Autocar Pits Hyundai IONIQ Electric Versus BMW i3, Nissan LEAF, Volkswagen e-Golf

Cheapest BEVs

DEC 8 2016 BY MARK KANE 70

Autocar recently tested four all-electric models competing in the compact class:

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

2017 Volkswagen e-Golf

  • BMW i3 (33 kWh, 114 mi EPA)
  • Hyundai IONIQ Electric (28 kWh, 124 miles EPA)
  • Nissan LEAF (30 kWh, 107 mi EPA)
  • Volkswagen e-Golf (24 kWh, 83 mi EPA – we should note that a new version is coming: 35.8 kWh, 124 mi EPA expected)

…and found that each of those models have both strong and weak points.

The VW e-Golf for example offers the best driving experience in Autocar’s opinion, while the i3 is a premium model with a higher quality interior along with great agility.

The overall winner of the test is declared to be the BMW i3:

“So good that it’ll make you think differently about EVs. The i3 is one of the best urban cars money can buy, and great fun to drive.”

BMW i3 wins AutoCar comparison review

BMW i3 wins AutoCar comparison review

The Volkswagen e-Golf, despite being the only ‘sub-100 mile’ car finished 2nd:

“Pioneering technology delivered with VW polish. E-Golf is strong in every important area but curiously expensive on a monthly basis.”

While the Hyundai IONIQ Electric takes third:

“Hyundai’s first dedicated battery car shows plenty of promise but needs better dynamic finishing. Good on value, practicality and range.”

And, the poor Nissan LEAF was rated last:

“Original electric poster boy shows how far rivals have moved the game on. Leaf is still very credible and genuinely usable, though.”

We also should note that the plug-ins in Autocar’s comparison also finished in the same order as pricing from high to low.

Check out deep-dive analysis from Autocar on the 4 plug-ins here.

Categories: BMW, Hyundai, Nissan, Volkswagen

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70 Comments on "Autocar Pits Hyundai IONIQ Electric Versus BMW i3, Nissan LEAF, Volkswagen e-Golf"

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no bolt ?

Autocar is based on the UK, where the Bolt EV will not be offered.

Yeah, Motor Trend just declared “Simply put, it’s twice the car for half the price of a BMW i3,” guest judge Chris Theodore said. “A better car, better package, much better handling, with twice the range.”

Bolt was developed by an SCCA racer. So, I’m not doubting it has everything in Autocar’s list beat.

Except for non premium feel front wheel drive. I was thinking of getting a Bolt at first, but thats definitely a no go for me. Would love to see Bolt try a 0-60 run next to me on a wet road. I swear the i3 doesn’t even spin or have DSC coming on while driving on a wet road that leaves my FWD Focus fighting for traction.I will wait for a i3 sport to replace my 17 i3 when it comes out. If it has 150 mIle AER and 150 mile gas range, then that will still better work on most trips with less range anxiety than a pure BEV that has your trip dictated by charging locations. And remember how long it takes to charge a 60kWh battery on L3 or heaven forbid L2 on the road compared to 3 minutes to top of the range extender in an i3.

My oh my, Warren…were glazing over a whole lot I see. Like how about your 3 minute top off taking you just another 1/2 hour down the road,then you have to pull off and do another 3 minute top off ( gas stops take more then 3 minutes by the way + you forgot to add the time in pulling off the highway and getting to that filling station ). Then there’s that pesky fact that an i3 with range extender does not have the 114 mile EV range of the all-electric i3. Did you remind us the i3 costs $52,000 and change in top trim with range extender? That pretty much prices it out of this category of EVs. What you get for your money is not more utility, seating 4 only, besides having a decent amount of headroom. I could go on about the sheer expense of repairing it’s exotic plastic sandwich with a sliver of carbon fiber ( 1 sheet laminated in -between two plastic sheets ( CFRP ), the aluminum safety cage, and ohhhh those pesky, awkward rear suicide doors that only work one way – one very confusing way to kids, guests and others who… Read more »

Yes and I meant CFRP safety cage and aluminum underpinnings.

I saw an i3 on the freeway amongst fast-moving traffic in the rain a few days back. I remember coming up on him from the rear and seeing those inanely narrow, tall tires. To force traction control to get you out of trouble whilst your very small amount of contact patch fails to grip…especially on oily rainy public roads? Wow! BMW took a lot of chances just to reduce road friction to increase EV miles for such a small battery pack!

I don’t like the set of compromises they chose. Not at $42-52,000 with lofty BMW service and parts bills in your future.

i3 looks to me to be a toy car. A very expensive electric commuter pod that definately can be equalled in utility by a LEAF, Ioniq, Focus EV, eGolf or any number
of other cars at a much lower MSRP, lower accident repair, and service cost.

