As of last Monday, Hyundai had sold nearly 3,000 new cars in July – of which about half were the Tucson, while nearly 600 were Konas.
ll this puts the car maker into a commanding position, with nearly 14pc of the overall Irish car market.
Kia, its sister company, is in fifth place, with more than a 6pc bite of new sales. All this gives the Korean conglomerate 20pc of the market.
I would never want to bore you with figures, but am trying to illustrate how important the two importers are to the Irish market. Both companies have developed very strong initiatives in the electric vehicle market, with Kia having the Niro, the Soul, and the soon-to-be-launched EV6 leading the charge.
Hyundai meanwhile made a lot of the running in recent years with the electric Kona, but this week it sees everything move up another gear with the Irish launch of the Ioniq 5 – a large EV newly developed from the ground up.
It will not only take on the likes of the Volkswagen ID.4 (this year’s top-selling EV so far), but puts it up to such cars as the Tesla Model Y, Mercedes EQC, Audi Q4 e-tron, the Volvo XC40 and Jaguar’s i-Pace.
This latter group is priced between €10k and €30k more than the Ioniq 5. However the Hyundai shows its credentials with almost game-changing technology, the possibility of ultra-fast charging, creature comforts, and an impressive wheelbase of 3,000mm – longer than all the cars mentioned above.
The Ioniq 5, which is likely to match ID.4 prices (starting mid-€30k and going as high as nearly €70k, while having a sweet spot around €54k before grants), has an advantage over many of its competitors in having a heat pump on board as a pretty standard feature. Heat pumps extend the range of between 15-20pc in cold weather and also speed up charging.
I’ll come back to the Ioniq 5 later in the column, as I was lucky enough to be the first journalist here to test one for 24 hours. Over in the UK, the car has already picked up the Autoexpress Car of the Year award in its ‘new car’ category, as well as taking top spot in the ‘mid-size company car’, ‘premium electric car’ and ‘design’ categories.
The chance to drive the Ioniq 5 came just as I returned after a week in the Hyundai Bayon. I had been really looking forward to the Bayon. Early reports promised a small crossover-type SUV, ranked under the Kona but above the rather tasty i20, which has been getting a lot of plaudits this year.
It seemed the Bayon might be the car which would give my wife the SUV height she wanted, on a relatively small footprint. But first impressions weren’t encouraging. The Bayon was just a couple of centimetres higher than the i20 and seemed as low when I got inside. However the car almost literally grew on me over the week.
Its smart lines, creases and lighting set-ups were really good to view and received a lot of very positive comments.
There was plenty of space up front and even in the back I found it easy to get in and out, though the rear would only really be suitable for 2.5 adults. The luggage area in the five-door hatchback was massively impressive – perhaps the largest I’ve seen in such a compact car – and there was even a space-saving steel spare wheel as well.
It is this luggage space which is getting attention in the showrooms, as people find they can get a brand new and very up-to-date mid-sized family car with a superbly large boot for much the same price as a second-hand SUV.
The Bayon starts at €21,645 – but you really should add on another €2k for the executive model and another €600 again for the two-tone roof, which does give the car an even better line and an almost SUV look (though in practice it really is only a slightly raised decent hatchback).
There’s plenty of really excellent safety and comfort equipment on board, and the car was massively easy to drive. At the moment there is only an under-powered four-cylinder 1.2 petrol engine linked to a five-speed manual box available here, and this gets very strained at motorway speeds.
However next January some far better – smaller but more powerful – engines are coming, as well as an automatic version. All should be far sweeter drives, linked to a small hybrid system – and are worth waiting for.
Although the Bayon has better space than the more imposing Kona, it didn’t do anything for my wife – except as a very pleasant car to look at.
It is worth checking out – but don’t think ‘SUV’, think ‘useful car’.
On the other hand, the Ioniq 5 didn’t disappoint. The wonderful feeling of space on board was beautiful. It was like driving your living room. It is all very modern with lovely ambient lighting and superb tactile touches throughout in sustainable materials.
The contemporary looks might be too much for some – but I loved them, and the car was a real head-turner.
It’s a large car, falling in length between the Tucson and Santa Fe, but with a larger wheelbase. That space pays off in the passenger cabin, and while the luggage area is a bit more restricted there is also space under the bonnet where the ‘frunk’ has useful room.
The car I was testing had a range of around 350km, but other models will go for around 500km.
Most importantly, the driving is superbly confident; fast, responsive and absolutely totally controlled. On Tuesday I flew down the M11 to Arklow – and even in the torrential rain on the return, the Ioniq 5 was steady, powerful and assured. I absolutely loved it.
It was less assured on rougher roads, but was always surprisingly nimble.
The ID.4 has already been outshone by VW’s group’s Skoda Enyaq. With the Ioniq 5, Hyundai has gone up another notch – and has put it up to the more established premium sector models too.
There’s going to be an awful lot of them in the future. I can’t wait to get back in one.