“The Hyundai Ioniq 5 is the spiritual successor to the VW Golf”

Mike Rutherford thinks the all-electric Hyundai Ioniq 5 is the greatest mainstream car on the planet

Opinion - Hyundai Ioniq 5

Most successful car ever? You know, the one bought in greater numbers than the combined might of the Ford Model T (16.5 million sold), the Volkswagen Beetle (21.5m) and the MINI (5.5m)?

That’ll be the Toyota Corolla, in countless bodystyles – mostly finished in Born To Be Mild beige paint jobs. Since 1966, more than 50 million buyers across the globe have bought one!

But a very different success that nobody could have predicted is currently being achieved by a very different car – the comparatively low-selling (for now), 100 per cent-electric Hyundai Ioniq 5. What we’re witnessing is a stylish, affordable-ish (in EV terms) family hatchback dramatically upping its status from rookie lightweight contender to reigning and respected heavyweight champion of the world.

I exaggerate not when I say the Ioniq 5 is now generally regarded by those like me who’ve closely studied and driven it (repeatedly in my case) as the latest greatest mainstream car on the planet.

In that sense, it’s the spiritual successor to the Golf – and like the Golf, the Ioniq 5 is a landmark vehicle. It’s also embarrassing the Volkswagen empire. How come? Because the most natural and blindingly obvious successor to the phenomenally successful Golf in old-school petrol or diesel guises could have and should have been an all-new Golf in, er, state-of- the-art pure-electric guise. Except that Volkswagen complicated matters by effectively and slowly killing off the legendary Golf that took half a century to build and nurture. Its replacement? The nothingy ID.3 (or larger ID.4). I’m a big fan of EVs. But only if they’re absolutely right. And the ID.3 and ID.4 are not. IMHO.

What Hyundai, its workers and its Ioniq 5 have achieved in the last 10 months is unprecedented. The drama started in early July 2021, when this title awarded it the big one – the coveted Auto Express Car of the Year trophy. Then by the end of last year, the vehicle was judged by a panel of international designers, race drivers, marketeers and media folk (including Steve Fowler and me) as the Best Cars of the Year Joint World Champion. And since then several other organisations have been queueing up to pin their medals or perch their trophies on the success story of 2021/22. Now, as we approach the end of the Ioniq 5’s first full year as the best vehicle on the market, appointed jurors (again with Steve and I) have – surprise, surprise – voted it World Car of the Year.

But don’t forget that in the rapidly moving auto industry, the Ioniq 5 is in effect last year’s model in some respects. The 2022/2023 awards season begins in just a few weeks, with the Auto Express prize-giving ceremony the first major one out of the blocks.

What’s coming over the next 12 months or so is tantalising. No detailed predictions from me at this early stage of the game, but something tells me the all-new Range Rover and, at the other end of the scale, the Dacia Jogger might just clean up – despite the fact that both, for the time being at least, rely on old-school internal-combustion engines. You know, the sort of motors still bought, used and loved by most of the world’s drivers.

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