To borrow a sporting analogy, Hyundai seems to have timed its run exceedingly well.
At the same time that China – already the world’s largest market for battery electric vehicles – announces tentative plans to dramatically build out its fuelling infrastructure for vehicles powered by hydrogen, the Korean brand launches its first dedicated fuel cell car. ‘Dedicated’ being the imperative.
The ix35 Fuel Cell was Hyundai’s first proper stab at a series production hydrogen-fuelled car and eventually became available to the public in 11 countries under a lease deal, including in the UK, where this magazine successfully ran one as a long-term test car. But the Nexo is different, not least because it uses a bespoke platform built from the ground up, allowing Hyundai to better package an updated zero-emissions powertrain.
The exterior design is also bespoke and something of a statement, and the interior is more sophisticated than anything we’ve yet seen from this increasingly impressive brand. Moreover, for its new high-tech showcase, Hyundai has gone further than a revolutionary powertrain.
The Nexo has the potential for level four, ‘mind off’ autonomous driving, mainly for use on the motorway. (Our test car didn’t have it, however, because current legislation does not yet permit public use of such technology.)
The obvious drawback? That so few hydrogen fuelling stations currently exist in the UK. Progress is being made – not least by major players such as Shell – albeit slowly.
Today, then, we assess the Nexo largely on its own merits. Does it have the rolling refinement, usability and straightforward desirability to justify its considerable price and could such a car conceivably displace well-established rivals over the coming years? Let’s find out.
Price £65,995 including government grant Power 161bhp Torque 291lb ft 0-60mph 9.6sec 30-70mph in fourth na Fuel economy 42mpkg CO2 emissions 0g/km 70-0mph 47.5m
The Nexo range at a glance
In terms of spec, Hyundai offers just one flavour of Nexo: the Premium SE. As the sole offering for what is intended to be viewed as a luxury model, the standard equipment is very generous. It includes heated and ventilated seats; a full infotainment suite with sat-nav, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; a premium Krell audio system; vegan ‘leather’ upholstery; a sunroof and more.
Hyundai also hasn’t skimped on safety features, with a full suite of active systems such as blindspot detection, autonomous emergency braking and forward collision warning all helping contribute to a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.