Is the Hyundai Ioniq hybrid better than the Prius?The Ioniq wins on price and boot size

20 October 2016


Hyundai Ioniq on the left, Toyota Prius on the right - which is the better car?

The Hyundai Ioniq has got the Toyota Prius in its sensibly styled sights. Both are hatchback hybrids but the Ioniq is cheaper - is it the better car?

While there are many hybrid cars on the market, if you specifically wanted a large hatchback, it used to be only the Toyota Prius that really sprang to mind.

That is until now. Hyundai has now launched the Ioniq - the first car in the UK to be available as a petrol-hybrid, pure-electric and (as of 2017) a plug-in petrol-hybrid.

The hybrid version is expected to be the big seller, which means its main natural rival is the Prius. So how well does the Ioniq compare? We've taken an in-depth look below.

We’ve also been to the launch of the Hyundai Ioniq and driven it. Which? members can find out how we got on by going to our Hyundai Ioniq first drive review.

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Ioniq vs Prius: battle of the hybrids

Looks: It seems shallow to start with a car's complexion, but these are no ordinary-looking vehicles. Or at least the Prius isn’t.

Perhaps putting itself under pressure as the car and brand to have pioneered mass-produced hybrid cars, the current Prius looks like a car from a rather glam sci-fi movie.

Its sharp edges and almost harsh body shape is the result of shaping a car to have very little aerodynamic drag while simultaneously, to quote the chief engineer, ‘inject some ego’. The result is striking... and rather divisive. You’ll either love or hate the Prius’s looks.

The Hyundai on the other hand looks like a normal car, and a rather in-vogue muscular-looking car at that. It does have a swooping almost coupe-like roof to help reduce drag, but it doesn’t look space age.

On the inside, where the Prius is all wraparound dashboard and multi-screen displays, the Ioniq looks like a well laid out and rather normal-looking car. That isn’t to say it’s boring, though. There are a few nice touches around the car, such as the blue detailing and black gloss panels around the centre console and dashboard, that make it a reasonable car. If you’re not a fan of the Prius’s looks, the Ioniq is likely to be an appealing alternative.

£3,605The difference in price between the entry-level Ioniq and the more expensive entry-level Prius

Price and kit: The biggest weapon the Ioniq has in its arsenal is that it’s cheaper than the Prius. The entry-level version of the Prius costs £23,600; the entry-level Ioniq costs £19,995 – so £3,605 cheaper at the time of writing.

But what do you get for your money? We know from our research into options and car technology that Which? members want parking sensors, automatic air con and DAB radio above everything else. Following that, it's built-in sat nav, automatic transmission, cruise control and a rear-facing camera.

As part of the basic spec, both the Ioniq and the Prius have automatic air con, DAB, a rear-facing camera and adaptive cruise control. The latter is a one-up on regular cruise control in that it monitors traffic ahead of you and will automatically slow the car down as needed. Both cars are also automatic only.

The Ioniq, however, also has rear parking sensors as standard, while the Prius doesn't.

If you wanted parking sensors in addition to the rear-facing camera on the Prius, you’d either have to pay for the optional parking pack (£425) or upgrade to the Business Edition Plus version, which costs from £25,119. Business Edition Plus also adds sat nav (as well as a nifty coloured heads-up display and a self-parking system amongst other features).

To get front parking sensors on the Ioniq, you’d have to go for the top trim, called Premium SE. This most expensive version cost £23,595 – but that’s still £5 cheaper that the entry-level Prius.

Even better, if you were happy with just having rear sensors, you’d only need to go to the mid-level trim, called Premium, which costs £21,795. There is no heads-up display or self-parking feature like on the Prius, but you will get sat nav. Unlike the Prius, you will also get AndroidAuto and Apple CarPlay. These give you smartphone integration that allows your Apple or Android phone to take over the Ioniq's infotainment system and use in-car versions of popular apps such as Google/Apple maps, Spotify, WhatsApp and more.

Hyundai IONIQ boot

The Ioniq's generous boot. With the seats up, it should be 100 litres bigger than the Prius

Boot: These are big cars, and they need to be practical for everyday life, whether you’re the family taxi driver or, well, an actual taxi driver. The Hyundai claims the best boot in class, with 100 litres more available space than the Prius with the seats up – that’s the equivalent of a massive suitcase of extra space.

However, we take our own measurements as part of our testing, and when we get the Hyundai into our lab we’ll get the true useful measure of the boot space. Having seen it, though, the boot in the Ioniq does feel big and spacious.

Efficiency: Perhaps the main area of contention, outside price, is fuel efficiency. These are hybrids and their success should really be determined by how much they set you back at the fuel pump.

On 15-inch wheels, the Hyundai claims 83.1mpg, the Toyota claims 94.1mpg – so the Prius should be 11mpg better. If you drive 10,000 miles per year, that 10mpg difference would equate to over £70 with today’s petrol prices.

Adrian Porter, Which? Cars expert said: 'If there’s one thing Which? has proven over the years, it’s that cars almost never come close to meeting their official fuel economies in real life. We’ve lab tested the Prius (on 17-inch wheels, which has a lower claim of 85.6mpg) and members can head to our Prius review to find out just how close it came.

'Once we’ve lab tested the Ioniq, we’ll reveal just how efficient it really is. But I’d be surprised if this is one of the very, very few cars that actually meets its official fuel-economy figure.'

Conclusion: So, on paper, the sensible-looking Ioniq comes off as arguably better value car for a Which? member's requirements than the Prius, even if it’s not quite as fuel efficient. But there’s a lot more at stake here – the way the cars drive, visibility, comfort, noise and so on. Though we have not lab tested the Ioniq, to get our initial impressions on whether it’s a Prius beater, head to our Hyundai Ioniq review.

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