Hyundai Ioniq 6 review: a Tesla Model 3 fighter with art deco style

The greatest trick Tesla ever pulled was convincing the world that electric vehicles should be sexy, fast and interesting. Before that, countless EVs looked like cheap subcompacts at best or golf carts at worst. We forget this today in our era of glowing spheres, hulking electric SUVs that can somehow outrun supercars, cavernous front trunks, and questionably useful features like diagonal “crab walking.” 

But what happens if you just want a normal car that happens to be electric?

That’s where Hyundai has pulled a trick of its own with the Hyundai Ioniq 6 sedan: it really only looks avant-garde. As a car, the driving experience is remarkably normal. That’s not what you might expect from a car that looked like it escaped from a new Blade Runner sequel in its neon-drenched debut photos

But that’s not a mark against it. With a starting price in the low $40,000s, a range of up to 361 miles, and some very impressive fast-charging features, the Ioniq 6 is likely the best and most direct competitor to the Tesla Model 3 to date. And it makes a strong case that the best EVs need to deliver on substance, not wild gimmicks. 

Photo by Patrick George for The Verge

The range is the real star

The Ioniq 6 already comes from an impressive family, one that offers size and neck-snapping speeds if you want such things. It’s built on the same Hyundai Motor Group Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) as the upcoming seven-seat Kia EV9; the crazy-quick 576-horsepower Kia EV6 GT; the opulent Genesis GV60; and, of course, the much-lauded Hyundai Ioniq 5 crossover.

That’s where Hyundai has pulled a trick of its own with the Hyundai Ioniq 6 sedan: it really only looks avant-garde

All of them have similar specs, but the Ioniq 6 is the first sedan on that platform. It has a 77.4 kWh battery pack for most trim levels and can be had with rear-wheel drive or dual-motor all-wheel drive. Being the lowest, lightest car in the E-GMP pack makes it the furthest-driving one, too. 

The rear-wheel-drive Ioniq 6 SE is the distance king, offering a Tesla-beating EPA-estimated 361 miles of range, all while starting at $45,500. Opt for all-wheel drive and the SE still delivers a very respectable range of 316 miles. 

Going for bigger wheels and more luxury features with the middle SEL and top Limited trims — which start at $47,770 and $52,600, respectively — drops the range further to 305 miles, or 270 if you want all-wheel drive. Those range figures remain above many electric competitors, especially the crossovers. 

Additionally, a $42,715 base model SE RWD Standard Range is coming this summer with a smaller 53.0 kWh battery pack. But with just 149 horsepower and 240 miles of range, it feels more suited to fleet and taxi duty than anything else — not to mention the fact that Hyundai says it’ll be sold in “extremely limited quantities.” Doesn’t that sound enticing?

But I think it’s refreshing that the Ioniq 6 is a sedan at all. Car companies are starting their EV rollouts with crossovers and trucks because they need batteries to scale and because those are the kinds of internal-combustion cars Americans primarily bought for years. 

Still, the Model 3 remains a top global seller, the Polestar 2 is doing incredibly well, and the new Volkswagen ID.7 looks extremely interesting, too. Plenty of sedan drivers are eyeing the leap to EVs without trading for size or weight they don’t need. Furthermore, smaller, lower and lighter EVs just post better range and performance than their larger counterparts. And now that smaller EVs like the Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf are on the way out, these cars are the standard-bearers now. 

Cyberpunk streamliner

Hyundai’s banking on the Ioniq 6’s eye-catching looks to make it stand out. I’ll give major credit to the design team on this one. The Korean automaker could’ve easily made this just a lowered, downsized version of the Giugiaro-inspired Ioniq 5, and nobody would’ve complained; that angular, retro-’80s crossover practically embodies the word “rad.” 

I think it’s refreshing that the Ioniq 6 is a sedan at all

Instead, designers went in a completely different direction, making the Ioniq 6 sleeker, curvier and inspired by classic “streamliners” like the Art Deco Stout Scarab from the 1930s. It boasts a super-aerodynamic 0.22 drag coefficient for maximizing range, and the front bumper has active air flaps that close to reduce air resistance and then open to maximize cooling. And dare I say that rear spoiler has whale-tail Porsche 911 vibes? This ordinary EV sedan is an aerodynamic marvel. 

