RACV announces Australia’s electric car of the year

Animated digital graphic of EV with dark background.

Tim Nicholson

Posted December 17, 2020

What’s the best electric vehicle on the Australian market? RACV reveals its top picks.

In a year when overall new vehicle sales slumped 16 per cent, electric vehicles bucked the trend, with sales jumping 11 per cent compared with 2019. 

It’s a sign of the times as more and more drivers consider the environmental benefits and cost savings of driving low-emissions vehicles (notwithstanding the state government’s proposed new per-kilometre EV levy), and a clutch of impressive and increasingly affordable EVs arrive on the Australian market.

Over the past 12 months, four new EV models have arrived on our shores, including the Audi e-tron and the just-released MG ZS EV, priced at just over $40,000. A clutch of new arrivals, including the Porche Taycan, Mazda MX-30, Lexus UX300e and Volvo XC-40 Recharge are also due to land next year. 

While the EV market is still dominated by high-end luxury marques priced at $100,000-plus, cost-conscious drivers have increasing choice in the under-$65,000 price bracket. 

But which is the best EV on the Australian market? Can you really buy a decent electric car for less than $65,000? And, if money is no object, which is the best of the high-end, high-priced models?

To find Australia’s best electric vehicle, RACV’s senior motoring writer and Australia’s Best Cars judge, Tim Nicholson, set about testing and comparing the entry-level variant of every battery electric passenger vehicle currently on sale in Australia, 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.

Light blue EV driving down a road through the countryside.

Hyundai's Kona Electric Elite has been named RACV's EV of the Year for 2020, under $65,000.


RACV’s EV of the year under $65,000 for 2020

The Hyundai Kona Electric Elite was the best of the five vehicles in the sub-$65,000 category, scoring 49.5 out of a possible 60 points. It edged out some excellent affordable models, including its Hyundai stablemate, the Ioniq Electric Elite, as well as the Nissan Leaf, the freshly launched MG ZS EV SUV and the Mini Cooper SE Hatch.  

Despite hot competition, the Kona Electric achieved high scores in most categories, with equal highest points for safety, alongside the Ioniq and the Leaf, thanks to its five-star ANCAP rating and high level of standard safety equipment. The Kona’s impressive 449-kilometre driving range is well above the other models in this category, which it just edged out in terms of interior space, comfort and quality.

However, the Kona came last in one scoring category – value for money. While it’s packed with standard features, at $60,740 it’s the priciest model in the sub-$65,000 group. The clear winner for value is the MG ZS EV. It’s Australia’s cheapest EV at $40,990 before on-road costs and comes with generous standard specification.  

Following the Kona, the Hyundai Ioniq scored second-highest in this category with 48 points, with high marks for value and safety. The third-placed Nissan Leaf has the best warranty and servicing offer and excels in safety.  

The just-released MG ZS EV is the newest car in the category and scored well for value and warranty and servicing, although less so for drive impressions. MG has some work to do here, but it’s still an impressive EV from a new player.  

The Mini Cooper SE Hatch may have scored last on points in the sub-$65,000 category, but it’s by no means embarrassed. It scored highest for drive impressions thanks to go-kart handling and a responsive powertrain. If you’re after an urban eco runabout and don’t need four doors, the Mini might be for you.  

For full scoring details click here.

White EV parked with a clear blue sky background.

The Jaguar I-Pace took out EV of the Year in the over $65,000 category.


RACV’s EV of the year over $65,000 for 2020

Of the seven models in the over-$65,000 category, the Jaguar I-Pace came out on top with a final score of 52 points. The Jag won a swag of international awards when it launched in 2018 and despite competition from newer models, it’s still at the top of the pack. It beat out the Audi e-tron, BMW i3s, Mercedes-Benz EQC and three Teslas – the Model 3, Model S and Model X.

An impressive warranty and servicing offer that includes free servicing for five years or 200,000 kilometres elevated it above its rivals, while safety was also a strong point for the I-Pace. The $128,248 (before on-road costs) Jag scored second in the group for value for money behind the Tesla Model 3, which starts at $68,425 before on-roads.  

