Hooray for Tesla! All hail the Prius! I say that with little to no sarcasm. Those vehicles have transformed the way that Americans see electric cars. Period. And that’s wonderful. But committing to one right now is kind of like marrying the first guy you have sex with– it’s lazy and discounts the fact that there’s a big, wide world out there filled with other options. So before you go throwing more money at Elon or getting in line with the other unemployed actors at the Toyota dealership, let’s think bigger. Here are some of my fave EVs and PHEVs (Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicles) that are absolutely, 100% worth considering.
In order to be Motorhead-worthy, these cars all:
*have passed my Costco test (no toilet paper left behind!)
*have backseats approved by my kids
*have a range greater than 100 MPGe
*have Android Auto & Apple CarPlay Integration
*have automatic braking & dynamic cruise control
Oh and I have to be willing to drive one with no shame. Here we go:
2018 Kia Niro PHEV
The car for the person that really wants a PHEV station wagon (aka a genius).
($34k as tested, the EX Premium)
Yay: best looking in the bunch, great layout, killer entertainment system, 105MPGe
Meh: weird engine transitions, could be more fun
The traditional Niro Hybrid is the first Kia I ever drove and I was absolutely blown away (review here). Why didn’t anyone tell me to drive a Kia before? (they did) Why weren’t people buying these? (they were) Hey, sometimes I’m late to the party. So when I was offered a week in the PHEV version I was stoked, I just had visions of a high-powered electric motor that would take this sweet little hybrid into rocket ship mode. That isn’t exactly how the story went, but this PHEV is, however, faster than its regular hybrid cousin. Most of you will be deliriously happy. My favorite thing about this Niro, however, is still the design. It’s a great looking, brilliantly practical car and with combined 105MPGe, it goes from a please consider, to a don’t miss.
2018 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV
Great car for the environmentally/fiscally conscious driver (that is secretly an enthusiast).
($29,185 as tested , the Limited)
Yay: super-fun manual mode, truly fun to drive, good styling
Meh: wonky visibility thanks to those rear windows, funky engine transitions
A plug in hybrid with sport mode with full manual control? Don’t mind if I do! I like to tell people, PLEASE put the vehicle into sport mode when you test drive it. It is often the difference between a snooze-fest and an adult diaper-worthy test drive. Such is the case with this Ioniq PHEV. Wowza. It shares the same platform at the Kia, so these two cars are very alike. They’re both great. But the Ioniq is somewhat sportier, putting it through the curves on Topanga Canyon was a blast.
2018 VW eGolf
The enthusiast’s EV.
Yay: dreamy torque, that infamous Golf handling, great interior & beautiful styling
Meh: less range, just ok rear seat, it makes me sad (because I don’t own one)
Among the mysteries of the universe are why more people don’t buy eGolfs. I loved the previous generation of the eGolf (review here) but then when they DOUBLED the range, it quickly entered rockstar status. VW does a brilliant job of leveraging the styling of the traditional Golf and incorporating some of the sweet styling from their cousins over at Audi. This gives the eGolf a quiet sophistication that the Germans do so very well and its EV-specific cues are super cool– LEDs anyone? The eGolf may not be as roomy or efficient as its competitors, but it offers a sense of fun & luxury that’s truly hard to beat.
2018 Nissan LEAF
A great EV for anyone with a pulse.
($38,510 as tested, the SL)
Yay: crazy range, plenty of fast charging stations, fun to drive, great rear seat, improved styling
Meh: weak infotainment, steering wheel buttons need an enema
If I had a dollar for every time I stopped and said “I love this car” while driving the LEAF, I’d have new boobs. Ok, maybe just some Botox. But this car really left quite an impression on me. A Nissan LEAF isn’t supposed to look good (it does), it isn’t supposed to drive well (it does) and it sure as hell isn’t Motorhead-worthy (you got the drift by now). Nissan clearly put a lot of effort into reworking the LEAF and every dollar was well spent. Particularly notable is how roomy the back seat felt in this car. My kids were really into it.
So there you have it, Tree Huggers! But really, this is a really exciting time to be shopping for cars, particularly if you’re smart enough to electrify. If you test drive any of the above and have insights/contradictions, let me know.