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12 March 2012

Hyundai shows off the future with the 'i-oniq' concept at Geneva

Words by John Luther Garcia | Photos courtesy of Hyundai Motor America
 
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In just over two decades, Hyundai’s small sports car evolved from the humble Scoup (named from blend of the words sporty and coupe), the front-wheel-drive Coupe of the mid 90’s, to the fiery Genesis Coupe of today. And at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, the Korean automaker continues to up the ante by showing off its latest concept coupe dubbed the 'i-oniq' that not only previews Hyundai’s future design language, but also their technological breakthrough primarily as a range-extended electric vehicle.
 
The i-oniq was penned by Hyundai’s R&D center in Germany, which goes to show the heavy European flavor on its design.  Instead of going bonkers on wild shapes and angles, the new sports coupe is restrained with subtle character lines and curves that are less showy.
 
Remnants of Hyundai’s signature hexagonal grill somewhat remains, but is now edgier with the 3D effect. And don't be fooled by its conventional-looking headlights, as a closer inspection reveals that they're actually sextuple LED high beams with blue daytime running lights embedded on an aluminum strip. The futuristic design goes even further with a penthouse roof that stretches the windshield all the way to the middle of the roof-line. Slim a-pillars and curved glass on the butterfly doors, on the other hand, vastly improves driver visibility. And topping-off the theme is an aerodynamic high tailback with a centrally-mounted support pillar.
 
Disregarding the eye-searing colors and pink carpet, the interior showed more visionary leanings with heavily sculpted and multi-layered surfaces. Also present in this driver-oriented cabin is a floating instrument cluster with a large screen that displays navigation, entertainment, and other information in the background.
 
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As we ogle at its cutting-edge looks, the Hyundai i-oniq's piece-de-resistance, however, is its power-train. Running on pure electricity, a 108 hp electric motor propels the wheels via a single ratio gearbox and can travel up to 120 km on a full charge. If that’s not enough, a 60 hp 1.0L 3-cylinder gasoline engine can charge the lithium-ion batteries to stretch the range to an impressive 700km. But as sporty as it might appear, the i-oniq concept can only reach a rather dull top speed of 145 km/h. 
 
What we’re seeing here is a two-pronged attack from Hyundai: One could be the successor to the Veloster or Genesis Coupe; the second is Hyundai's interest for a range-extended electric vehicle (REEV). Going up the REEV road does makes more sense than a hybrid by forgoing the mechanical bits and complexity of a traditional power-split setup like in the Prius.  
 
With the Sonata Hybrid now the second best-selling hybrid in the US and the i30 Hybrid Plug-in just around the corner - expect bigger things from Hyundai in the green car market.