RACV’s electric car of the year, under $65,000

A teal Hyundai Kona in motion

Tim Nicholson

Posted December 17, 2020


What’s the best EV on the Australian market for under $65,000? RACV names its top picks for 2020.

Much of the action in the electric vehicle (EV) market to date has been in the premium segment. Most cars on the market have a six-figure pricetag and are accessible only to a limited group of buyers. But that trend is shifting, as more mainstream brands announce plans to add battery electric models to their line-ups.

Mazda will add the MX-30 EV crossover to its stable next year, while Nissan and Volkswagen both plan to launch electric SUVs in 2022. But for now, there’s only a handful of EVs on sale in Australia for less than $65,000. 

RACV has lined them up to find which is the best EV in this price category on the Australian market – test driving and scoring each on value for money, safety, driving range and charging, interior space, comfort and quality, drive impressions and warranty and servicing. 

Here are the results. 

 

In this article

Winner: Hyundai Kona Electric Elite

Runner-up: Hyundai Ioniq Electric Elite

Nissan Leaf

MG ZS EV

Mini Cooper SE Hatch

A blue Hyundai Kona

Hyundai’s Kona EV took out the top place for vehicles under $65,000 in RACV’s inaugural EV of the Year program.


 

Winner: Hyundai Kona Electric Elite

Overall score: 49.5/60

The Kona Electric is built using Hyundai’s latest EV tech, so it has a greater driving range and is more advanced than its electric stablemate, the Ioniq. The Kona Electric gains unique styling flourishes to differentiate it from the petrol-powered Kona. As more buyers opt for SUVs over hatches and sedans, the Kona, along with the MG ZS, have an edge over the other models here. The Kona lacks the space of some of the other cars in this field, but makes up for it in driver engagement, modern touches, tech features and visual appeal. The Kona Electric represents the new guard of EVs. 

Value for money

Score: 7/10
 

  • Price: $60,740 before on-road costs.
  • Standard features: 17-inch alloy wheels, 10.25-inch infotainment screen with sat-nav, DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, but if you want more kit you can opt for the higher-grade Highlander variant for an extra $4550.

Safety

Score: 9/10
 

  • ANCAP rating: Five stars.
  • Safety features: A strong showing with standard driver-assist features like lane-keep assist, driver-attention warning, adaptive cruise and AEB with pedestrian detection.

Driving range and charging

Score: 9/10
 

  • Driving range: 449 kilometres (WLTP).
  • Plug: Type 2/CCS.
  • Battery/motor: 64kWh lithium-ion battery, 150kW/395Nm electric motor.
  • Energy consumption: 15.3kWh/100km.
  • Charging time: 10A household power point – 28 hours (0-100%); 7.2kW home wall charger – 9 hours 35 minutes (0-100%); 50kW fast-charging station – 75 minutes (0-80%).

Interior space, comfort and quality

Score: 8/10
 

  • Funky interior design differs from regular Kona with raised centre console featuring Electric-only touches like buttons instead of the traditional gear shifter.
  • More exciting trim choices than the Ioniq and Leaf, and the seats are supportive.
  • Rear seat space is limited and can’t match the leg room of the Ioniq or Leaf.
  • Much more modern cabin than Ioniq and Leaf but not as cool as the Mini.
  • 332-litre boot is shallow – it’s the second-smallest in the sub-$65,000 category. 

Drive impressions

Score: 8.5/10
 

  • Brisk 0-100kmh acceleration of 7.6 seconds according to Hyundai. Just pipped by the Mini for straight-line performance.
  • Engaging steering adds to overall driver enjoyment.
  • Benefits from Hyundai’s local suspension-tuning program and handles like a hot hatch. It hugs corners surprisingly well and the ride quality is also excellent. 
  • There’s some wheel spin under heavy acceleration, especially in the wet. 
  • Aside from road noise on coarse chip surfaces, it has a quiet cabin.

Warranty and servicing

Score: 8/10
 

  • Vehicle warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres. 
  • Battery warranty: Eight years/160,000 kilometres. 
  • Roadside assist: One year. 
  • Servicing plan: Capped-price servicing for first five years. 
  • Service intervals: 12 months/15,000 kilometres. 