Wow James, you really seemed to be misguided on the facts, and probably have the technical insight to make an educated opinion on these things that you profess. You say the i3 irex can’t go 114 miles, only the BEV? Did you read what I was saying about BMW volunteering conservative EPA numbers? Many people with the irex do get 114 miles. FYI, 124 miles is the average range indicated on a full charge. This test confirms it. The i3 blew away the others on range AND efficiency. Did you get that? Did you even read the test results chart? It wasn’t even close.The i3 and it’s skinny tires do surprisingly well in the snow, wet and dry. You do know that wider tires often do worse when hydroplaning? And come on,do you really think pulling off the fwy for a couple minutes to get 80-100 miles of gas is really going to give you more inconvenience and more anxiety than a Bolt which you have to charge for an HOUR IF you can find a DCQC on your route, at a preferred distance between your destination to be optimum? As I said, the i3 gets twice the AER of… Read more »

I test drove a Bolt in the rain and that thing was getting zero traction at start up from every stop, spinning the wheels. Very boat-y driving style. Did not win me over.

No 2017 FFE either. Did you notice all winners are German brands? I think I see a bias here.

I’m sorry if your world view just got shaken, but I’d suggest that you might want to consider your own biases.

They didn’t bother reviewing the FFE because it’s only available to fleet buyers.

Wrong on all counts. I don’t the I3 because it’s expensive, it’s rear wheel drive and because it has a cheap dash board. I don’t like the VW because, well VW doesn’t like me (EGolf not sold in Texas).

Who ever told the FFE is only sold to fleets is a flat out liar.

He clearly has incorrect data.

So then tell us where you can buy the FFE in the UK for a non-fleet customer.

It’s a review from the UK.
It’s only available in the UK for fleet buyers.

Rear wheel drive is an advantage is spirited driving.
If you’re in Texas, you don’t need front wheel drive for snow.

Secondly, that dash isn’t cheap.

RWD is a disadvantage for EVs because it means regenerative braking doesn’t work as well.

Most of your braking is done by the front wheels. If you don’t have a motor hooked to them it cuts down on the energy you can harvest.

And if that dash isn’t cheap then BMW doubly screwed up because it looks very, very cheap. Other cars have large screen LCDs, BMW has a tiny LCD in a large black plastic surround.

And oh yeah, no AM radio. Bizarre. If you listen to sports on radio, you’re going to have to find another way to do it on an i3. And it’s likely to cost you some money each year to do it.

The i3 is an answer to a question nobody asked. If you hear a BMW rep talk about it it’s something about how they think customers for this car (Millenials?) want to convince themselves they are treading lightly on the Earth. So the interior is designed to not seem plush/comfortable. This doesn’t sit well with me. And that’s before the poor practicality too (doors, weak range extender) and exterior looks.

The dash is not cheap when you are the customer buying it. The whole interior of I3 is cheap.

And u don’t need RWD for 168hp. The FWD would be more then enough for the 168hp. Remember u are talking about an EV propulsion. Don’t compare it with the clumsy ICE propulsion.

For reference, the Focus (not the FFE conversion, the Focus in general) was conceived and designed by Ford Germany. There are 2 US plants that make it, but 7-8 others worldwide.

I fully agree with you. Leaf is much more bigger car and should be considered.

For some reason everyone is biased towards German cars despite their dieselgate scandal.

It is a UK website, so If the Ampera-e ever does come to the UK, I am sure they will compare it with the lot.

The Ford Focus EV is kind of available in Europe, but in unbelievably small numbers, and not in every country.

In the US it is easy enough to get, but I would be surprised if it sold a few hundred units across Europe in all of 2016.

Do you think that Donald will be able to stop these countries from making electric cars? Will he stop China? He can’t even stop China from creating a new island in the Indian Ocean. And all he can Tweet is that China should not be doing that. As if he has an upper hand on China. He will not be able to stop Putin from controlling the Barent Sea. From a practical point of view Putin has the EU in the can already. And Mr. Trump is spending his time tweeting about the Carrier jobs that he so very bravely protected. Or have protected. A good 700 jobs folks.

WTH does your comment have to do with this comparison test? Nothing. I’m no Trump fan but off topic range are useless.

+1 and there is monk need for war mongering here either.

Love our eGolf since January 2015, driving it almost every day unless I can convince my wife to trade the Tesla for a day.

The only thing I wish the eGolf had that the i3 offers is adaptive cruise control to handle stop and go commute traffic. Which by the way the bolt will not have either, waiting for tesla model 3 before replacing the eGolf…

Take it easy, Trump is not the topic here and remember snowflakes melt.

“He can’t even stop China from creating a new island in the Indian Ocean”

When did South China Sea become part of Indian Ocean?

He can slow down us leadership and growth.
He can hand over the EV market to Europe and China, like the Repubs are doing to Solar right now.


While i3 might be the best urban car, I think the ioniq is the best highway car. In America, highway driving is king.

