By Brian Moody
Tell me why I’m wrong. The Hyundai Ioniq 6 is already cooler than the Tesla Model 3. It really comes down to the look inside and out. The design of Tesla /zigman2/quotes/203558040/composite TSLA -4.23% vehicles is aging rapidly. Where once the Model S and later the Model 3 looked elegant in their simplicity, today, they look simple, even boring. The worst thing you can say about the Ioniq 6 is that it looks like a futuristic Hyundai /zigman2/quotes/204364212/composite HYMTF -3.88% Sonata. Even so, I think the Sonata is a good-looking sedan by today’s standards.
The Ioniq 6 had a pretty bold predecessor; the Prophecy Concept EV shows how close the Ioniq 6’s look is to that of a concept car.
But more isn’t always more, Hyundai’s Ioniq 6 has a simple look too, yet there’s more detail to offset that simplicity. The Ioniq 6’s dual rear spoilers perfectly set off the aerodynamic look. Plus, the integrated third brake light with a field of small reflective squares behind it is one of those little details that make the car seem special like it’s something more than just a Hyundai sedan. The recessed headlights and transparent cover have a “new but old” vibe. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the headlight treatment seems vaguely familiar. Maybe it looks like a 1990s IMSA race car?
Because the Hyundai Ioniq 6 is an electric car, the coefficient of drag (Cd) is essential. A car’s Cd number, essentially, tells us how well the car slips through the air. The less drag, the more efficient a car will be — less drag, more driving range. Even with all those incredible design details, the Ioniq 6 has a lower Cd number than the Tesla Model 3 and Kia EV6. So don’t let anyone tell you electric cars can’t look cool because they must be designed in a wind tunnel.
The Ioniq 6’s exterior has so many little details you don’t see at first. The contrasting lower body panels, the horizontal reflectors and integrated backup lights on the lower rear bumper, and the intricate wheel design all add up to something stunning to behold. It’s the combination of complex and straightforward that work so well together.
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The same goes for the interior. The Model 3 looks sparse inside. The Model 3’s one central screen that handles everything feels more like cost-cutting than cutting edge. The tacked-on look is also a bummer for me. I don’t see how that one screen for everything from multimedia to turn signals is safer than a screen or gauges placed directly in front of the driver. Whenever I drive a Model 3, that screen takes up much of my attention. Yes, you get used to it over time, but it still requires more attention than I’d like. Today, horizontal screens mounted high on the dash are far more effective at conveying information. Large vertical screens seem more like a gimmick or, worse, a blatant attempt to say, “Just like Tesla.”
Hyundai’s interior feels instantly familiar but with a hint of the future. I sure hope a hallmark of all future tech is that it’s hassle-free. The hard-button climate controls are another example of how everything doesn’t need reinvention. Some things are OK the way they are. The textured and rippled door panels are another detail that stands out versus the rather bland Model 3 interior.
Hyundai’s ambient lighting is another win. There are 64 colors to choose from and several premade color themes. No matter which theme you choose, those lights can be synced to the vehicle’s driving dynamics, becoming brighter as the car speeds up.
One thing I assumed would be a Tesla feature when it finally showed up on new cars is the video camera as a side-view mirror. It’s not; that’s a Hyundai feature that buyers can get on the Ioniq 6. That innovation means the Hyundai looks more futuristic, and its daily function will feel more like a piece of advanced technology. Those mirrors feed into small monitors placed at the edges of the dash. Likely, these video cameras will be an option or available on the higher trim levels.
On paper, the Model 3 appears to be quicker and has a more extended driving range. One thing Tesla got precisely correct — having their own charging network. That kind of foresight will keep Tesla on the minds and in the garages of many motorists for years to come. As cool as the Ioniq 6 is, it doesn’t have its own dedicated charging network. However, I think Tesla’s longer range and higher output will eventually lead to more problematic batteries and shorter service life than those of mainstream automakers like Ford /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F +1.89% , Hyundai, and Kia /zigman2/quotes/206019389/delayed KR:000270 +0.50% .
The new Hyundai Ioniq 6 is cooler and has a more high-tech feeling than the Tesla Model 3. The Model 3 isn’t aging well. Granted, one of the best things about the Model 3 is the driving experience. The acceleration and handling are excellent. Better than the Ioniq 6? We don’t know yet. If you’re an enthusiast that values handling over all else, you might like the Model 3 better. However, the features and look of the Ioniq 6 already add to something cooler and more desirable than the Model 3.