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What do you get when you combine the lowest gasoline prices in a generation with America's most fuel-efficient hybrid sedan?

Well, you get a commuter car that can deliver 15,000 miles of travel a year for about $10 a week in gasoline.

That's the vanishingly small fuel cost assigned to the 2020 Ioniq hybrid from Hyundai. It makes range-limited, fully electric vehicles (such as the Tennessee-made Nissan Leaf) seem like overkill.

Now, $1.60-a-gallon gas is probably not going to be around forever. But still.

It may seem counter-intuitive to buy a car like an Ioniq just now, since hybrid sales usually fall as the price of gas drops. On the other hand, you can also see this is as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to slash your fuel budget.

Long Hyundai, on International Boulevard, has four 2020 Ioniq Hybrids listed in digital inventory this week, and the showroom is currently open for business.

Our tester, a Scarlet Red Pearl Ioniq hybrid, was provided by the manufacturer for a one-week test drive on Chattanooga streets and highways.

Hyundai makes three power-trains for the Ioniq, the gas-electric hybrid system in our test car, a full EV and a plug-in hybrid. The system in our tester compares to the Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight.

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FAST FACTS

* Model: 2020 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited

* Exterior color: Scarlet Red Pearl

* Interior color: Black

* Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder gas engine, 32kW synchronous electric motor

* Horsepower: 139

* Transmission: six-speed, dual-clutch automatic

* Fuel economy: 55 mpg city, 54 mpg highway

* Local Dealer: Long Hyundai, 6035 International Boulevard

* Price (as tested): $31,200

 

WHAT IS IT? The Ioniq is a line of small, fuel-efficient vehicles from the Korean car-maker. Our tester combines a four-cylinder gas engine with an electric motor for improved fuel efficiency. It's rated at 55 mpg city and 54 mpg highway.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? The Ioniq hybrid comes in four trim levels, Blue ($23,200), SE ($25,150), SEL ($28,400) and Limited ($31,200). Our tester is shown in top-of-the-line, Limited trim.

WHAT WE LIKED: The Hyundai Ioniq in Limited trim is infused with modern safety-tech features and luxury touches. Highway Drive Assist is a cool new option that keeps the car centered and driving at the right speed when using the Smart Cruise Control function.

The leather trimmed interior is a plus, and buyers looking to lower their carbon footprint will appreciate that some interior parts are made from recycled plastics. The Ioniq is also a Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Pick.

For 2020 the Ioniq has had some cosmetic surgery. The fresh front fascia design includes a black mesh grille and handsome LED headlights.

THAT'S ODD: Interior, door-mounted illuminators look like tail-lights. The split back window, bisected by the trunk-lid, makes it harder to see what's behind you. The wind-deflecting wheels, standard in hybrids, give up style for function.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS: Like most hybrids boosted by electric power, the Ioniq is light on its feet. If it was an athlete, you'd say it had a quick first step. Over longer hauls, not so much. Car & Driver clocked the Ioniq hybrid in a not-so-brisk 0-60 mph time of 8.9 seconds.

Still, our test proved to be a comfortable — if benign — cruiser. It's very quiet except for a bit of tire and wind noise that's audible with the radio turned down. A little dose of the Frank Sinatra channel on SiriusXM radio will cover that right up.

BOTTOM LINE: Anyone looking to buy a green machine would do well to add the Ioniq to their shopping list. Economically, it's especially good time to deal for a hybrid. In the marketplace, price is all about supply and demand.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com.


View other Test Drive stories by Mark Kennedy



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