1. Most range in highway speed
2. ACC
3. Lane keep assist
4. Android auto, Apple play
5. AEB

+1, and also price.

The i3 might cost 40%-60% more than the Ioniq.

They might as well have added the Model S to the comparison; no question it beats the heck out of all of them, but most people can’t afford it.

A used model S can be had for about the price of an i3 and comes with a 4 year-50,000mile warranty (CPO)

Sounds very compelling. How do they achieve such efficiency compared to the other cars?

Hyundai uses square shapped wire for the motor coils (I mean rectangular cross section). Thus more (thicker) windings in the same space.

Theoretically better but the others are very good already.

I3 motor: 97% efficiency

Leaf motor: 97% efficiency

Forgot to add charging speed. 100 kW CCS. Add miles in minutes!!

How does the i3 ride?
They’re not saying it’s the worst, but it’s the worst.
And yet, they like it the best???

e-Golf: best driving experience, I agree with autocar having test driven all of the above.

I agree, though I wish it had more power. If they gave it more power and with the bump in range to ~125, I expect it’d be my favorite of this crop. I very much hope the Bolt gives a similar driving experience!

The next e-Golf has a 124 mile range and a 120kW motor. So, your wishes are granted!

It’s nice they improve, but kind of disappointing that GM now has a car with more electric range… Should be the other way around. With multilink suspension, better chasis and aerodynamics it could do with more power. Especially we know that some of the MQB platform cars have 400 hp and AWD.

The i3 IS fun to drive – around the city. Even a short, say 20 mile, drive on an interstate in a crosswind and rain is disconcerting at best. A very limited purpose car at a silly price. And the poster who suggested one could buy a CPO Model S for similar money as a new i3 has a point.

i3 looks ridiculous, rides like poop and the doors make getting in and out of the rear seat weird in tight parking spots.

Oh yeah, and the instrument cluster looks like a $30 LeapFrog LeapTop with its tiny display set in a large border of plastic.

All of this and it costs the most. And it’s #1 on the list?

I’ll take the IONIQ.

The only question about the i3 is the ride, for comfort.
Everything else you said should have been kept to yourself.

My post wasn’t a reply to your post or anyone else’s.

The rear doors of I3 are the most stupid doors the car industry ever invented. U need to open the front door first, in order tro open the rear door. A person hardly fits between those doors when he is trying to open them in tight parking spots.
MAzda RX8 has the same doors…

I agree, the i3 is different for the sake of being different. Not practical at all and that instrument cluster as you said is just very low grade. Would rather get dials at this point. It’s not very stable on highways either.

Ioniq 24kWh EPA 124 mi? It is too good to be true.

Not bad. I think they are going to own the bottom spots in no time at all.

Something that willl give them a jump over Honda Toyota & Mazda.

Ioniq is 28kWh, and it gets its range due to being efficient.

The BMW looks better, far better.

Surely you jest.

The Ioniq Electric is regarded as the most energy efficient EV on the market. The EPA MPGe is 124 (combined).

I see the usual group of i3 haters are back in full force. Only James is missing.

The i3 isn’t for everyone, propulsion is great if you know how to drive, it provide better driving dynamic and more fun. If you only know to floor it and drive it straight line, then yes, stick with front wheel, 4 wheel drive.

Like or not, but Tesla lovers, the Model S is a freaking big car to move around, I prefer to call is a boat. It’s big, Tesla in my condo parking can barely open their doors. It almost take 2 parking space and as I lived in EU, streets are not friendly to large cars. See how easy it is to say something negative about a car? Yeah, very easy. Grow up people.

Haters will continue to hate, lovers will continue to love.

I have an i3, I live in a big city centre and it just make a lot of sense and I love that little bulldog.

Hey franky_b!

I love my BMW i3 – little silver bullet!! I agree, not for everyone, but it’s quick, fun to drive and corners like it’s on rails!

I’ll only consider a Tesla Model 3 as an upgrade!

While I confirm that the handling in cross-or turbulent winds on the highway is “nervous” due to the light steering, light weight and skinny tires, it is a marvel in busy european cities, quick and very nimble. I am simply addicted to the i3 and still have that EV-grin when pulling away from the lights leaving audi’s and other guzzlers in the dust. It has such a special driving feel, I think Autocar did recognize this. But I agree, not for everybody.

The EV-grin is available with all these cars. Even the Nissan isn’t that bad on stoplight acceleration.


Clearly written by someone who pays no attention to real costs. Ioniq is an excellent car however costs are least £100 pcm more than the LEAF. The i3 has great performance but has looks only a mother could love and is also expensive. Also stupid doors. The e-golf is nowhere in the UK because it’s expensive and no better than a LEAF in any way.
And where is the Zoe?

Here is a summary of Electric Vehicles on sale in $ 30K range.

