Hyundai’s new Ioniq 5 is arriving in Australia and it might just be the best value family electric car on the market…we put it up against one of the most competitive rivals in the world.
The global switchover to EVs is gathering pace quicker than you might think, with the result that, like the internet in the late 1990s, battery-engined vehicles will appear to segue from novelty to necessity almost overnight. More importantly, it’s at the more ‘affordable’ end of the market that the fastest changes are now occurring. The megawatt hypercars, premium brands and ambitious start-ups funded by eccentric entrepreneurs have stolen the headlines so far, but now it’s the turn of the mainstream makers to take the baton.
Leading the charge on the family-friendly front are Hyundai and Skoda, which have both launched EVs with more than a hint of SUV about them in the form of the all-new Ioniq 5 and Enyaq iV. They differ from the likes of the established Nissan Leaf, new MG ZS, and Kia Niro in that they have longer wheelbases and far better family practicality. Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 is on sale in Australia this month while Skoda has no local confirmation yet for the Enyaq. However, with our European colleagues suggesting that these are the two best EV options for families, we put both head to head to discover where the incoming Ioniq 5 sits. Both promise a range of around 480km, pack more than 150kW of power, and cost in the region of $70,000.
For those of us worried that an EV future will lead to a more homogenous approach to engineering, then on paper there’s nothing here that allays those fears.
Both are essentially underpinned by their respective brand’s EV ‘skateboard’ platform, featuring a rear-mounted electric motor and a battery pack that’s laid low on the floor between the axles for optimum weight distribution and packaging. In the case of the Hyundai, it’s the E-GMP platform that will be shared with sibling firm Kia for its EV6, while the Enyaq uses the Volkswagen Group’s MEB structure that has already seen service in the Volkswagen ID 3 and Audi Q4.
More expensive versions offer a front-mounted motor for four-wheel drive, but we’ve opted for rear-drive cars with the longest-range battery available: an Ioniq 5 with 72.6kWh on tap and an Enyaq iV 80 touting 77kWh. That means the Ioniq 5 on test matches the spec of the entry-level Ioniq 5 2WD on sale in Australia at $71,900 before on-road costs.
While the specs between these two models on test are similar, the Ioniq 5 has some tricks up its sleeve, such as an 800V architecture similar to that used in the Porsche Taycan and Audi E-tron GT that allows the fastest and most efficient charging. The car is also set up to accommodate vehicle-to-grid charging, meaning it should one day be possible for it to feed power back into your home or office at peak times. Neat.
These advanced extras are reflected in the Hyundai’s concept car looks, and with its chiselled edges, distinctive LED light treatment and pop-out door handles, the angular Ioniq 5 looks more like set dressing for a Tron remake than a Tesco car park staple. Few cars this side of a mega-money supercar attract more attention than the Korean machine, which so clearly wears its high-tech underpinnings on its sleeve.
Unsurprisingly, given its more sensible image, Skoda has taken a more low-key approach with the Enyaq, which shares many of its cues with the brand’s existing line-up. Stick a traditional grille on the nose, lose the green-tagged numberplates and the Czech crossover could easily pass itself off as a conventionally powered compatriot to the Kodiaq and Karoq.
It’s a similar story inside, where you’ll find a traditional centre console between the front seats, while the layout is conventional and easy to use. Yet as with the exterior, there’s a sense that you could be sitting in any model from the brand. This feeling is enhanced by the now familiar upmarket fit and finish (the Hyundai’s materials feel a little inferior, particularly the large, featureless plastic door cards) and the firm’s typically pragmatic approach to packaging, with bags of space for people and things, including an array of handy cubbies for storage and a cavernous 585-litre boot. There’s less space in the Hyundai’s 527-litre luggage bay, a corollary of its higher floor and more steeply raked rear screen. That said, it will happily swallow most that a family can throw at it, plus there’s smart hidden storage for the numerous charging cables, while the rear seat slides back and forth to create more room for luggage or legs, depending on your priorities.
Crucially, the Ioniq 5 uses its flatpack powertrain more cleverly than the Enyaq. There’s loads of space to stretch out thanks to a floor that’s unencumbered by tricky topography, while up front the lack of a bulky transmission tunnel combines with the large windows and pale colour scheme to create a bright, airy and modern ambience that’s more architectural than traditional car interior. All Hyundai badging has been banished – perhaps a trick to lure the often logo-obsessed buyers of more established premium products.
Either way, the detailing is delightful, such as the roomy glovebox that slides out like a drawer, the twin TFT screens that have the look of a giant iPhone (and are as easy to use) laid on its side and the handily sited cupholders that seem to float between the front seats.
But is this daring design cunning subterfuge to distract you from a generic EV driving experience? You know the drill by now: effortlessly linear acceleration, low noise levels and an underlying sense of mass brought on by bulky batteries that weigh the best part of half a tonne. It’s perhaps a tad reductive, but drive one family-sized electric car and you’ve arguably driven them all.
On first acquaintance, there’s nothing here that’s likely to change such a view, with both the Skoda and Hyundai being largely interchangeable in the way they go down the road. Engage drive (using a handy, Mercedes-style column-mounted controller on the Ioniq 5) and the sensations are eerily similar.
Smart step-off? Check. Brisk, warm-hatch-baiting acceleration up to about 100km/h when the muscular urge begins to tail off? Yep. Near-silent power delivery? Indeed. And how about a Sport mode that adds hyperactive urgency to the throttle? But of course. The on-paper figures show the Hyundai has the upper hand in terms of all-out urge, but in reality there’s barely a charging cable’s width between the two.
Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll discover each car possesses a personality of its own, albeit one that’s subtler and more deeply hidden than a traditional petrol or diesel alternative. For instance, despite its not inconsiderable length, the Enyaq is right at home carving up city streets thanks to a surprisingly tight sub-10m turning circle that gives it the about-face manoeuvrability of a black cab. The Ioniq 5 hits back with more effective one-pedal driving that allows you to almost completely steer clear of the friction brakes. Pull the left-hand paddle on the wheel and you engage the ‘i-Pedal’, which provides enough braking force when you lift off the throttle to bring you to a complete stop. Knock the Skoda into its ‘B’ mode and there’s decent regenerative retardation, but it’s nowhere near as effective as its rival’s.
Both cars have a reasonably firm edge to their low-speed rides, but the Skoda feels a touch stiffer, partly because its lower-profile tyres provide less cushioning than the Hyundai’s fatter sidewall, but both ride with commendable suppleness once you’ve broken free of the city limits. There’s more suspension noise in the Enyaq, though, from the rear in particular, while at motorway speeds there’s some wind rustle from the A-pillars. Overall, it’s the Hyundai that’s easier on your ears. Find some interesting roads and the differences are starker still.
Take the Hyundai first and you’ll discover accurate steering with some welcome heft. There’s no real feedback, but it’s easy to place the car, front-end grip is surprisingly strong and you can feel the rear axle coming into play as forces build, the Ioniq 5 swivelling around your hips with a definite sense of agility.
Hell, there’s even some genuine enjoyment to be had here. Lift the throttle and the Hyundai tightens its line nicely; switch off the traction control and you can even encourage the Ioniq 5 to indulge in the merest snifter of power oversteer out of tighter turns. It’s hard not to laugh. Push too hard, though, and the Hyundai starts to give up the fight against its not inconsiderable 1910kg mass, its body movements become more ragged as the dampers struggle to keep up and rapid direction changes result in some scrappy lurches this way and that.
In contrast, the Skoda delivers greater control at the limit, any waywardness reined in by dampers that refuse to become as discombobulated when put under extreme duress. Yet it’s also more uninspiring to drive, meaning you’re less likely to get such a wiggle on in the first place. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the Enyaq (it’s composed and accurate when stringing together a series of corners); it just doesn’t encourage spirited driving.
The steering is light and fairly lifeless, while the combination of narrower rubber at the front than back (235 section versus 255) means the Skoda simply washes wide at the limit. While the nose will come obediently into line when you back off, there’s no sense of adjustability, or any real visceral clues as to whether the car is being pushed or pulled by its drivetrain – which, given the likely clientele, is no doubt what the Czech firm’s engineers were hoping to achieve.
Of more interest to punters pondering a switch in motive power is how far each car will travel on a charge. Ah yes, the thorny subject of range. How did we get so far into an EV test without broaching it? Well, the truth is that for most people most of the time, it won’t really be an issue with either contender. Assuming you can charge at home with a wallbox (frankly, you shouldn’t be considering an electric car if you can’t do this), you’ll be able to undertake most journeys without ever troubling the public charging network, which at the moment is arguably a good thing.
Yes, the Skoda claims to stretch the energy in its lithium ion cells further, at 533km, but there’s not much in it and both will deliver a real-world range of well over 320km on an optimum 80% charge.
As an example, our Skoda made its way down to the photo location and after a 45-minute DC splash and dash we had a good 160km or so in reserve once we had returned home at the end of the day. Yes, it was more inconvenient than an ICE car, but not by much, and with better planning we could both have probably completed the 320-odd kilometre hop there and back without stopping.
If anything, the Enyaq has a little more range resilience, its distance-to-empty figure less bothered by sudden spurts of acceleration, air-conditioning use and driver mode. Yet the Hyundai hits back with its ready-to-run 350kW charging capability (80% charge in less than 20 minutes, if you can find the right charger), while the Skoda runs at 50kW maximum as standard with an 125kW upgrade available, bringing that 80% time to a shade under 40 minutes.
So both are capable and usable EVs that will allow most people to ditch their piston-engined family hack without a backward glance or any meaningful change in driving habits, but which one gets the nod?
Well, the Enyaq certainly earned our respect and it’s currently the most convincing of the VW MEB siblings. It’s not the most adventurous to look at or sit in, but the reassuring familiarity makes it a less onerous proposition for those still undecided whether to ditch fossil fuels in favour of fast charging. It’s a thoroughly sensible choice and good value on the face of it, but one that does feel rather like the car as a consumer durable.
If you want a little more spark from your EV, then it has to be the Ioniq 5. Not only does it look great, but it sports an interior that’s equally bold and makes brilliant use of the electric car’s packaging possibilities, plus the 800V capability goes a long way to justifying its price premium. The Hyundai also delivers some genuine entertainment behind the wheel. Most importantly, it’s packed with just enough character to reassure those hooked on hydrocarbons that the future isn’t to be feared.
Hyundai Ioniq 5 RWD
Price $71,900 Engine Permanent magnet synchronous motor Power 160kW Torque 350Nm Gearbox 1-speed automatic Kerb weight 1910kg 0-100km/h 7.3sec Top speed 185km/hBattery 73/72.6kWh (total/usable) Range 480km
Skoda Enyaq iV 80
Price $70,000 eq. Engine Permanent magnet synchronous motor Power 160kWTorque 310Nm Gearbox 1-speed automatic Kerb weight 2032kg 0-100km/h 8.2sec Top speed 160km/hBattery 82/77kWh (total/usable) Range 533km