Extras

Score: 0
 

  • No noteworthy extras.
A blue Hyundai Ioniq driving around a corner

Hyundai’s Ioniq EV took out the second place for vehicles under $65,000 in RACV’s inaugural EV of the Year program.


 

Runner-up: Hyundai Ioniq Electric Elite

Overall score: 48/60

Hyundai’s Ioniq is unique in that it’s available in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full electric guise. The latter is the second-most-affordable EV in Australia, behind the MG ZS. The small five-door liftback was developed before the more advanced Kona EV so can’t match its driving range or overall performance, but it scores points for value and practicality, which is why it is a popular fleet pick. Aside from Tesla, Hyundai is the only manufacturer to offer more than one EV in Australia, making it something of an EV pioneer. The Ioniq represents the start of the company’s aggressive electrification plans. 

Value for money

Score: 8.5/10
 

  • Price: $48,970 before on-road costs.
  • Standard features: DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, 10.25-inch touchscreen. Misses out on touches like leather and power-adjustable seats, and dual-zone climate control offered in higher-grade Premium variant.

Safety

Score: 9/10
 

  • ANCAP rating: Five stars.
  • Safety features: Seven airbags, high and low-speed autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian avoidance, adaptive cruise control with stop and go function.

Driving range and charging

Score: 7.5/10
 

  • Driving range: 311 kilometres (WLTP). 
  • Plug: Type 2/CCS. 
  • Battery/motor: 38.3kWh lithium-ion battery, 100kW/295Nm electric motor. 
  • Energy consumption: 13.8kWh/100km. 
  • Charging time: 10A household power point – 17 hours (0-100%); 7.2kW home wall charger – 6 hours 5 minutes (0-100%); 50kW fast-charging station – 57 minutes (0-80%). 

Interior space, comfort and quality

Score: 7.5/10
 

  • 2019 update improved the Ioniq’s cabin.  
  • Cloth seats in Elite are well bolstered. Soft-touch materials are welcome, but interior still feels solid. 
  • Latest infotainment tech and capacitive touch buttons add to modern feel. 
  • Plenty of space for a small car, wider than both the Kona and Nissan’s Leaf, but the sloping roofline hampers head room in the rear. 
  • 357-litre boot, but good loading space when the rear seats are folded.  

Drive impressions

Score: 7.5/10
 

  • Of the two Hyundais here, the Ioniq is the more conservative pick. It’s not boring, just not as fun as the Kona. 
  • No official 0-100kmh time but it doesn’t feel as quick as the Kona.  
  • Well-sorted ride and handling, thanks to Hyundai’s Australian tuning program that adapts the suspension and other mechanicals to local conditions. 
  • Regenerative braking successfully recoups energy.  
  • Cabin is well insulated from road noise. 

Warranty and servicing

Score: 8/10
 

  • Vehicle warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres. 
  • Battery warranty: Eight years/160,000 kilometres. 
  • Roadside assist: One year. 
  • Servicing plan: Capped-price servicing for first five years. 
  • Service intervals: 12 months/15,000 kilometres. 

Extras

Score: 0
 

  • No noteworthy extras.
A red Nissan Leaf being driven on the road

The Nissan Leaf is currently the only EV on the Australian market with bi-directional charging capability.


 

Nissan Leaf

Overall score: 47.5/60

The Nissan Leaf was the world’s best-selling battery electric vehicle, until the Tesla Model 3 knocked it off its perch in 2019. The second-generation Leaf is a drastically overhauled version of the first, with a bigger battery, new body and more advanced features. It’s currently the only EV in Australian with bi-directional charging capability so, once regulations allow, it will be possible to use the car as a giant battery that can power your home or put electricity back into the grid. Watch this space for regulatory changes that will allow bi-directional charging in Australia.

Value for money

Score: 8/10
 

  • Price: $49,990 before on-road costs, making it the third-most-affordable EV in Australia.
  • Standard features: Voice recognition, Bose audio, heated seats, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity.

Safety

Score: 9/10
 

  • ANCAP rating: Five stars.
  • Safety features: AEB, rear cross-traffic alert, active lane-keeping aid, driver-attention monitor, blind-spot monitor and audible silent-vehicle alert for pedestrians.

