Someone at Hyundai was almost certainly a pop music fan back in the 1960s when first The Four Seasons (1964) and then The Tremeloes (1967) recorded Silence is Golden.
That’s clear from the brand’s soon to be launched Ioniq, a car so spookily silent that onlookers might wonder if it’s just rolling along without power.
But hey, it’s going uphill?
The Ioniq is a hot-looking fastback that breaks new ground in offering three lookalike models with different power modes: hybrid, full-electric or plug-in hybrid. Your choice.
There are already a 70 pre-launch examples quietly zooming around Australia in government and other fleets. All three variants will arrive in showrooms in the next month or two.
Prices have not yet been revealed, but are likely to start from about $30,000.
Our Hybrid was the top-spec Premium version and came factory-fitted with a wad of luxuries, among them heated and cooled leather seats, a glass sunroof, dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation, auto-on bi-xenon headlights and wipers, LED daylight running and tail lights, smart cruise control, 17-inch alloys with Michelin rubber, a smart key and push-button start.
Infotainment stuff includes a big touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and an eight-speaker audio system.
Apart from looking sleek as a greyhound, the Ioniq is incredibly aerodynamic, with a drag coefficient of 0.24.
The driver gets a lot of data from a trio of gauges showing how much battery is in use, the petrol level and speedometer plus the comprehensive digital display is customisable.
There’s a lot of standard safety stuff too, such as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors. And seven airbags.
Odd one out is one of those awful foot operated parking brakes. They’re popular in the truck-minded US, but its an archaic item in a car as futuristic as the Ioniq.
Accommodation is fine for four, with good space front and rear – provided the front seats aren’t occupied by long-legged people.
Storage includes two cupholders, 12-volt outlets, USB connections and a wireless charging pad in front plus a central storage bin and pockets in all doors.
The cargo hatch is wide and has a net to contain the groceries, but pretty shallow and has an underfloor full-sized spare wheel.
But it can still swallow 456 litres of cargo and if you knock the 60:40 split fold seating down, its big enough to cope with more than 1500 litres of Ikea flatpacks.
Ioniq has a 77kW/147Nm 1.6-litre, Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine petrol engine and a powerful electric motor for a combined output of 104kW of power and 265Nm of torque.
Transmission is by a six-speed dual-clutch automatic that drives the front wheels and there’s even provision for make believe sporty drivers in the form of paddle shifters.
Neat, but the Ioniq, despite its reasonable performance in Sport mode (zero to 100km/h in 10 seconds flat by our stopwatch) is not really in boy-racer territory.
Where it does outperform just about everything else, is in fuel economy.
The makers claim 3.9L/100km on the combined cycle (that’s 72 mpg in imperial terms!) but we were pretty much over the moon with the 4.7 we saw on the dashboard computer, which, for non-metric fogeys, translates to 60 mpg.
The Ioniq has a 45-litre tank and will run on basic 91 octane petrol, so you’d probably only need to fill up every third full moon.
It’s easy and fun to drive, especially if you leave the 1370kg car in Eco to start off with.
The silence is delightfully deafening.
Then you can shift the selector lever to the right for Sport mode and liven things up quite noticeably, and if you venture into the Northern Territory, you can run it flat-chat to its max at 185km/h.
Visibility is good, though the seating is quite low and I had no problem with the split rear glass.
Brakes are fine, the steering light, handling decent for what really is a city car, and the suspension compliant.
Dr Bobla, our rallymeister, took it for a fling and came back with a thumbs-up verdict.
‘Good torque and surprisingly quiet,’ he said. ‘And there’s about 890km of driving range left in the tank.’
Like other Hyundais, the Ioniq will come with a five-year, unlimited distance warranty.
After parking it I called up The Tremeloes on Youtube and relived their Silence is Golden. Great song. Couldn’t help thinking it might have inspired the Korean engineers to create a road-going version. Except our test car was silver, rather than gold.
They might have listened to Simon and Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence too.
Verdict: A very smart and stylish fastback, comfortable, fully featured and unbelievably economical. A sound choice, one might say.
- Mind-blowing economy
- Great looks
- Multiple features
- Super quiet ride
- Big warranty
- Awful parking brake