Imagine you are Hyundai-Kia, and you want to jump into the plug-In hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) game. What's the most cost effective way to do it? Make a plug-in hybrid version of the Sonata? That's doable, but that's one existing model. They could try to re-develop the Elantra platform.
But no. Hyundai did the most logical thing and developed a whole new platform that can accommodate both gasoline and electric powertrains. That platform has just given us four new models for 2017: the Hyundai IONIQ hybrid, the IONIQ plug-in hybrid, the IONIQ EV, and the Kia Niro. I have mentioned that Hyundai has been watching Volkswagen in the last 10 years, and once again, Hyundai has done something I would expect from Wolfsburg, and that is logical platform development and sharing.
Let's take a moment to look under the hood of two of those cars, the IONIQ hybrid and the Kia Niro, as those models will be the hot sellers. Under that contemporary plastic cover is a small, 205-pound, 1.6 liter Hyundai Kappa III gasoline motor, and next to it, a 6-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT). In between the two is a 32 kilowatt (43HP) electric motor. Pretty fancy considering the gearbox is not a CVT. Oh, and there's no separate battery for the starter motor. One car, one lithium-ion battery pack.
Hyundai promises smoother activation of the electric supplement and smoother shifting. And with reportedly unnoticeable regenerative braking, Hyundai swears that the vehicles will not suffer from the rubber band acceleration, coasting and overall jerkiness of the Toyota Prius, their main rival.
I am a firm believer in front wheel drive for young drivers. I also believe in it for warm climates (like, two thirds of the US nowadays). When it is engineered for sporty performance, you get cars like the Volkswagen GTI, Acura Integra, Volvo S40, and more than a few French cars. When it is engineered for economy runs, we get impressive hatchbacks like the 1985 Honda Civic CRX HF and the current Ford Fiesta FSE. But we also get vehicles that are not fun to drive (most people will say Prius, but there are worse).
Hyundai is looking to make high economy cars fun by retaining gearboxes and rear multi-link suspensions.