Driving range and charging

Score: 7/10
 

  • Driving range: 270 kilometres (WLTP).
  • Plug: Type2/CCS and CHAdeMO plug. 
  • Battery/motor: 40kWh lithium-ion battery, 110kW/320Nm electric motor.
  • Energy consumption: 17.1kWh/100km. 
  • Charging time: 10A household power point – 24 hours (0-100%); 7kW home wall charger – 7 hours 30 minutes (0-100%); 50kW fast-charging station – 1 hour (0-80%).

Interior space, comfort and quality

Score: 7/10
 

  • Generic interior design with dated switchgear. The Leaf cabin feels older than it should given it was new in 2019.
  • Lack of steering-wheel reach adjustment is an unfortunate omission.
  • Seats are well cushioned and supportive.
  • Surprisingly spacious cabin. Ample head room throughout and spacious and comfortable second seating row.
  • The 405-litre boot is generous but Bose subwoofer eats into space.  

Drive impressions

Score: 7/10
 

  • 0-100kmh in 7.9 seconds. Quick off the mark.
  • Ride quality is a strong point. It doesn’t crash over potholes and maintains composure on unsealed roads.
  • Synthetic, heavily weighted steering.
  • It feels heavy in corners and lacks the grip of some of the other cars here. Handling is no match for the Kona.
  • It’s not the most engaging car in this category, but it feels solid and reliable.

Warranty and servicing

Score: 8/10
 

  • Vehicle warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres.
  • Battery warranty: Eight years/160,000 kilometres.
  • Roadside assist: Five years.
  • Servicing plan: Capped-price servicing for first six services. 
  • Service intervals: 12 months/20,000 kilometres.

Extras

Score: 0.5
 

  • Free charging with Chargefox public network for the first year of ownership, then 40 per cent discount for the following two years.
A light blue MG ZS SUV on the road

This year MG took the title of Australia’s cheapest EV from Hyundai with the launch of the ZS EV.


 

MG ZS EV

Overall score: 45.5/60

Former British and now Chinese-owned brand MG Motor has seen its Australian sales soar due to aggressive pricing, appealing design and brand recognition. This year MG took the title of Australia’s cheapest EV from Hyundai with the launch of the ZS EV. The small SUV, based on the petrol ZS, is the first of several affordable EVs the company is developing. The ZS offers space and practicality, an impressive list of safety kit, and is a clear standout when it comes to value for money. It might be the new kid on the block, but the MG is already attracting a lot of attention. 

Value for money

Score: 9/10
 

  • Price: $40,990 before on-road costs, Australia’s cheapest EV.
  • Standard features: Eight-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, six-speaker surround sound, sat-nav, keyless entry and panoramic sunroof. 

Safety

Score: 8/10
 

  • ANCAP rating: In the process of being tested by ANCAP. Euro NCAP gave it a five-star rating. 
  • Safety features: Adaptive cruise control, front-collision warning, AEB, lane-departure warning, traffic-jam assist.

Driving range and charging

Score: 7/10
 

  • Driving range: 263 kilometres (WLTP).
  • Plug: Type 2/CCS.
  • Battery/motor: 44.5kWh lithium-ion battery, 105kW/353Nm electric motor.
  • Energy consumption: 18.6kWh/100km. 
  • Charging time: 10A household power point – 25 hours (0-100%); 7.2kW home wall charger – 7 hours (0-100%); 50kW fast-charging station – 75 minutes (0-80%). 

Interior space, comfort and quality

Score: 7/10
 

  • Neat dash layout with only a few buttons. Mix of soft and hard-touch materials. Also missing reach adjustment. 
  • Infotainment system is off the pace of rivals here, but MG is catching up fast.
  • Well-bolstered front seats are on the firm side. Elbow room impeded by centre-console storage that’s set too high.
  • Fairly spacious second row with ample leg and head room. 
  • Deep 359-litre boot is the second-biggest in this group behind the Leaf.