Leaf:2017: Already in with a 107 mile range and a $30.5 K price tag.
Focus-EV:2017: Already in with a range of 110 – 115 miles and a $30.5 K price tag.
Golf-EV:2017: Yet to be announced. Range beyond 100 miles is expected.
Soul-EV:2017: No idea whether this will be launched or replaced by Niro-EV.

Still Leaf will be the pack leader since its a dedicated EV and you don’t need to mention anyone when selling or talking about cars. For other models, you have to specify the Electric version, otherwise it will be mistaken for gasmobile.

Ioniq will add an interesting turn as a trio of Hybrid, Plugin, Electric and its Electric version has much higher 125 mile range.

Its good that a few models moved from 80 mile range to 100+ mile range.

Their next step should be to offer multiple ranges like Tesla does.

100, 150, 200 and this will cater to the needs to different customers while increasing the sales for automakers.

While a BMW i3 owner has a bragging rights with the brand, it can seat only 4 and has a much lower interior space @ 99 cu. ft. while other cars like Leaf has 115, Ioniq has 119, Soul has 118, Golf has 108 and Niro is also expected to have around 120 and all have a lot more affordable 30K price tag.

First of all, EPA numbers are turned in by the manufacturers. While the Ioniq is rated high..look at the actual range in the test. The conservatively rated i3 blew away all the other cars in the test. Did anyone notice the tested range at the bottom of the chart? Not even close.

The Egolf is a good car in a LEAF like way. But no where near as fun.

And used Tesla Vs CPO i3? The used i3 is barely over $20k, with a 6yr, 100000 mile total warranty from original purchase date. And with about twice the range of a Volt, but yet instant gas range to fall back on, the i3 is way more practical than most people realize.

Urban test. Let’s take the i3 and ioniq at 70mph. Real American test.

And that huge disparity in i3 superior city driving range is somehow insignificant and doesn’t come into play at hwy speeds also? I can assure you, even people with the heavier rex are beating the EPA highway range estimate doing 70-75mph. My friend just did that 100 mile trip from Ventura County to Disney StuDios and back at my70-75mph. When you charge the 2017 irex, it will almost always read at least 124 mi of range.

Also saying FWD cars have superior regeneration capability?? The i3 has among the strongest and it is RWD. Remember the motor is over the rear axle. Think Porsche 911. Some of the best acceleration and braking numbers around.

And to those that say the interior of the i3 exudes cheap quality? Have you sat in the Bolt at the car show and the the i3? It’s the exact opposite, the i3 is the one that feels innovative and not Cheap.

Read the article closely. The get the impressive design mission of the i3.

I completely agree the i3 interior feels innovative. And cheap. It’s innovative like the Model 3 interior is innovative. It innovates primarily by removing as much cost as possible from the interior.

If you always wanted a car which has the kind of simplified interior you always see in a concept car then the i3 is the closest thing you can get until the Model 3 comes out.

Obviously your opinion is the opposite of others. Depends on the trim level.My i3 has the real leather stitching and wood dash. Leather door arm rest, center console,etc. Yes it has sustainable interior panels made of plant materials too, but it’s all purposeful, not cost cutting. Also, look at the pictures, the BMW center display is probably bigger than all the other cars in the test. And the I-drive interface is top rated. Perhaps you sat in the most basic trim BMW, or can’t see that well?

Well, I haven’t driven the I3 or the Ioniq as the repayment for the Hyundai was too much for us on a PCP, BUT, we own both the Zoe and the Leaf (since 2015, due to go back 2017), great cars, need more range (but only for the occasional trip, as work routes etc OK for the range and Renault have sorted for next year), Leaf still good acceleration from the traffic lights, feels luxurious inside, comfortable for back seat passengers. Arguably the Zoe is more funky and has great gadgets with simple steering wheel controls (leaf too fussy). You pays your money, you makes your choice, we’ll get what we can afford!?

What’s PCP, some sort of leasing?

Why not include Europe’s best selling electric car, the Renault Zoé, before naming the i3 the best urban car?

I leased an i3 and now I have a Leaf. I like the Leaf every other way better than the i3. Especially ride and comfort. Handles way better too. i3 was rolling a bit much for me. And it handles higher speeds terribly. Get blown around like crazy by higher wind speeds when driving over 50 mph. And it’s awful at keeping stable temperatures in the cabin on hot/cold days. Plus the seats are super uncomfortable. I was getting back issues because of them.

They are rating all these cars as city cars. As a city car the i3 is ok but put it on a highway at 32F and 75mph and you’ll only get 70 miles of range, an anxious behavior on the road and a wind sensitive car.

The ioniq on the other hand is a bigger car with good cabin space and great trunk space. It’s also very nice to drive on the highway providing about 100 miles of range during the same circumstances. And it has support for 100kW charging. For pretty much the same price.

Oh autocar is German, that explains it…