like a front-drive vehicle when pushed hard through turns. It’s the same feeling we got from the ID.4, probably for the same reason: With so much torque in the rear, it would be too easy to spin out if the powertrain didn’t apportion output conservatively.
For what it’s worth, if you want sporty, the EV6 is definitely sportier … looking. You’ll probably see lots of reports about the EV6 being the sporty choice of the two, but our initial reaction is that the sister models drive similarly despite the Kia’s appearance and shorter wheelbase.
The Ioniq 5 is quick — as good as 0-60 mph in less than 5 seconds with AWD — but only in the right driving mode. The car’s modes include Normal, Eco, Sport and Snow, and they’re all reasonably well-designed, with the exception of Eco mode, which doesn’t allow full acceleration off the line even if you floor it. It’s a mistake on Hyundai’s part; Eco modes always dull the go-pedal, even in gas-powered cars, but they usually let loose if the accelerator hits the floor. Withholding power that drivers might expect from a car based on its other modes sure seems like a safety hazard. Imagine you’re trying to dive into traffic or turn left from a stop with oncoming vehicles bearing down, only to find Eco mode has turned your hare into a tortoise.
I was most impressed with the number and execution of the Ioniq 5’s regenerative-braking levels. These vary the degree of deceleration when you lift off the accelerator, at which point the drive motors instantaneously serve as generators, returning energy to the battery pack. I teased Volkswagen for having just two regen levels in the ID.4 because it’s just programming; why not go crazy and have three? Well, Hyundai went crazy. The steering-wheel paddles let you select among four levels (Lv0 to Lv3), with Lv3 providing the most regen of the four, but then one more click activates i-Pedal. This is Hyundai’s one-pedal operation, requiring almost no use of the brake pedal in normal driving, even down to a complete stop. (Why i-Pedal isn’t just called Lv4 is a question for Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap.)
But wait, there’s more: Hold the right-hand paddle a few seconds and you’ll activate an Auto setting that uses sensors to adjust the regen based on following distance and slope. And if all this isn’t enough, when coasting in one of the Lv settings you can hold the left-hand paddle to add some deceleration, like a hand brake would.
Once you figure it out, it’s good to have this many options. Whenever I switch to a gas-powered vehicle, I’m reminded of the wasted energy an EV would be recapturing every time I step on the brake pedal.
Good Usability, Minimal Sacrifice
The Ioniq 5’s interior design is certainly different — as some people think is required of an EV — but fortunately it doesn’t go off the deep end and become unusable in the process. To the contrary, it’s among the simplest EVs to operate. Unlike the Model Y, the Ioniq 5 has a dedicated instrument panel, and unlike the Mach-E’s, it’s large and displays a lot of information, including battery percentage and projected range, which varies with temperature and driving mode — which it also displays. (Tesla’s insistence on showing best-case range on the top-level display remains one of our biggest complaints.)
The center section of the Hyundai’s screen shows a wealth of other selectable information, and the Limited trim adds a blind spot view monitor, which displays a camera view of either blind spot when you activate the corresponding turn signal. This trim level also adds a Surround View Monitor that displays many different perspectives, but on the touchscreen. Thankfully, outward visibility is pretty good overall — much better than in the EV6, though the lack of a rear window wiper on both is regrettable.
The Ioniq 5’s 12.3-inch central touchscreen, which looks like a twin of the driver’s display, is simple enough to use. It’s supplemented by rows of mechanical and touch-sensitive buttons farther down — more than the Model Y but still not as many as we’d like. For one thing, controls for the heated seats and steering wheel (the latter feature is excluded from the SE trim level) are in a touchscreen submenu, which is a gaffe. These features are too important in an EV not to be at least top-level, and real buttons would be best. (See how the EV6 solves this problem in What’s Really the Difference Between the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6.) Regardless of the vehicle, heated seats are frequently fussed with and should be controllable by an unfamiliar passenger without the driver’s help. That’s not the case in the Ioniq 5, where you have to use the touchscreen or a touch-sensitive button labeled “warmer” to bring up the appropriate menu.
Though we don’t care for the touch-sensitive buttons Hyundai has adopted across its lineup, they didn’t cause me as much trouble here as this type of button often does, even with gloves on. (But they still need to go.)
The touchscreen system supports wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Hyundai said it’s investigating whether existing vehicles will be upgradable to wireless versions of these smartphone interfaces but had no answers as of this writing. As usual in Hyundais, Android Auto doesn’t use the full width of the display. I don’t object to it as much as some simply because I don’t see the advantage of a widescreen map, which is my primary use of the feature.
The head-up display that’s included in the Limited is impressively large and full-featured. Among other info, it indicates when a vehicle is in your blind spot, putting that info closer to the driver’s line of sight than most such monitors. It even has augmented-reality-style arrows that appear to show you upcoming turns when using the built-in navigation system (but not with Apple or Google Maps). It’s similar to what we’ve seen in luxury vehicles.
This long-awaited class is already delivering roomier interiors than we’ve had in past affordable plug-ins, and the Ioniq 5 takes it even further. In addition to its competitive front headroom and legroom dimensions, the lack of a conventional center console extending toward the dashboard leaves plenty of room for a purse, backpack or what have you. The console between the Ioniq 5’s front seats leaves plenty of open space, and the armrest raises most of the way. In the Limited trim level, the console can slide backward; without this feature, the armrest doesn’t raise quite far enough to get completely out of the way if you prefer a no-armrest space. The downsides to the Ioniq’s wide-open approach are less enclosed storage, the wireless smartphone charging pad being farther from reach and, as mentioned above, you lose some surfaces that could be home to needed buttons, as illustrated in the EV6.
The backseat is even more generous, with 39.4 inches of legroom, beating the Ford (38.1), Kia (39) and VW (37.6). The seat slides to apportion space where you need it — backseat or cargo area. Once again, the Limited trim level has exclusive features back here that lower trims don’t, including integrated side window shades and adjustable outboard head restraints. The available panoramic glass moonroof makes the backseat seem even roomier, which is an advantage over the Model Y and its opaque powered sunshade.