The cabin offers more of the same. Off-white upholstery and a large-ish sunroof make the Nexo’s interior a cheerful place to sit, and the ergonomics are pretty pleasing too. This is easily the most upmarket interior of any alternative-fuel vehicle I’ve encountered, and among the most practical too.
The 461 litres of boot space expand to around 800 with the back seats down, and there’s just about enough room in the back for adults; my headroom and leg room were compromised in the back behind the driver’s seat, with the driver’s seat adjusted to suit my 6’4” frame.
I’m surprised by the number of buttons. There’s a touchscreen, but most of the main functions can also be controlled using the physical interface as well; a real treat, and a departure from the trend towards full digitisation of the user interface. That’s not to say that the Nexo lacks gadgetry, however – my favourite (of many) is the brilliant blind spot camera, which shows the driver a crisp, clear image of the space beside the car ahead of any maneuvers.
Our first UK outing in the Nexo was brief, but after a few miles of pottering through London it’s pretty clear that Hyundai has done a fine job of making this chunky five-seat SUV feel a bit less like a chunky five-seat SUV. The roughest road surfaces make themselves known in the cabin but most imperfections are pretty well-contained between 20mph and 40mph, which is where urban and suburban drivers spend most of their time.
We’ll be extremely interested to see how it fares above those speeds, though. The Nexo’s long-distance capabilities are among its most interesting features, thanks to an estimated 500 mile range according to current NEDC testing. This is considerably more than any battery-electric car on the market which, combined with a complete refuel-from-empty time of a few minutes, makes it a compelling choice for drivers doing serious miles.
In theory, anyway. Hydrogen is in its infancy in the UK, and the small number of refuelling stations means that regular use of a fuel cell car is mainly viable in specific areas. More hydrogen pumps will have opened by the time the car is officially launched in 2019, but the technology will still be at the “early adopter” stage until coverage broadens. As with battery-electric mobility, fuel cell vehicle design is currently outpacing the charging infrastructure.
Our trundle around London in a pre-production Nexo gave us a glimpse of what might be a very promising future, both for Hyundai and for zero-emission transport as a whole. Hydrogen looks increasingly set to join Britain’s energy mosaic in the coming years, and if the Nexo is anything to go by, that’s something to look forward to.