2021 Hyundai Ioniq 5: design, specs and prototype drive

Retro-styled electric crossover launches Hyundai’s Ioniq EV brand and we've driven a development car

Hyundai Ioniq 5 drive - front 3/4 tracking
  • Rear and all-wheel-drive versions
  • Door trims made of paper
  • 80% battery top-up in 18 minutes

Hyundai has pulled the wraps off its new retro Ioniq 5 hatchback. Rather than having any direct links to the existing Hyundai Ioniq, the Ioniq name is becoming a sub-brand that will only offer electric cars.

Since its reveal on 23 February, the Ioniq 5 has received the highest number of enquiries for any Hyundai model in the brand's history. A special edition Ioniq 5 Project 45 limited to 3,000 examples was sold out within hours.

Before the Ioniq 5 arrives in showrooms, we've driven a prototype to see what we can expect. Read on for our review of Hyundai’s rival to the Volkswagen ID.4.

Despite its compact appearance, the Ioniq 5 is actually longer than the new Hyundai Tucson, and its long wheelbase will be good for passenger space. The 5 will rival a wide range of models, including hatchbacks like the Tesla Model 3 and Volkswagen ID.3 to SUVs like the Nissan Ariya and Ford Mustang Mach-E. It sits slightly higher than a conventional hatchback like the Ford Focus, due to the positioning of the batteries under the floor, so Hyundai calls it a crossover.

Hyundai has confirmed a ‘Project 45’ first edition model. Buyers of this model will get notifications such as when the car leaves the factory, and the Project 45 also gets a free two-year subscription to chargepoint provider Ionity.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 drive - front 3/4 static

Hyundai Ioniq 5 performance

The Ioniq 5 is available with a choice of 58 or 72.6kWh batteries, and both come with either rear or all-wheel drive. Picking the bigger battery also means you get a more powerful rear motor, and these versions are about a second quicker from 0-62mph than the 58kWh battery options. The fastest version is the AWD model with the bigger battery, which gets from 0-62mph in just 5.2 seconds, while the 58kWh RWD version takes 8.5 seconds. All top out at 115mph.

It’s the first car to be built on the Hyundai Group’s brand-new scalable electric car platform, called E-GMP, which will soon underpin many more Hyundai and Kia electric vehicles.\

Hyundai Ioniq 5 drive - engine bay

Range and charging

Hyundai estimates that the 72.6kWh battery option manages up to 480km (298 miles) between charges. There’s no word on the smaller battery yet but the car will need to go through WLTP testing before official figures are published.

There’s 800-volt battery technology, like you get with the Porsche Taycan, which means the Ioniq 5 can recharge to 80% in just 18 minutes and a five-minute charge can add 62 miles of range.

Provided there’s enough charge in the battery, you’ll also be able to use the Ioniq 5 as a power source. Hyundai has released videos showing someone cooking a turkey, listening to music and exercising on a treadmill using power from the car.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 drive - rear 3/4 static

Styling

In many respects, the final production model of the Ioniq 5 looks very similar to the Hyundai 45 concept, which was inspired by the 1974 Hyundai Pony Coupe. The square headlights and wide, slim grille feature on this model, as do the similarly boxy tail-lights. The silhouette is close to the original design, too, and the intricate alloy wheels look to have been carried over. They’ll be 20 inches in diameter on production cars and the largest ones fitted to an electric Hyundai.

The Ioniq 5 also gets a clamshell bonnet (another first for Hyundai), flush door handles and active air intakes in the front bumper. Where a grille would be on petrol and diesel versions, Hyundai has fitted all the sensors for the driver assistance features. Five of the nine paint colours offered are new.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 drive - steering wheel

Interior and technology

Fittingly for a car that produces no local emissions, the Ioniq 5’s interior features a number of sustainable materials, including upholstery made from recycled plastic bottles, paint derived from vegetable oil and door trims finished in ‘paperette’. We’re told this is a fully recyclable material that feels like paper.

The touchscreen and digital instrument cluster both measure 12.25 inches and form part of the new car’s impressive technology repertoire. There’s an ‘augmented reality’ head-up display that projects important information onto the windscreen ahead of the driver, plus advanced voice recognition software and wireless phone charging. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also fitted if you want to use your phone’s apps. Via Hyundai’s app, you can see charging progress, personalise user profiles and get live traffic updates.

Hyundai’s SmartSense package is also included, although it remains to be seen how much will be standard. Safety features include highway driving assist with lane-changing capability, speed limit assistance and evasive steering assist. Like the new Tucson, Hyundai has also added in a warning that comes up if the car thinks you’ve left people in the back seats when you get out.

Practicality

The rear seats can slide forwards and backwards so you can prioritise passenger space or luggage capacity, of which there’s 540 litres. Fold the rear seats down and another 1,060 litres are available, while there’s an additional storage space under the bonnet because most of the parts are contained under the floor.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 drive - front tracking

2021 Ioniq 5 prototype drive by Alex Ingram

Hyundai was keen to point out that the suspension, motor calibration and refinement weren't at the level of a final production model, but that didn't stop us being excited to try out a pre-production Ioniq 5.

Even in this form, we found plenty to appreciate. Most striking was the ride comfort, which was noticeably more relaxed than the Hyundai Kona Electric; a car that's been criticised somewhat for its slightly jittery ride. A long wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) and clever multi-link suspension has clearly paid off.

Despite this softer setup, the Ioniq 5's square, athletic stance and low centre of gravity also means it doesn't lean too much in corners. While we weren't able to push the prototype vehicle too hard, body roll was less pronounced than you expect given the car’s supple ride.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 drive - side panning

Poise and stability are important for this range-topping model because it features two electric motors with a combined 302bhp. Performance felt just as strong as its official 5.2-second 0-62mph time suggests, yet when you aren't accelerating hard, the Ioniq 5 reverts to rear-wheel drive to maximise range. By conserving energy, it should be able to do around 300 miles between charges, thanks to a 72.6kWh battery.

Most buyers will likely be satisfied with the 168bhp entry-level model, which is fitted with a 58kWh battery. Thanks to an 800-volt electrical architecture, it will be able to charge at up to 220kW, which is faster than most rivals. Find a potent enough charging station and it's possible to add around 62 miles of range in five minutes.

The dashboard is dominated by a pair of screens and, while they aren't quite as sharp or responsive as in a Tesla, they look good and function well. If anything, the design is too minimalist, with almost no branding and just four squares embossed on the steering wheel. 

There’s plenty of space thanks to a flat floor that gives the Ioniq 5 lots of legroom. It also has a neat party trick - the front seats can electrically fold almost completely flat, making it possible to take a nap or load particularly long items into the passenger-side of the interior. A 531-litre boot will be competitive with other SUVs while giving it a useful advantage over a Golf-sized family hatchback.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 drive - rear 3/4 tracking

Verdict

First impressions are very promising, thanks to the Ioniq 5's impressive performance, plush ride and long range. Its interior is also very modern and spacious but we are expecting the Ioniq 5 to be more expensive than the Volkswagen ID.4.

Read about the company’s current Hyundai Kona Electric and Hyundai Ioniq Electric models here, or see where they feature on our list of the best electric cars to buy now.

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