Update: Since this article was published, the Tesla Model X has come out, and I’m convinced it’s the best passenger car of any sort on the planet, so you can stick that at #1 and bump everything in the list back one spot.
Similar to what I did yesterday with my post on the “10 best hybrid cars” on the market, this article is a rundown of what I think are the “10 best electric cars” on the market — weighted by “value for the money.” Naturally, it’s very hard to rank cars across classes and types, as well as to rank cars based on subjective factors, but I’m taking a shot at it based on all that I’ve learned and experienced in the past several years of covering electric cars for a living.
If you want a look at the ranking in absolute terms (not weighted by “value for the money”), you can more or less just run down the list of fully electric cars on the market by price, but I think that’s sort of obvious….
So, on to the cars. And I guess I should clarify here that I am only considering fully electric cars with a starting price under $100,000. (Prices = MSRP and after the US federal tax credit, except in cases where the car is not available in the United States.)
10. Fiat 500e ($32,300 | $24,800)
No doubt about it, the Fiat 500e is a cute car. It has also gotten good results for its performance — it is actually one of the quickest electric cars to 30 mph. Interestingly, this great electric car is hated by the head of Fiat… don’t ask. Nonetheless, a couple of years after he told people that he’d rather they not buy the car, it has been brought to more markets (more states) in the US. Clearly, buyers are liking it and it is in good demand. I can only imagine what its future had been if Fiat had been behind it the way Nissan is behind the LEAF. Anyhow, if you don’t mind buying from Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat 500e looks like a great option.
9. Ford Focus Electric ($29,170 | $21,670)
After dropping the price quite a bit, the Ford Focus Electric actually became a pretty solid buy. It seats 5 comfortably, has 76 miles (122 km) of range on a full charge, and gets a stellar 105 MPGe. It’s a good-looking car, if I do say so myself, and if you are interesting in blending in rather than standing out, it’s a very common model body. The price is actually just a tad higher than the top-selling Nissan LEAF, and if you’re a big Ford fan, it may be your best option on the list.
8. Kia Soul EV ($33,700 | $26,200)
I think the Kia Soul EV, if Kia decides to really make it available and produce it in quantity, could become a top-selling electric vehicle in the US and globally. It offers a good amount of space, a stylish design, 93 miles of electric driving range, voice command navigation, parking assist, and a host of other features. The hot new kid on the block has a respectable 105 MPGe. Reportedly, Soul EV demand has really surprised Kia and the company is increasing production.
See a good Kia Soul review series on Gas2:
7. VW e-Golf ($33,450 | $25,950)
For ~$4,000 more, however, you could land a Volkswagen e-Golf. The e-Golf also seats 5 comfortably, has 83 miles (134 km) of range, and gets an even better 116 MPGe. The e-Golf reportedly offers quite a nice drive, and there’s a sportier option you can upgrade to if you want to squeeze a bit more fun out of your car. The e-Golf also offers heated front seats, a 7.2kW onboard charger, and a decent rearview camera. One of the e-Golf’s more unique features is various levels of regenerative braking, so you can have the car fit your preferences, and also your changing needs on different days in different environments.
For a detailed review of the e-Golf, including how it compares to some other cars on this list, I highly recommend: Volkswagon e-Golf In-Depth Review (Video).
6. Chevy Spark EV ($25,995 | $18,495)
The Chevy Spark EV is not the snazziest car on this list, but it is almost the cheapest. At its current price, well below the average for a new car in the US (especially if you throw in the tax credit!), it is certainly a good option for anyone aiming to keep their purchase (after incentives) below $20,000… and just around $16,000 in California! The Spark EV is reportedly very peppy (it’s ahead of almost all other EVs to 60 mph), and is a better buy than its gasoline sibling according to Consumer Reports. Keep in mind that it only seats 4, but its small size also helps it to land an impressive 119 MPGe. It also comes with a solid 82 miles (132 km) of range, which should be plenty for most drivers on just about any given day of the year. The Spark EV has become a top-selling electric car in the US as GM has increased production and availability.
5. Renault Zoe (£13,443)
It was a little difficult to slip this one into the list since it’s not available in the US, but it’s clearly a top option based on year after year of strong sales in Europe. The Renault Zoe is somewhat of a cousin of the Nissan LEAF, and you can tell that the people behind it were also serious about advancing the EV revolution. It’s super affordable, yet comfortable, stylish, and has all of the things most of us need in a car. It seats 5 and has 130 miles or 210 kilometers of range (based on European testing, which is much more generous/unrealistic than US testing). It’s a really solid buy for the price, and I think it’s even hard for the LEAF to compete with it.
3/4. BMW i3 ($42,400 | $34,900) & Mercedes B-Class Electric ($41,450 | $33,950)
The BMW i3 and Mercedes B-Class Electric are both on the higher end of the price spectrum here, but they are still about half the price of a Tesla Model S. As an owner of a BMW i3 who I recently met said, it’s half the price but not half the car. I’ve driven the BMW i3 and really loved it, not nearly like I loved the Tesla P85D, but that’s a given. But I haven’t yet driven the Mercedes B-Class Electric. I’ve seen comparisons where the B-Class Electric was much preferred, and I’ve seen comparisons where the i3 was preferred. So, until I have a chance to try out the B-Class Electric, I’m putting it down as a tie.
For the price, I think both cars offer a lot for the owner. They offer a super smooth drive, a lot of space, excellent efficiency (though, the i3 is much better at 124 MPGe compared to 84 MPGe), and almost the same range (81 miles and 84 miles, respectively). Of course, you have a certain level of class with a BMW or Mercedes that you don’t have with most of the other cars on this list. I’m considering an i3 for my family, but I’m certainly eager to try out the B-Class Electric.
2. Nissan LEAF ($29,010 | $21,510)
When it comes to value for the money, I think the Nissan LEAF is an obvious top contender. The LEAF is the best-selling electric car in history globally, in the US, in Europe, and in Japan. It is a really solid vehicle for a great price. Some of the other cars on this list can compete, depending on your taste, but it’s clear that the LEAF is hard to compete with.
The LEAF offers 84 miles (135 km) of range, 114 MPGe, a fairly roomy and comfortable interior, 5 seats, and decent acceleration (boosted, as all of these cars are to some degree or another, by the instant torque of its electric motor). With a price just over $20,000 after the US federal tax credit and under $20,000 in California with the ZEV rebate, it’s one to consider if you’re on the market for an affordable electric car.
Of course, to learn more, I’d recommend my in-depth Nissan LEAF review.
1. Tesla Model S ($75,000 | $67,500)
Despite its price, on any list of best electric cars, or any list of best cars for that matter, I think you have to put the Tesla Model S #1. It’s in a different league. It’s the best car ever mass manufactured. It has insane performance (literally, I guess), long range completely on electricity, great efficiency, handling like a sports car despite being super spacious, is the safest car ever mass manufactured, has a wicked infotainment/tech package, is sleek and pretty, and converts car haters to… well, Tesla lovers. Throw in the Supercharger network and you’re almost on another planet (almost — please stay on Earth, Elon!). Even at $75,000 or $100,000, I think this car is a steal.
There’s much more to say. If you are interested, there are countless articles and videos out there about the Tesla Model S, but I’d of course recommend my own: Tesla P85D Test Drive & Reactions (5 Original Videos).
Note: I don’t feel nearly as confident about the order of this list as I did the 10 best hybrid cars list. In fact, I changed the order several times while writing it. Such is the challenge when evaluating and comparing all of these great options, which come in at very different price points.