Review: Hyundai Ioniq v Volkswagen E-Golf v BMW i3 v Nissan Leaf

Review: Hyundai Ioniq v Volkswagen E-Golf v BMW i3 v Nissan Leaf
Review: Hyundai Ioniq v Volkswagen E-Golf v BMW i3 v Nissan Leaf

In a growing market sector, the Nissan Leaf looks almost part of the establishment now, as it’s been around for six years. It’s a market sector moving fast, and growing now by about 50% a year, so we’re reaching or have reached critical mass.

Who would have thought, just a few years ago, that we could put together a group test, not just of any electric vehicles, but a group of all-electric hatchbacks. As such, we’re not in Tesla territory, none of these has the range of a big Model S or a big executive saloon with a diesel engine. They’re here more as short-range cars for commuting, going to the shops, general stuff, which is why we’ve plotted a route in London rather than in Lincolnshire.

1st. BMW i3 94Ah

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★★★★★
Price: £27,830 (inc. £4500 Govt grant)
Power: 168bhp
Torque: 184lb/ft
0-62mph: 7.3sec
Top speed: 93mph
Battery capacity: 33kWh
Charge time: 12hrs (3-pin), 3.5hrs (32A wallbox); Fast-charge standard CCS (125A, 1.25hrs)
NEDC claimed range 124 miles
Urban test economy 5.3m/kWh
Urban test range 175 miles

The new kid on the block is Hyundai’s Ioniq, a bigger offering than say BMW’s hugely attractive and clever i3. But in the city size isn’t always a good thing. Where there is a small gap the BMW could nip down, the Hyundai has to wait. It’s not that agile either, since the wheelbase is long and the steering is heavy.

However the Ioniq has switchable regeneration so you can let it coast when the road is clear – if the road is ever clear – and it will really coast along. Then you can reapply regeneration so the car slows without you having to waste energy by pressing the brake pedal much or at all.

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2nd. VW e-Golf

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★★★★☆
Price: £27,180 (inc. £4500 Govt grant)
Power: 113bhp
Torque: 199lb ft
Battery capacity: 24.2kWh
Charge time 12hrs (3-pin), 4.5hrs (32A wallbox); Fast-charge standard CCS (125A, 0.75hrs)
0-62mph: 10.4sec
Top speed: 86mph
NEDC claimed range: 118 miles
Urban test economy: 4.2m/kWh
Urban test range: 102 miles

The BMW does this too, but to an astonishing degree. It actually takes getting used to, since just lifting off is like applying the brakes – you can stop without actually touching the brake pedal, it’s that strong. That’s clever and helps extend the range.

The BMW also scores by having excellent visibility from the fairly high driving position. You can see and be seen clearly and the stripped back instrument cluster and infotainment screen is perfect, and with perfect resolution.

3rd. Hyundai Ioniq Electric Premium SE

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★★★★☆
Price: £26,295 (inc. £4500 Govt grant)
Power: 118bhp
Torque: 218lb/ft
0-62mph: 9.9sec
Top speed: 103mph
Battery capacity: 28kWh
Charge time 12hrs (3-pin), 4.5hrs (32A wallbox); Fast-charge standard CCS (125A, 0.75hrs)
NEDC claimed range: 160 miles
Urban test economy: 4.7m/kWh
Urban test range: 132 miles

It’s so obviously new and suited to the i3 that it takes a moment when you switch to the e-Golf to size up the differences. If you like a Golf then the electric version isn’t such a big deal. It’s all familiar, all safe and normal. It’s also very well made and the sat nav seems to be a cut above some of the others.

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When you switch from this to the Nissan Leaf the surprise is the way it feels – not that you’re in a vehicle designed to be electric, but that it seems so dated. It’s only six years old but already the design and finish seem off the pace against newer competition like the Hyundai. The Ioniq has decent cabin space, clear instrumentation, and is comfortable too.

4th. Nissan Leaf 30kWh Tekna

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★★★☆☆
Price: £27,380 (inc. £4500 Govt grant)
Power: 108bhp
Torque: 187lb/ft
0-62mph: 11.5sec
Top speed: 89mph
Battery capacity: 30kWh
Charge time 12hrs (3-pin), 5.5hrs (32A wallbox); Fast-charge standard ChaDeMo (125A, 0.75hrs)
NEDC claimed range: 155 miles
Urban test economy: 3.8m/kWh
Urban test range: 114 miles

The Nissan Leaf is also sprung quite softly so there’s a fair bit of rolling about even at city speeds. It really is showing its age. The BMW i3 by comparison is much more firmly sprung, with a ride that is on the far end of the firm spectrum at times.

That’s far from ideal, but both the BMW and Volkswagen really do feel as though they’re a pair competing against each other, above the other pair of the Nissan Leaf and the Hyundai Ioniq. The quality of the German cars really does shine through. But they approach things differently, and it’s this that separates them.

The e-Golf is the Golf powered by electricity. That’s it. You get all the benefits of Golf ownership, but with good news on the emissions and consumption figures. It’s enjoyable to drive around the city for all those reasons why people love Golfs.

But the BMW takes a new look at electric cars. The i3 is simply the electric car reimagined. It’s fun, fast and very frugal, it really is. And it’s our winner.

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