The growing anti-diesel vibe in the UK means motorists who need to rack up lots of economical miles may be looking at petrol-electric hybrids with renewed interest.

Emerging from that backdrop with impeccable timing is Hyundai’s impressive Ioniq - a ground-breaking vehicle for the South Korean manufacturer.

At the moment, the world’s best-selling hybrid is the Toyota Prius, but the new Ioniq must rank as its most ambitious and credible rival.

In a bid to show how serious it is about upstaging the reigning king of green cars, Hyundai’s newcomer is the first car in the world to be offered with three different electrified powertrain options within a single body type.

Last week, the Ioniq plug-in hybrid (PHEV) model made its debut at the Geneva motor show, joining the recently launched hybrid and electric versions.

The hybrid version, tested here, is the cheapest of the Ioniq trio, with its starting price of £19,995 undercutting the Prius by several thousand pounds.

Under the skin, this Ioniq hybrid comes with Hyundai’s 1.6 GDI petrol engine producing 106bhp, twinned with an electric motor which produces a further 43bhp – providing a total usable power output of 139bhp.

However, it’s worth noting that the electric motor’s 125lb/ft of torque is available from rest.

This means the car feels sprightly to drive.

The Ioniq really comes into its own in inner-city conditions, where I found its performance around Bradford’s busy streets to be ultra-quiet, smooth and very refined.

And with Bradford’s well-documented battle against high levels of air pollution, I couldn’t help but feel the Ioniq was doing its own little bit to help improve the city’s environment thanks to low emissions of just 79g/km.

While urban conditions may be its forte, the car is certainly no slouch on the more open rural roads.

If you try to push it hard, the engine can be a bit on the noisy and whiny side, but the acceleration feels adequate for the majority of everyday situations.

The steering doesn’t have a huge amount of ‘feel’ to it but, despite that, the car is stable through corners and the handling is trustworthy.

On a couple of family outings, the Ioniq offered decent space and practicality, with a reasonable-sized boot, showing its credentials as a very comfortable family hatchback.

The fuel economy is pretty impressive too, whatever the driving conditions.

On mixed roads on my commute into Bradford, including the stop-start uphill section between Bailiff Bridge and Hellfire Crossroads, I managed to achieve figures somewhere in the region of 50mpg.

That suggests that the official combined fuel economy figure of 74.3mpg might not be so hopelessly unattainable in real world conditions as it is on some cars.

In terms of looks, the Ioniq has an aerodynamic futuristic shape and is a bit more understated than the more outlandish Prius.

The 17-inch alloy wheels fitted to this Premium SE model added a stylish touch.

Inside the cabin, there are plenty of creature comforts including heated seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Meanwhile alloy pedals enhance the cabin’s premium feel.

The Ioniq features the latest connectivity systems.

There’s an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with Sat Nav, seven-inch driver’s TFT screen, wireless phone charging, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

All these features are very user-friendly and situated within easy reach of the driver.

In conclusion, the Ioniq offers enough green technology to tempt the more hardline eco-conscious buyers.

However, the vehicle is still mainstream enough to appeal to people who just want a practical and economical hatchback.