Tech War: Prius Prime vs. Hyundai Ioniq

By a lucky coincidence, I had a chance to drive both the 2017 Prius Prime and the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq in the same week. The Prius Prime is a plug-in hybrid with a futuristic vibe; the Hyundai Ioniq comes in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric versions.

The Prius lineup and the Ioniq lineup are competing for the same buyers, so there will be plenty of comparisons in the automotive press. But this is TechCrunch, so let’s take a look at the technology in each.

Instrument cluster
The first thing anyone is going to look at as soon as they slide into the driver’s seat is the dashboard. The Hyundai Ioniq puts everything where you expect it to be, with a TFT LCD cluster right in front of you. Controls on the steering wheel allow you to choose which information (besides the basics like speed and fuel level) is displayed.

If you’ve never been in a Prius, you might be surprised to have to look a bit to the right to see your instrument cluster. It’s in the center of the dashboard under a curved plastic cowl. There’s loads of information over there, and you can select what’s displayed. It looks, cool but requires you to glance sideways while you’re driving. The Prius Prime I tested had a heads-up display that I found very useful for just this reason.

The Ioniq hybrid I test drove had a clean, basic center console with an 8-inch touch screen with navigation included as part of the Ultimate package. Standard equipment included Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics system. (I also drove the EV version, which had a nearly identical infotainment system.)

The Prime Advanced that I tested, which is the top of the Prime line, had a massive 11.6-inch display, but no integration for Apple or Android phones. It was compatible with Siri Eyes-Free and had Toyota’s Entune App Suite, which includes Pandora, iHeartRadio, OpenTable, traffic and weather.

The Prius Prime comes with Toyota Safety Sense, which is standard on most of its new cars. It includes pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist and radar cruise control. These aren’t standard features for the Ioniq, but the Ultimate package I tested did have similar safety tech. Both vehicles come with a rear-view camera, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts.

The Prius Prime Advanced adds Prime Apps that can be used to manage your charging status from your phone, find a charging station, warm or cool the interior while it’s still plugged in to preserve range and find your vehicle when you’ve forgotten where you parked it.

Hyundai takes that further by connecting the Ioniq to everything it can. Blue Link does all that Prime Apps do, plus integrates with Amazon Alexa (and soon Google Assistant), Apple Watch and Android Wear watches. And it has roadside assistance and stolen vehicle recovery.

Which vehicle has the best tech depends on what you want your vehicle to do. If the idea of Alexa monitoring your every move gives you the creeps, maybe the super-connected Ioniq is too much. But if you have to have Android Auto, the Prius Prime won’t have it. If you like quirky, the Prius Prime exudes quirky. If you want a low-key commuter car, the Ioniq blends in on the highway.

And if you absolutely must have wireless charging for your phone, your decision just got harder. Both the Prius Prime and the Hyundai Ioniq have it available.