There are some familiar touches, like the squared-off “pixels” built into the headlights, taillights, and throughout the car’s interior. Hyundai told me the Ioniq 6 has more than 700 pixels; I was unable to independently verify this as of publication time, but I may attempt this later if I’m not too busy. 

Still, the Ioniq 6 seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it thing. I’m in the former camp, but I’ve also heard viscerally strong reactions to the contrary. To be fair, the front end is a little on the busy side, and arguably the weakest point is its trunk. That opening just isn’t very big or very useful. While the rear seats do fold down, I can’t blame buyers for looking to the Ioniq 5 instead when they see what they’re dealing with. VW’s upcoming ID.7 already has the Ioniq 6 beat there. 

Photo by Patrick George for The Verge

Photo by Patrick George for The Verge

Photo by Patrick George for The Verge

Photo by Patrick George for The Verge

Inside, tech, and charging

The Ioniq 5 and Ioniq 6 may look different on the outside, but the family resemblance is very strong inside. On the plus side, it means an open, airy cabin, easy-to-read display screens in front of the driver, and in the center of the dashboard, Hyundai’s generally strong infotainment system and an array of actual physical buttons. 

Hyundai’s banking on the Ioniq 6’s eye-catching looks to make it stand out

It also means they share many of the same drawbacks. Those include an oddly rectangular steering wheel that often obscures the display right above it. There’s also a row of digital touch-based controls below the physical buttons that operate the climate controls and heated seats. These digital controls aren’t as irritating as some competitors out there (looking at you, Polestar 2), and you thankfully don’t have to fish through a screen menu to find them. But they’re more cumbersome to operate than actual buttons in those brief moments when you need to take your eyes off the road to operate them. 

The only other gripe I have with these cars is a dumb one: I hate that the gear selector toggle needs to be twisted up to go into drive instead of down, which is the opposite of the PRNDL setup we’ve all come to know so well. A dealbreaker? Certainly not. But it’s still wrong, and if anyone from Hyundai asks, the answer is yes, I am willing to die on this hill. 

Photo by Patrick George for The Verge

As with most other Hyundai models, you need a cord to operate Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. It’s an annoying drawback for such a high-tech, modern EV (and one of its cousins, the Genesis GV60, has facial recognition but not wireless CarPlay. Come on!) 

The Hyundai EVs do have a very good infotainment system working in their favor. While it lacks the brutally effective simplicity of CarPlay, the menus are laid out well, the graphics look great, and the range- and trip-planning features are outstanding. 

I hate that the gear selector toggle needs to be twisted up to go into drive instead of down

The only other issue I have to flag is the back seat. Thanks to the coupe-like profile, you do sacrifice some rear headroom. I’m 5’11” and I fit fine, but I wouldn’t want to be any taller back there. 

Minor tradeoffs all, given this car’s remarkable charging abilities. Hyundai says the Ioniq 6 will go from 10 percent to 80 percent charged in just 18 minutes on a 350 kW DC public fast charger and should achieve a full charge in seven hours on a Level 2 home or public charger. It joins the other E-GMP cars in being some of the fastest-charging EVs you can buy right now, right up there with Tesla and the Lucid Air

It may not have Tesla’s Supercharger network — all of them, anyway — but with these speeds and two years of free 30-minute Electrify America charging, the Ioniq 6 is unlikely to leave you stranded. 

Photo by Patrick George for The Verge

On the road  

I spent the better part of the day driving around West Point, New York, in two Ioniq 6 variants: a battleship-gray (“Transmission Blue,” officially) Limited with all-wheel drive and a black SE with rear-wheel drive. They respectively represented the top and bottom of the current Ioniq 6 lineup. 

My first go in the AWD Limited car was pleasant. Quiet. Competent. It’s instantly more taut and athletic than the bigger Ioniq 5 crossover and more fun to drive. With a dual electric motor setup, 320 horsepower, 446 lb-ft of torque, and a Hyundai-claimed 0–60 time of 5.1 seconds, it’s by no means slow. Functionally in everyday driving, it’s plenty quick and with enough of that wonderful electric torque that provides immediate passing power.

