Electric cars typically are more expensive than otherwise comparable gas-only or hybrid cars; that’s no secret, nor should it surprise anyone. The good news: There’s an interesting and diverse crop of electric cars on the market for this year and next, and prices are slowly becoming affordable for more buyers. If you’re in the market for a new electric car, don’t forget that, depending on where you live, state and federal tax incentives can significantly reduce your out-of-pocket costs. With that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 of the best value electric cars—presented in order of MSRP, although the first electric car on our list, the upcoming Hyundai Ioniq, has only an estimated price at this point.on
1) 2017 Hyundai Ioniq — MSRP TBD
Hyundai’s been up front about the fact that it designed the Ioniq specifically to take on the Toyota Prius. That’s evident right down to the design—the profile even has a similar shape to the Prius, with sedan-esque sides and a hatchback-like back. However, when the Ioniq goes on sale in late 2016, it’ll be available as both a hybrid and a full electric; in 2017, a plug-in hybrid will join the lineup. Considering that Hyundai’s challenging Toyota to a throwdown, we can guess that the Ioniq will start somewhere in the low $20s, just like a Prius. The full EV version of the Ioniq likely will be higher, but thus far this is all just hypothesis.
2) 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV — MSRP $22,995
Although the Mitsubishi i-MiEV makes the cut for our list of the best value electric cars, this is by virtue of the fact that the i-MiEV is, in fact, an electric car. In other words, the majority of the i-MiEV’s value is in its very low price point—if you want an electric car as inexpensively as possible, this is it. And there is value in that, particularly for minimalists who just need a small urban runabout to travel up to 62 miles. The i-MiEV’s cabin is sparsely equipped, and offers seating for just four passengers; the car is just too small for another seat, and a full load pushes the 66-horsepower electric motor to its limit.
3) 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV — MSRP $25,120
The 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV, easily one of the least expensive options on our list of the 10 best value electric cars, follows a successful formula popularized by the mainstream hybrid cars that paved the way for this crop of electrics. Chevy took the Spark body and replaced its regular gasoline drivetrain with an all-electric one, radically transforming the subcompact’s driving dynamics as well as its efficiency with 140 horsepower and a jaw-dropping 327 lb.-ft. of torque, available the moment you press the accelerator pedal. The Spark EV is rated for 82 miles of range on a full charge, and Chevrolet offers a quick-charging system to make this tiny (and fun) electric car even more useful.
4) 2016 Nissan LEAF — MSRP $29,010
It’s one of the most affordable electric vehicles available in the United States, one of the top-selling electric cars in the world, and easily one of the 10 best value electric cars currently on the market. And, best of all, the 2016 Nissan LEAF can go farther than it did last year. This year’s model offers a new, larger battery on its two highest trim levels, for a range of 107 miles per charge, compared to the 84-mile range on the base model and on last year’s Leaf. Another key update for this year is a revised infotainment system, to help the Leaf stay fresh and modern, maintaining its status as one of the best-value electric cars on the market.
5) 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf — MSRP $29,815
Much of the value in the 2016 Volkswagen e-Golf comes from its inherent practicality—if you’ve ever driven a regular Golf, the e-Golf will feel familiar. The e-Golf offers up 115 horsepower and 199 lb.-ft. of torque, not bad for one of the more affordable electric cars on the market, and with a 240-volt outlet, it takes under four hours to fully charge. The e-Golf is EPA-rated for 83 miles of range, too. Volkswagen manages to make the e-Golf hit that affordable sweet spot for an EV: less than $30,000. According to the EPA, the cost to charge a VW e-Golf for a year is about half what it would cost to fill a regular Golf with gasoline over the same period.
6) 2017 Chevrolet Bolt — MSRP around $37,500
If other electric vehicles just don’t have enough range to work for you, the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt might be a solution. Chevrolet says its upcoming EV will deliver at least 200 miles of electric range, a figure previously unheard of for an electric car at this price point. This hatchback will comfortably seat five passengers, produce around 200 horsepower and achieve the 0–60 sprint in about 7 seconds—in other words, it’ll be a pretty functional car in addition to its convenient electric capabilities. And, like other Chevy models, this Bolt demonstrates that it’s one of the best value electric cars coming to market by featuring OnStar with a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot. Look for the new Chevrolet Bolt later this year.
7) 2017 Tesla Model 3 — MSRP $35,000
Tesla’s captured our attention in spectacular fashion with its elegant, efficient, and increasingly controversial Model S electric luxury sedan. Now, as promised, Tesla’s bringing its EV technology to more affordable vehicles, such as the upcoming Model 3, a 5-passenger fastback sedan with an anticipated 200 miles of range and a decidedly upscale feel. The main drawback to this entry on our list of the best value electric cars? Right now, it’s the wait. Tesla’s already in over its head in terms of production capacity (although, to be fair, the company’s been up front about this all along) and the Model 3’s early adopters have already been waiting a while. Buyers who join the queue for a Model 3 now probably won’t get the keys for a year or more.
8) 2016 BMW i3 — MSRP $42,400
BMW recently joined the fray of fully electric cars, and while some readers might take issue with the i3 being a “best value,” we’re willing to make that call. The BMW i3 is the less expensive of the brand’s two electric cars, and the company manages to pack the 4-passenger subcompact hatch with features. Despite unimpressive specs of 170 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque, the i3 delivers strong acceleration; coupled with its rear-wheel-drive design and very light weight, this electric car provides an entertaining driving experience, for up to 81 miles on a full charge. A Range Extender trim level is also available, which adds a small gasoline engine that charges the battery on-the-go to make the i3 much more practical as an everyday vehicle.
9) 2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e — MSRP $48,125
The B250e (formerly known as the B-Class Electric Drive) might be one of the lesser known models in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, but we feel it deserves inclusion in our overview of the best value electric cars. The B-Class hatchback is one of the most upscale EVs on the market, loaded with luxury features typical of the Mercedes brand. Its drivetrain is good, too—it’s sourced from Tesla, and provides the hatch with 177 horsepower and up to 87 miles of travel. This hatch officially seats five passengers, but in real-world situations, four is a much more comfortable limit. The 2016 Mercedes-Benz B250e comes standard with a long list of high-end safety equipment, adding to its value.
10) 2016 Tesla Model S — MSRP $70,000
Sure, the price tag is steep, but that doesn’t necessarily disqualify the Tesla Model S from being counted amongst Autobytel’s 10 best value electric cars. The Model S is perhaps best thought of (from a value perspective, anyway) as a sporty luxury sedan that happens to be electric. This upscale car seats up to seven passengers (when the optional rear-facing third row is selected), is loaded with high-tech luxury features and safety equipment, and it provides comfortable acceleration in near silence. The Model S increases in capabilities as the price gets higher, and the top trim level can travel up to 270 miles on a full electric charge. According to the EPA, the Tesla Model S has fuel economy ratings of up to 101/102 MPG-e (miles per gallon, gasoline equivalent).