The jury of the Women World Car of the Year has just bestowed its Supreme Award upon the Hyundai Ioniq – that is, the top-dollar, best-of-the-best, points-mean-prizes gong for being… something. Quite what is not clear, and I have been driving an Ioniq all week.
It is a clever enough idea from Hyundai: create a car that is available from launch as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or pure electric car. The shape is that of a slightly futuristic four-door hatchback, but with a more coupe-esque silhouette.
I have been testing the hybrid version, the only variant currently available in the UAE, in Premium SE 1.6 GDi spec. This means it has a four-cylinder petrol engine delivering 104hp and a battery adding another 43hp. The result is a nice dose of instant acceleration from standstill that belies the fairly small power output, with a little bit of electric-only silent driving before the engine kicks in. The battery gets recharged by the engine and also the brakes, which funnel back some of the energy.
There is a pleasantly smooth six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox – and Bob’s your uncle. Oh and it has a very big boot, which is good for the weekly food shop or suitcases. It is also good value, given thatthe Ioniq costs from Dh75,900, and my version comes with a heated steering wheel, Apple CarPlay, reversing camera, leather heated and cooled seats, and blind-spot detection, as well as Hyundai’s five-year warranty. And it has a lovely supple ride, floating over speed humps with surprising ease.
But I have scratched my head all week wondering what makes it an appealing car to the female market in particular. I mean, if a group of women have set themselves up as a jury panel specifically awarding prizes based on their gender, then I would expect the judging criteria to reflect the nature and name of the awards.
But the description of the Womens World Car of the Year awards says: “Judges in the WWCOTY awards are not voting for ‘a woman’s car’. Rather, they vote as experienced journalists and assess cars accordingly”, despite the fact that “it is the only automotive award voted on exclusively by women”.
That is just plain weird. By way of fictional contrast, if a group of geriatrics set themselves up as the Octogenarians World Car of the Year, it is like saying they are not voting for the best elderly person’s car, but rather for cars for customers of any age. Eh?
The WWCOTY statement is also, bizarrely, insulting to women’s views of cars. The statement suggests that “a woman’s car” is a derogatory description; that how women would judge a car is less important/worthy/meaningful than how “experienced journalists” would judge a car. Ouch.
I would say it is the other way round. “Sustainable power-train options”, which was one of two reasons quoted for the Ioniq’s win (the other being “a significant step forward in eco-friendly driving”) is not one of the top reasons women buy a car. Customers, and in particular women, normally buy cars based on space, price, reliability and safety. Then come recommendations from friends and family, looks, colour and whether they can access the Isofix for their child seat. I don’t know any woman who buys a car based on its sustainable power-train options.
WWCOTY also says that the judges “do, however, take into account what they think women would like to buy”. Have they actually asked any women lately? I’m a woman and a motoring journalist, as well as a mother, racing driver and biker. My dream garage would consist of a Volvo XC90 for its seven seats, space and comfort; a Honda Civic Type-R for its aggressive drive; a Rolls-Royce Dawn for luxury convertible grand touring; and a Caterham Seven for fun.
I am also editorial director at Auto Trader in the United Kingdom and we have data on hundreds of thousands of women buying cars. Let me tell you, based on the criteria of what women really want when buying a car, the Hyundai Ioniq, pleasant as it is, would not even make the shortlist.