One of the beautiful things about the flat-bottomed “skateboard” platforms that underpin the majority of electric vehicles is that they lend themselves to endless reinterpretation. With the battery safely tucked under the floorboards, it’s easy enough to move motors, stretch wheelbases, and shape sheet metal to introduce strong differentiation between one model and the next in a way that’s far too expensive for automakers to accomplish with a gas-powered vehicle.
The 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 6 is a sparkling example of skateboard styling freedom. Although riding on the same chassis as the boxy Ioniq 5 crossover (and sharing nearly identical mechanicals), when parked side-by-side only the badge on the hood hints at any shared family resemblance between the two. Trading in the 5’s hard right angles for a swooping arch of a roofline and chunky curves and creases, the Ioniq 6 is an arresting automobile that fights back against the conceit that all tomorrow’s parties are to be hosted on the SUV side of the showroom.
Even more intriguing is that Hyundai isn’t asking buyers to reach all that deep if they want to sample its electrified sedan. With a ticket to visit the visual future a lot less expensive than one might expect, how well does the rest of the Ioniq 6 live up to the promise made by its extroverted body work?
Head-To-Head With Tesla
The most affordable edition of the Hyundai — which comes with a smaller battery and a single electric motor motivating the rear wheels — checks in at just under $42,000. Add a bigger battery pack (the SE Long Range’s 77.4 kWh unit), and driving distance jumps from 240 miles to 361 miles, while boosting the sticker price by about $4,000. You’ll see range sliced down to 305 miles if you opt for the range-topping SEL and Limited trims, due to their larger and heavier wheels. These figures are well within the wheelhouse of similarly-priced versions of the Tesla Model 3, in fact surpassing the popular EV’s Long Range edition.
Adding roughly $3,500 to the sticker nets you a dual-motor all-wheel drive setup, knocking range down slightly to 316 miles at the outset, and 270 miles if you spend to the hilt for the Limited’s 20-inch rims and additional (heavier) hospitality and features. All told, the fully-loaded Ioniq 6 I drove stickered for roughly $60,000, including the eye-grabbing matte paint that amped up its visual impact with an edgy charcoal brush.
Don’t Be Intimidated By Top-Trim Range Anxiety
Even with the shortest electrical tether, the Ioniq 6’s driving range is more than needed for the vast majority of daily driving. My own commuting habits through urban Montreal could see me going more than a week before I’d need to evict my Jeep Grand Wagoneer restomod from the parking spot behind my home and hook up to the Level 2 7.6-kW station I’d had installed last fall. More to the point, however, the 350-kW charging capability embodied by Hyundai’s E-GMP platform means that if you find a fast enough plug you can easily sidestep that 270-mile limit with the ability to go from 10% battery to 80% in less than 20 minutes. Real-world restrictions on charger availability and speeds will likely slow you somewhat, but faster juicing than nearly any other similarly-priced EV more than makes up for the 65 miles or so of driving you give up by going for an all-wheel drive Limited versus the rear-wheel drive model.
Further incentive to step up to the meatier Ioniq 6 drivetrain is available with every press of the right-side pedal. Hyundai claims 149 horsepower from the bargain basement SE Standard Range and 225 horses for rear-wheel drive models with the larger battery present. All-wheel drive editions like the one I drove see a much more significant boost in performance thanks to their 320 horsepower and 446 lb-ft of torque, numbers that are aided and abetted by both the instant-on nature of an electric motor’s application and the extra grip provided by pushing all four wheels.
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To wit: slamming the accelerator in the Ioniq 6 is a decision not to be taken lightly, with the sedan leaping out of the stocks in search of its 5.1 second 0-60 mph time. That figure feels nudge-nudge, wink-wink from the driver’s seat with the Hyundai at full gallop, an impressive achievement from a vehicle that doesn’t lean on its performance as an image builder. In its class, you’ll have to opt for the $55k Model 3 Performance to have a chance of beating the Ioniq 6 in a straight line.
The 6 pairs its greased lightning with respectable handling that’s more sedate than sport, a function of its 4,600 pounds of curb weight. That being said, with a center of mass that’s mostly under your feet I’ve no doubt that a stickier set of tires and sharper shock tuning could help elevate the Hyundai’s handling. No doubt the engineers at its N performance division feel the same way, as a hot rod Ioniq 5 is on-course to arrive in dealerships next year (with the Ioniq 6 N likely not far behind).
Look Once, Look Twice
Despite being more than competitive on price, power and range, where the Hyundai Ioniq 6 truly shines is in its road presence. Regardless of how you feel about its half-dome ebullience — I spent the entire week going back and forth myself — there’s no doubt that the sedan is interesting to look at from nearly every angle. The 6 is impossible to ignore yet never crosses the line over to caricature, maintaining a dignified outré sensibility that suggests a concept car gone loose from its secretive skunk works.
Styling is currently one of Hyundai’s sharpest blades, but what makes its approach to the market so fascinating is that it seems loathe to repeat itself. As different as the Ioniq 5 and Ioniq 6 are from each other, so too are the gas-fired Sonata and Elantra. There’s no question that the Korean brand currently fields the sweetest sedan line-up available outside the luxury segment, almost as though it’s trying its hardest to single-handedly jump-start the most moribund region of car-buying cartography.
Some might question as to why Hyundai decided to push the Ioniq 6’s sedan status rather than translate its sloped-roof into a more practical hatchback design. In addition to further differentiating it from the Ioniq 5 crossover, the brand’s stylists claim that hatch hinges would have further impinged on the 6’s already-cramped rear headroom, a victim of the wind tunnel shaping its profile to be as slippery as possible.
It’s a legitimate concern, for as spacious as the Ioniq 6’s flat floor makes the rear quarters feel, my own modest height saw the top of my head brushing the ceiling while seated on the back bench. Indeed, if there’s one further weak spot to target here it’s that the Hyundai’s cabin, while certainly adequate, fails to impress in terms of materials or design. Functional and reasonably comfortable, small details such as switchgear and the materials used to cover door panels and the dash remind you that you’re not quite playing on the premium field.
High Voltage Defibrillation
With its matte paint, broad face, and gracefully hunched back, it’s perhaps no surprise that the Hyundai Ioniq 6 is frequently mistaken by passersby for something considerably more expensive (and most certainly European). With its more unassuming interior concealed by a knock-out design, this is a car that punches well above its weight upon first blush. That effect is maintained throughout a test drive thanks to its speed, its confidence and the way its ultra-fast charging capability ingratiates it into the lifestyle of most potential customers.
Perhaps most important, the Ioniq 6 offers something that’s increasingly rare on the automotive landscape — choice. Deciding in favor of the electrified Hyundai means rejecting the sport-utility straightjacket that has seized control of affordable, family-friendly automobiles, boxes that the 6 easily checks off. It’s rare for a reasonably-priced modern-day automobile to stray from the SUV playbook and still look this good. It’s even more unusual for it to stand near the top of the EV pantheon in the process.
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