HYUNDAI isn’t the first maker to offer pure-electric and hybrid tech, but there’s no denying the brand is working hard to catch up. Its loniq range has a hybrid and a pure EV, but there’s also a plug-in aiming to offer the best of both worlds. Now we’ve driven the car in the UK. The PHEV version isn’t just a carbon copy of the regular Hybrid with an extra socket, however. The 1.6-litre petrol engine has the same output as the non-plug-in car, but the electric motor gets a boost. And while the maximum combined power figure is still 139bhp, it’s two tenths fester from 0-62mph than the standard hybrid car.
The ability to charge the larger battery at a wall socket (it tales about too and a half hours) really cuts the loniq’s CO2 emissions, though; it emits just 26g/km, compared with the conventional hybrid’s 79g/km. As with many other PHEVs, the loniq is a car that is at its best when making relaxed progress. Treat the throttle gently and it will gather speed smoothly and with little intrusion from the petrol motor. Stamp on the right pedal and things quickly deteriorate, though; the six-speed dual-clutch transmission isn’t the quickest or smoothest-shifting unit out there, and the petrol motor, while fluid enough, is pretty audible if its revs are sent rocketing.
You can run the plug-in loniq in a couple of modes. Most of the time will be spent in the car’s hybrid setting, where the system mixes electric and petrol power as it sees fit. It’s worth noting that the PHEV is keener to stick with pure-electric motoring than its conventional hybrid stable mate. Despite this, you’ll still notice the engine kicking in quite regularly – not least because it’s not the most polished of transitions. Sticking the car into EV mode forces it to ignore the petrol engine altogether for as long as possible. In theory, at least, this would allow you to complete the bulk of a longer journey using the petrol engine, switching to silent running for the final few miles in an area where noise or emissions are more heavily controlled. In practice it works pretty well, although the 60bhp electric motor doesn’t have the punchy shove that you’d get a in a pure-electric car.
Hyundai claims an EV range of around 39 miles, but you’ll do well to get more than 30 miles in real-world motoring. The official fuel economy figure of 252mpg is unrealistic, too, although with regular charging, this could still be a very efficient commuter car. The loniq is geared towards comfort, so there’s a fair amount of body roll if you throw the carat a corner. You’ll find that a pretty unsatisfying exercise, though, because while the steering is accurate enough, it is also desperately short on communicating what the front wheels are doing. Tricky brake pedal modulation completes the picture, leaving you with a car that’s comfortable but unexciting.
Inside is a fun Icy instrument panel and an eight-inch infotainment screen, but they don’t do enough to lift what is a pretty bland cabin. It feels cheap, too, with some hard, scratchy plastics never far from the eye. The plug-in is offered in the same trim levels as the pure-EV loniq – Premium and Premium SE – and there’s a reasonable amount of kit. All cars get touchscreen sat-nav, wireless phone charging and keyless go, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Premium SE adds driver’s seat ventilation, rain-sensing wipers, a blind-spot detection system and front parking sensors. It’s spacious enough for four adults to travel in comfort, and you can get three grown-ups in the back for all but really long trips. Boot space takes a hit because of the PHEV set-up, but is still a useful 341 litres; about the same as a small family hatchback.