During a recent event, called Drive Revolution, I got the chance to pit six electric vehicles (EV) against one another; the Chevrolet Spark EV, the Fiat 500e, the Kia Soul EV, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Nissan Leaf and the Volkswagen eGolf.
Each of these all-electric city cars were taken on a quick 15-minute drive in a circuit around Portland’s city center, near the World Trade Center.
While the drives were short, there were certain aspects that really stuck out about these vehicles, the best and worst about both – but, in truth, each really needs a longer test drive.
Not only were all of these vehicles affordable, but all of them were also eligible for the $7,500 Federal Tax Credit (FTC) for all-electric vehicles.
Spark EV Range: 82 mi. MPGe: 119 combined Cost: $19,635, w/FTC
The Chevrolet Spark EV starts at $25,560 or $18,060 with the FTC ($27,135 as driven, $19,635 with the FTC) and comes with a slough of contemporary conveniences, such as USB ports and a remote starter, and Chevrolet’s MyLink Radio system.
Pros: The front struts are from MacPherson, something felt in the sharper corners, making the Spark eco-friendly and fun. It also comes with three years of OnStar included in the purchase. Both boons in my book.
Cons: Both my partner in reviews and I thought this interior wasn’t just plastic, but even felt plasticy. I’d go for the $125 upgrade in dash console to help break up the dash elements.
Fiat 500e Range: 87 mi. MPGe: 115 combined Cost: $26,875, w/FTC
Fiat’s exude cuteness and the 500e is no exception. It’s interior is stylish, comfortable and spacious for its size. The 83 kW (111hp) electric motor provides more than enough umph to make you smile from the just the adorable Italian stylings.
Pros: It’s an Italian car in a fun size package – what’s not to like?
Cons: Is there a limit to cuteness? Will one get tired of it?
Kia Soul EV Range: 93 mi. MPGe: 105 combined Cost: $29,125, w/FTC
The runner up in terms of styling, the Kia Soul EV really tries to be hip, and really just succeeds at being a great vehicle. It’s roomy for adult-sized people, comes with ample storage in the trunk area and is fun to drive along curved roads.
Pros: It’s seriously eco-friendly, with 19-different interior parts being made from bio-based materials.
Cons: The hamsters will give you a bad rep.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV Range: 60 mi. MPGe: 112 combined Cost: $16,345, w/FTC
The Mitsubishi i-MiEV (pronounced eye-meev) is America’s least expensive electric vehicle and comes with everything one would need for in-the-city driving, and rear-wheel drive for a few smiles when eco-friendly isn’t so important as driver-fun.
Pros: Not only is it America’s least expensive EV, it’s also just an inexpensive car, but still has Bluetooth, a power outlet and a smile in the front bumper.
Cons: The i-MiEV is also a little spartan. I’d pay an additional $500 for a little more comfort in the car.
Nissan Leaf Range: 84 mi. MPGe: 114 combined Cost: $29,590,w/FTC
One of America’s most popular electric cars, the Nissan Leaf gives ample room and plenty of user-amenities. The Leaf also comes with Carwings, a remote connecting application that can start the car, monitor the battery and even activate climate control.
Pros: Seats a full-sized five adults, which isn’t something many city cars can boast, and has room to spare in the cargo area when done.
Cons: Seats from the GT-R were not included. (I really think I’d love to see a NISMO Leaf.)
Volkswagen eGolf Range: 83 mi. MPGe: 116 combined Cost: $28,765, w/FTC
Volkswagen has entered the electric vehicle race with the e-Golf (SEL premium driven) had the getup and go of a Golf (the 115hp is key) and packed full of conveniences, such as remote start and touchscreen navigation.
Pros: German engineering in a small-electric package, fair price and well-sized. The electric motor was more than enough for a bit of tire squeal.
Cons: If you romp on this like you would a gasoline golf – fun at every corner – you’ll have to be re-filling your batteries every corner.
While my top picks are the Fiat 500e, the Kia Soul EV and the Volkswagen eGolf, my budget is limited to the Chevrolet Spark EV and Mitsubishi iMiEV. Which isn’t so much settling as choosing between American and rear-wheel drive… The Nissan is absolutely great, but I can’t say I’d own one only because know a fellow gearhead/auto writer who owns one and that’d make me a creepy copycat.
Stay tuned for more Drive Revolution articles!
Photo credits go to Doug Berger / NWAPA.