Thanks to the coupe-like profile, you do sacrifice some rear headroom

Just know it’s not tear-your-face-off fast like a Model 3 Performance or even the Polestar 2 with its Performance Pack. The Ioniq 6 lacks those cars’ naked, sport-sedan athleticism. Then again, that isn’t what every buyer wants, necessarily; remember how not every EV needs to trade in excess? It’s still fun to drive but in a quick, daily-driver sense more than a sporting one. 

Like the rest of the family, the Ioniq 6 has steering wheel paddles that let the driver modulate the level of regenerative braking or temporarily maximize it. It’s not quite as sensational as a paddle-shift gearbox (to say nothing of a manual transmission), but it is a novel way of driving that’s unique to EVs and offers a nice degree of car control not typically found elsewhere.

Beyond choosing rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and the colors you want, all Ioniq 6 models offer few options. Those are all baked into the trim levels themselves. The middle SEL gets 20-inch wheels, synthetic leather seats, more power seat options, wireless device charging, 64 colors’ worth of ambient interior lighting and Hyundai’s semi-autonomous Highway Driving Assist II system, among other tech features and creature comforts. 

Going all the way up to the Limited model adds ventilated front seats, a Bose stereo system, a heated steering wheel, the super-wide sunroof covering the cabin, remote parking assist, and a few more safety functions. In the upper trims, it is a very nice car with a ton of luxury and quasi-luxury features. 

Photo by Patrick George for The Verge

Photo by Patrick George for The Verge

So imagine my surprise when I ended up liking the basic SE rear-wheel-drive model best, complete with its cloth seats. That 361-mile range is just incredibly tough to beat; it’s one of the highest-range EVs currently on sale. In my experience, anything above 300 miles generally makes several days’ of driving worry-free, even if you don’t have home charging access. With 361 miles, an Ioniq 6 driver may be shocked at how infrequently they have to charge up. 

The SE’s 225 hp and 258 lb.-ft of torque aren’t numbers that will dazzle anyone. But the hustle was still there, especially in Sport Mode. (Like the other E-GMP cars, it also offers range-maximizing Eco and balanced Comfort modes.) And the Ioniq 6 is just more fun to drive in rear-wheel-drive form. 

It’s still fun to drive but in a quick, daily-driver sense more than a sporting one

Its suspension is designed for everyday comfort, not corner carving, and the brakes are average at best. This is how I got walked by a V6 Honda Accord Coupe on a twisty backroad near Bear Mountain State Park. But it’s still kind of tail-happy in its own way, playful and enjoyable in an everyday sense. 

I still had the most fun in the SE and saw the most value there. I liked the honesty of it — cloth seats and all. It’s essentially an electric alternative to mainstream sedans like Hyundai’s own Sonata but with no noise, better tech, and way more torque. 

Is it worth it to upgrade to the SEL or Limited trims? I think that losing a whole 56 miles of range (46 if you get all-wheel-drive) is too much to ask just to get 20-inch wheels. Besides, the base 18-inch wheels look cool, too. 

At the same time, a Hyundai spokesperson confirmed that SE only comes with cloth seats, and they’re nothing to write home about. In other words, if you want synthetic leather, you sacrifice that astounding 361 miles of range because it only comes on the SEL and Limited models. I really wish the SE could be had with synthetic leather; it looks better, and it’s easier to clean, especially if you own and operate a fluffy dog like I do. 

If anyone from Hyundai is reading this, I suggest you fix the situation where the max-range Ioniq 6 saddles you with airport rental car seats. And fix the damn gear toggle while you’re at it.

Photo by Patrick George for The Verge

Early verdict

By any metric, the Ioniq 6 is an impressive electric sedan. It may not match all of the Tesla Model 3’s specs, but it’s one of the few that can truly beat some of them. That’s a landmark achievement, and it further cements Hyundai as one of the very top players in the EV space right now. 

Sadly, no Ioniq 6 qualifies for EV tax credits, and Hyundai wouldn’t tell me about any plans to produce this model in North America. Until it does, buying one means doing without a discount unless you lease one

Ultimately, which trim of Ioniq 6 you go with just depends on what you want out of the experience. If you want to maximize the cyberpunk luxury car vibes and impress your passengers with speed, go with the SEL or Limited versions. If you just want to eke out the most electric range and look cool while you’re doing it, the basic SE is fantastic. 

Often, we have to choose between style and substance when we buy cars. With the Ioniq 6, you get a ton of both.