Korean Automakers Make Major MPG Push

2017 Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid

There’s a new badge in town

Hyundai’s 2017 Ioniq Hybrid may not have the Toyota Prius’ flamboyant styling, but it does have an EPA-certified fuel economy rating that bests the Prius Eco, making it the most fuel efficient car

sold in America without a plug.

When it arrives before the end of the year, the Ioniq Hybrid will have a window sticker showing 57 miles per gallon city/59 mpg highway and 58 mpg combined. That compares to the Toyota Prius Eco at 58 mpg city/53-mpg highway for a combined 56-mpg.

“We need some way to ‘pop’ above our competitors and get recognition in an area where we’re just kind of a new born,” said Michael J. O’Brien, Hyundai Motor America vice president of corporate and product planning, during a media event at the Los Angeles Auto Show. “I think for us having class-leading numbers is certainly a way of getting noticed.”

The Powertrain

2017 Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid,engine

Under the hood of the new Ioniq

The five-passenger Hyundai hybrid is powered by 1.6-liter Atkinson-cycle direct injected gasoline engine with output of 104 horsepower and 109 pounds-feet of torque. The engine is backed up with a 43 horsepower electric motor that is fed by a 1.56-kwh hour lithium-ion battery. Combined, the engine and motor are good for 139 horsepower, besting the Toyota’s 121 horsepower.

Rather than an electronic continuously variable transmission employed in the Prius and most hybrid vehicles, the Ioniq uses a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, known for more sporty performance than refinement.

More Plug-ins Coming

2017 Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid

Hyundai establishes a “green” sub-brand

Shortly after the Ioniq Hybrid arrives, it will be followed by a battery only model with an electric driving range of 124 miles (and an EPA MPGe—miles-per gallon equivalent—rating of 136).

At the press event, company officials said a 200-plus miles EV is coming in 2018. A few months after, early next year, a plug-in hybrid Ioniq will be released. With its 8.9-kwh lithium-polymer battery good for more than 25 miles of electric driving, it too will beat the new Prius Prime plug-in hybrid rated at 22 miles.

This onslaught of battery assisted and battery-powered cars is part of Hyundai’s plan to offer 10 hybrids, eight plug-in hybrids, six EVs and two fuel cell vehicles by 2020.

Hyundai acknowledged Toyota’s decades of work and millions of hybrids sold to make it the number one manufacturer of green vehicles, but the number two spot is up for grabs and the South Korean automaker aims to grab it.

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