The 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 5 is One of a Kind
Is it just me, or are the annual auto shows simultaneously thrilling and depressing? It’s the one time of year when manufacturers cut designers free to go hog wild on cutting-edge designs. We get to see exciting new shapes, bold risks, and cars that look like they jumped straight out of a science-fiction movie. And yet we all know that what’s really coming to a dealership near us is another batch of bland refreshes of the same old commuters. We come back every year hoping that this time it will be different; this time — just maybe — we’ll see one of the concept cars come to life. Every once in a blue moon, a car like the 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 5 rewards our patience.
Of all the cars I’ve driven, the Ioniq 5 is one of the most memorable. I could almost hear the “Back to the Future” theme playing in my head when it showed up in my driveway. The designers at Hyundai clearly looked at a landscape filled with egg-shaped electric vehicles and said, “no thanks, that’s not for us.” Instead of the trendy Tesla shape that everyone seems to be imitating, the Ioniq 5 is crisp and edgy. The taillights look like a robot waffle. The headlights are square — the last time I saw a square headlight it was made from actual glass. The wheels are infinitely more exciting than the usual riffs on a five-spoke design.
I’m not the only one who thinks the Ioniq 5 is a show-stopper, either. It got curious, lingering stares and approving nods everywhere I drove it. It’s the only press vehicle I’ve driven that drew more attention from normal people (sorry, but you and I are not normal) than the Bronco Sport. The Hyundai wafts down the road like a blast from the past and a glimpse of the future at the same time. In a dark parking garage, it’ll make you feel like the star of a move based 1,000 years in the future.
Driving the Ioniq 5 is even more of a contradiction than the futuristic-yet-throwback styling. It’s small and — compared to other crossover SUVs — surprisingly nimble. Its size and styling are a mix of Golf than Tiguan, and I found myself wanting to drive it like a hatchback. With 446 pound-feet of torque on tap, make that a hot hatch. The cabin, on the other hand, felt distinctly like an SUV. Hyundai made clever use of open space to create cargo room and make the vehicle feel larger than it is. The panoramic sunroof, open floorboards, low dash, and distinct center console all create a sense of space that exceeds what’s actually there.
But what’s the Ioniq 5 like as a daily driver? No fuss, only fun. Critics (myself included) are quick to point out the fact that any EV’s battery performance plummets in cold weather. I’ve seen the estimated range shed 70 miles overnight more than once in various vehicles. That’s probably unavoidable. What gets overlooked is the ability to jump in and go without letting the engine warm up or living with the guilt of squeezing sub-zero oil through your engine block under load for the first few miles. During a cold, snowy week in the midwest, I appreciated being able to hop in the Hyundai, tap the power button, and be on my way as fast as I could buckle my seatbelt.
Charging can be a hassle, but it’s less of an issue for people who buy an EV and invest in a home charger. The ones who struggle are cheap auto journalists who haunt the local public charging stations. Once plugged in, the Ioniq 5 charges quickly compared to other EVs. Getting electricity from a so-called fast charger is like drinking peanut butter through a coffee stirrer, but the Ioniq 5 will get you back on the road faster than most.
That takes care of the fuss; on to the fun. The age-old saying is true: if you don’t look back when you walk away from your car, you bought the wrong one. Not only did I always back away from the Ioniq 5 to ogle it for a few extra seconds, I routinely sat facing the kitchen window to enjoy the view of the driveway.
The car is fun on the inside, too. The touchpoints feel solid and well-built, but the aesthetic is lighthearted and cheerful. The screen’s soft green hues are a pleasant contrast to the brighter colors that dominate most infotainment screens. The huge amount of light that flows through the panoramic sunroof and large windshield do wonders for one’s attitude during an otherwise gloomy evening commute.
That sensation cuts to the core of what makes the Ioniq 5 so good. Is it quick? Sure, but so are lots of other cars — electric or not. Is it luxurious? No, but it’s certainly nice. More than anything else, the Ioniq 5 makes driving feel like playtime. It made me smile, and it made me want to keep driving. That’s more than I can say for most family crossovers.
Scott is a lover of motorized fun, whether on four wheels or two. A child of the ’90s, he has a particular soft spot for hatchbacks and believes all aging cars deserve a second chance at life. If he’s not behind a camera or a computer, he’s probably chasing down new coffee shops with his wife or throwing a frisbee for his dog.
The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.