Drive impressions

Score: 6.5/10
 

  • Reasonably quick off the mark, although some wheel spin on take-off and the 8.2-second 0-100kmh time is the slowest here. 
  • Capable performer when it comes to handling, but it’s top-heavy in corners.
  • Ride is unsettled, especially on average road surfaces. Can crash over corrugations and potholes. 
  • Steering is a little numb, but still direct.
  • Cabin isn’t as well insulated as others in the category with wind and road noise creeping in.

Warranty and servicing

Score: 8/10
 

  • Vehicle warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres.
  • Battery warranty: Eight years/160,000 kilometres.
  • Roadside assist: Five years/unlimited kilometres.
  • Servicing plan: No capped-price servicing. 
  • Service intervals: 12 months/20,000 kilometres.Extras

Score: 0
 

  • No noteworthy extras.
A silver Mini Cooper SE Hatch parked next to a river

Mini’s 0-100kmh claim of 7.3 seconds means it’s the quickest car in this group.


 

Mini Cooper SE Hatch

Overall score: 43.5/60

The fun, dynamic nature of a Mini lends itself to electrification. And Mini buyers are often progressive early-adopter types, so an electric Mini was a no-brainer. The three-door Mini Cooper SE Hatch shares its electric powertrain with parent company BMW’s i3, and Mini has more electric vehicles on the way. It doesn’t have the longest driving range, and it lags some of the models in this category when it comes to value, but it has bucketloads of charm and delivers on Mini’s promise of driver engagement. 

Value for money

Score: 7/.510
 

  • Price: $54,800 before on-road costs. 
  • Standard features: Wireless phone charging, Apple CarPlay, 8.8-inch display with sat-nav and voice recognition, 5.5-inch digital cluster, 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, head-up display.

Safety

Score: 7/10
 

  • ANCAP rating: Four stars.
  • Safety features: AEB with pedestrian detection, audible silent-vehicle alert for pedestrians, cruise control with braking function. 

Driving range and charging

Score: 6.5/10
 

  • Driving range: 233 kilometres (WLTP). 
  • Plug: Type 2/CCS. 
  • Battery/motor: 32.6kWh lithium-ion battery, 135kW/270Nm electric motor. 
  • Energy consumption: 14.8-16.8kWh/100km. 
  • Charging time: 10A household power point – 12 hours (0-80%); 7.4kW home wall charger – 3 hours 12 minutes (0-80%); 50kW public charging station – 36 minutes (0-80%). 

Interior space, comfort and quality

Score: 7/10
 

  • Three-door lacks practicality of five-door rivals in the category.  
  • Very ‘Mini’ cabin, with old-school switches, unique dash design and layout and EV-specific touches like the digital instrument cluster. No other car’s interior looks as cool as this. 
  • Surprisingly spacious up front with acres of head room. Rear seats are cramped and best used occasionally. Front sports seats are the best in this category.  
  • Modern infotainment system housed in circular retro-inspired centre stack is top notch but the Mini misses out on Android Auto for now. 
  • 211-litre boot is smallest in this category but it’s also the only vehicle here based on a light-car platform. Smart packaging means the boot doesn’t lose capacity compared with the petrol-powered Mini Hatch.

Drive impressions

Score: 9/10
 

  • Incredibly responsive powertrain leaves other cars at the lights. Mini’s 0-100kmh claim of 7.3 seconds means it’s the quickest car in this group. 
  • Maintains the go-kart handling of the regular Mini Hatch, offering loads of grip when you lean into corners.  
  • Ultra-sharp steering, exceptional handling and instant torque from the EV powertrain takes the Mini to a new level of driver engagement. It’s easily the most fun car to drive in this category.  
  • The tight on-road performance comes at the expense of ride quality, which is stiff, without being terribly uncomfortable.  
  • Some road noise creeps into the cabin. A former musician and composer developed the almost orchestral ‘EV sound’ that warns pedestrians and cyclists the vehicle is close. 

Warranty and servicing

Score: 6.5/10
 

  • Vehicle warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres.
  • Battery warranty: Eight years/160,000 kilometres.
  • Roadside assist: Five years/unlimited kilometres.
  • Servicing plan: No capped-price servicing. 
  • Service intervals: 12 months/20,000 kilometres.

Extras

Score: 0
 

  • No noteworthy extras.

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