The Hyundai Ioniq 5's Taillights Are A Reminder That Hyundai-Kia Are Kicking Taillight Ass

We're really entering a golden age of automotive lighting, so open your eyes

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Image for article titled The Hyundai Ioniq 5's Taillights Are A Reminder That Hyundai-Kia Are Kicking Taillight Ass
Photo: David Tracy

Last night, I was conducting my weekly workshop about how to incorporate side marker lighting into erotic fiction at America’s twelfth-best automotive lighting semi-legal hash bar, Amberflash. I was workshopping a very intense scene with a writer involving light bondage and a ‘68 Firebird rear side marker lamp when I felt a cold hand clamp down on my shoulder. “You,” said a voice behind me. “What are the Koreans paying you to say good things about Hyundai-Kia lighting?” This shit again.

I turned to see a man I only know as Double-Filament Francis, a notoriously xenophobic automotive lighting enthusiast.

“Last week you were all up on Kia’s junk about the Kia Sportage lights. I looked in your notebook here, and I see all these sketches of the new Hyundai Ioniq 5 lights. What’s Hyundai got on you, you overrated sack of crap?”

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Double-Filament was very drunk, and, I knew from experience, very dangerous. I had to keep him calm but still make my point.

“Look, Francis, no one’s paying me anything. The truth is that Hyundai and Kia are just really doing some innovative things with automotive lighting, and that needs to be pointed out. The Ioniq 5, for example, has some really remarkably great lighting, with a dot-matrix design theme. Here, let me show you.”

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I reached down to get my notebook off the table, asking the gathered writers to just give me a moment, and when I turned back to Double-Filament Francis, all I saw was the red-and-amber blur of a Volvo 850 wagon taillight, which Francis uses as a walking cane.

Francis swung the tall, heavy taillight unit right at my head, which contacted me square in the jaw, sending me falling backward into the low table used for the writer’s workshop, which collapsed, causing me to kick wildly, knocking over the plinth supporting a stack of antique kerosene taillight lanterns, each of which came crashing down onto my head, like the centipede in a game of, uh, Centipede as it thunders down to the bottom of the screen.

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I woke up hours later in a pool of my own vomit, the bar long empty. In the dark and cold, I had no one to listen to why I think the Ioniq 5 has such great lighting. So I’m going to take the time to tell you, right now, because I’m not going to let stupid Double-Filament Francis silence me.

Image for article titled The Hyundai Ioniq 5's Taillights Are A Reminder That Hyundai-Kia Are Kicking Taillight Ass
Photo: Hyundai
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The main design motif is a matrix of squares, and all the lighting has a sort of dot-matrix look about it, though it’s not yet a truly programmable, fully pixel-controllable matrix of lights. That should come soon, I hope, but in the interim, the Ioniq 5's approach looks great.

We’ve seen this basic design motif a number of times before, perhaps most famously on the DeLorean:

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Photo: Pixma
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The difference is that now with discrete LEDs illuminating individual cells, we can achieve a far better look than the DeLorean-era 12V incandescent bulb dimly sort-of-illuminating a fuzzy group of square lenses.

To really appreciate the lighting design, you need to see it in action, so I was lucky that our own David Tracy happened to be around an Ioniq 5 in Germany, and was able to get some great in-depth video of the lights in action:

That accent/DRL lighting on the front bumper is really remarkable; it looks like a normal plastic bumper, then these fine illuminated lines appear from nowhere:

Image for article titled The Hyundai Ioniq 5's Taillights Are A Reminder That Hyundai-Kia Are Kicking Taillight Ass
Photo: David Tracy
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It’s such a subtle and magical-feeling effect, I really respect what they’ve done here.

The main URLs are the topless rectangle dual lamps, which suggest hooded old-school rectangular sealed beams but are much more modern and high-tech-looking.

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Image for article titled The Hyundai Ioniq 5's Taillights Are A Reminder That Hyundai-Kia Are Kicking Taillight Ass
Photo: David Tracy

The way they immediately change color to act as indicators is a trick we’ve seen from LEDs plenty of times before, but the effect is still striking and effective. The grid-texturing on the sides of the headlamp/indicator units is a nice touch that captures the broadcast light and keeps the overall visual theme going.

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Image for article titled The Hyundai Ioniq 5's Taillights Are A Reminder That Hyundai-Kia Are Kicking Taillight Ass
Photo: David Tracy

Around back, the taillights are inset into a full-width matrix bar that one would want to be a true dot-matrix display, but it’s not quite there. It’s close, as there are groups and patterns of squares specified for different functions.

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For example, these quad rectangles, along with that thin, full-width line, form the taillights. Brake lights are bright and inset inside the rectangles, and inboard of those are reverse lights (hyphens of four lights) and bright red rear foglamps (dashes of five squares).

Image for article titled The Hyundai Ioniq 5's Taillights Are A Reminder That Hyundai-Kia Are Kicking Taillight Ass
Photo: David Tracy
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Turn indicators are amber lines of squares underscoring the rectangles of the taillights, and the passive reflectors are inset in those vent-like grooves in the lower bumper area.

Overall, everything is highly visible and stylish and novel and engaging all you can hope for from a modern lighting setup.

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I’m really impressed with what I’ve seen so far.

My one question revolves around side marker lights: this Euro-spec car David got to inspect lacked any sort of side marker lamps, keeping with European’s strange snubbing of these noble lights, so I’m very eager to see how the U.S.-spec version solves this issue.

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I’m very hopeful since Hyundai is proving to be one of the best in the vehicular lighting space today.

Man, I wonder how long before someone comes to open the bar and lets me go home. My jaw hurts.