The I-Pace lives up to the Jaguar brand promise of being a true driver’s car. It’s engineered for dynamic and engaging driving and only the Tesla Model 3 and Model S scored higher in this regard. 

The Model S Long Range Plus AWD scored second in the over-$65,000 category with 49 points. It’s the oldest model here having launched locally in 2014, but is still a seriously impressive car. It topped the scoring for driving range and charging with its 652-kilometre range. Tesla benefits from over-the-air (wireless) updates so while the bones of the car might age, the tech certainly doesn’t.

The Tesla Model 3 small sedan tied for third place with the recently released Audi e-tron SUV. While they are very different vehicles, each excelled in certain areas. The Audi for safety and interior space and comfort – a traditional Audi strong point – and the Tesla for drive impressions and value. 

Next came the Mercedes-Benz EQC that launched a year ago and is similar in size, price and specification to both the Audi and Jag. It’s a high-quality offering with an exceptional interior and good driving dynamics, but was just pipped by the others. 

Tesla’s Model X SUV offers ample interior space, but it’s a quirky offering with some unusual features, such as the falcon-wing doors. It scored highly for drive impressions and range but lacks the refinement of some of the other models. 

The BMW i3s finished last in this category, which again is no indication of the quality of the car. While the i3 is the second-oldest model here behind the Tesla Model S, and lacks some of the features found in the others, it remains a trailblazer and a true eco car. It’s built in a carbon-neutral factory and features dozens of recycled and natural materials. It’s also a real joy to drive. 

For full scoring details click here.

The scoring, explained

For consistency and fairness, we have included only the entry-level variant of each model. Several models, including the three Teslas and the Audi e-tron, are available in higher-grade variants that have greater battery capacity and, in some cases, driving range. Other models such as the two Hyundais and the Jaguar I-Pace are offered with higher specification grades but the same powertrain. The remaining models are available in one variant only. 

Porsche’s hotly anticipated Taycan is technically available to order in Australia now, but the delivery of first customer vehicles isn’t until early next year so it was not included. The Renault Zoe was also excluded because it was discontinued in Australia, although there are still some examples for sale at dealers.  

As well as analysing and comparing the stats of each EV, RACV senior motoring journalist and Australia’s Best Cars judge Tim Nicholson has tested each of these vehicles separately over the past two-and-a-half years. 

The driving-range figures used are the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP), provided by the manufacturers. Many factors affect an EV’s driving range on the road, including heating and air-conditioning use, weather conditions like wind and cold weather, hills, additional weight from luggage, cargo and people, and speed – the faster you drive, the harder the electric motor has to work.  

Most charging times were sourced from the manufacturers, and some via reliable sites and then confirmed with the manufacturer. We have tried to provide times for a full charge – zero to 100 per cent battery capacity – but some figures are for a zero to 80 per cent charge where a full charge was not available. Some experts suggest charging to 80 per cent is recommended as it is better for the longevity and health of the battery. We have included times for charging using a household power point, a home wall charger and a 50kW public charger. Although the Tesla public charging time is for their 120kW superchargers.  

Each scoring line – value for money, safety, driving range and charging, interior space, comfort and quality, drive impressions and warranty and servicing – is out of a maximum 10 points. Any unexpected but welcome extras are worth one point each on top of these categories. The Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Benz all scored one extra point because they are offered with multi-year free charging at Chargefox stations. The Nissan Leaf received half a point because its offer is limited. In the past, Tesla has offered unlimited free charging for the Model S and X using its supercharger network, but it no longer does this. The Hyundais, Mini and MG are not offered with free public charging.  

For each model in both categories, the owner must pay to install a wall charger if they want to charge at home. Audi’s offer of free installation on the e-tron ends on 31 December. Each model in the over-$65,000 category, as well as the Mini, can be charged remotely. This means you can set charge start and end times at your home using a dedicated app.  

The scoring in each category is relative. We acknowledge that the price of EVs is still very high, with many models out of the reach of new-car buyers. So with the value-for-money category, this is compared with the other models in this category, not with other vehicles of similar size. We are not, for example, comparing the price of an Ioniq with a petrol or diesel-powered i30.