Elon’s Twitter acquisition has shone the spotlight on the kind of guy he is and not everyone is keen.
Electric cars are starting to gain a foothold in the Australian automotive market. I regularly appear on ABC Radio Sydney and the talk just ends up being about EVs, which is fine because I really like talking about them.
First up, let me be honest with you – none of them are cheap. The cheapest new EV in the country today is the MG ZS EV followed closely by the BYD Atto 3, both of them from Chinese-owned companies.
I will mention where cars are made or their company ownership as a matter of course. People want to know where their cars are coming from and may want to make decisions based on these things.
It’s important to note that even if your chosen car is built in another country, a vast number of the components have likely been sourced in China. Mentioning where a car comes from is not a dog whistle about quality. Every Chinese built EV I have personally driven is well-built, some extremely well-built, so that’s not the point of mentioning the car’s origin.
And no, there is no short or medium term chance that Australia will become “an EV manufacturing powerhouse” no matter what the attention seekers say. It’s just not going to happen, not anytime soon anyway.
Anyway. Here we go, in no particular order.
MG is a classic British badge but was bought by a Chinese company some years ago. The whole manufacturing operation moved to China soon after. There are number of electric MGs sold overseas but we’re not expecting the MG 4 in the first half of 2023. The MG 5 is not yet confirmed.
MG ZS EV
ZS EV Excite: $44,990 driveaway
ZS EV Aspire: $48,990 driveaway
The MG ZS was, then wasn’t, then was again the cheapest EV in the country. MG Australia responded to BYD’s slightly cheeky assertion that its Atto3 would be the cheapest EV by cutting prices. That’s unheard of 2022, but here we are.
The ZS EV is based on the ZS-T compact SUV. This car competes with cars like the Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan Qashqai and Kia Seltos. It’s cheap, it’s cheerful-ish and is just transport.
In ZS EV form you get to move past “just transport”. It handles and rides better than ICE car, with electric motivation knocking out one of the weaker links of the package.
Once supply is sorted out, the heavily facelifted ZS EV will arrive, bringing the EV in line with the ICE car’s upgrades. The upgrades were significant and worthwhile. It’s worth noting that the entertainment system isn’t brilliant but it does have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The MG has a 50kWh battery pack and a claimed range of 320km. Very much a city car, but with a seven-year warranty, you can’t really go too wrong for a runabout.
BYD Atto 3
At its splashy Sydney launch the brand made the noises about being the cheapest EV in the country, but that was only in Tasmania. It’s still good value, but I would argue that it’s also worth the extra over the MG as it is a better car, at least it’s better than the pre-facelift MG ZS EV.
I drove a left-hand drive evaluation vehicle early in 2022 for Wheels and I go into quite a bit of detail over the hype of the BYD Blade battery.
Things are a bit squiffy at BYD in Australia, with constantly changing information about warranty coverage and service pricing. The servicing is a little bit expensive for an EV but the up-front value is undeniable.
Like the MG, BYD is a Chinese-owned company. The Atto 3’s first right-hand drive market is Australia and the local distributor had made some big promises about local suspension tune and tyre tunes, but that went by the wayside. The sales model was originally online-only but, as ever, things changed rapidly and a deal was done with dealer group Eagers Automotive to provide sales and service. The original service deal with MyCar remains in place.
Wheels Australia compared the two Chinese contenders here.
Kia has two fully electric vehicles available in Australia and both come from South Korea. The company offers a long seven-year warranty and fixed price servicing.
The Niro is available in both hybrid and battery-electric versions.
Kia Niro EV S: $65,300
Kia Niro EV GT-Line: $72,100
Niro is in its second-generation – we only got the first version for about 18 months and it was available in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric.
This new one is much better to look at and drive (although the first one drove okay). The GT-Line is expensive, though, and priced close to cars like the Tesla Model Y and Polestar 2. You do get a good range out of it, though, especially in the city with its 64.8kWh battery, which is mighty close to the Polestar’s long range battery.
With a claimed range of 460km, it’s not bad at all and I got close to the claimed range in my GT-Line review.
The Niro is based on a combination of ICE platforms so looks like a “normal” car.
I don’t mind the hybrid, but in a market where the Honda HR-V hybrid and Corolla Cross hybrids exist, it’s not my top choice. These cars are everywhere in London and Uber drivers there love them.
The second of Kia’s EV fleet is the critically acclaimed Kia EV6, which won Wheels’ Car of the Year for 2022.
Kia EV6 Air: $72,590
Kia EV6 GT-Line: $79,590
Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD: $88,392
It looks like there’s some overlap with the Niro – and there almost is – but the EV6 is a totally different car. Kia is part of the giant Hyundai-Kia group and shares the Ioniq 5’s E-GMP fully electric platform. It’s an absolute ripper of a car no matter which one you choose, either the 168kW rear-wheel drive versions (Air and GT-Line) or the all-wheel drive GT-Line AWD with 239kW.
They’re not cheap but as we discovered at Wheels not so long ago, the EV6 Air is more than up to the challenge and – mildly controversially – beat the Tesla Model Y.
Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV)
Kia Sorento PHEV: $80,300 (plus on-roads)
Not strictly and EV but the plug-in hybrid has an internal combustion engine as well as a electric power and a decent-sized battery. It’s only available in the most expensive GT-Line spec but if you need the range of a petrol car for the occasional long trip but generally just do city stuff most of the time, you would only ever use the petrol engine for the long stuff (unless you ran the battery flat).
I got nearly 50km off the battery in a soupy week in Sydney. Once it ran out of electrons, it reverted to a hybrid mode of operation, meaning a fuel economy figure of around 4.5L/100km. That is excellent going for a two-tonne SUV.
Nissan is, broadly, the leader in EVs because they’ve been doing at scale for the longest time. A lot of folks forget that, crediting Tesla with making EVs mainstream. Tesla made them cool, Nissan just got on with the job of making them. The Leaf is made in Nissan’s Opama plant outside of Tokyo.
The Leaf is a hatchback the size of a Corolla and is now in its second generation.
Leaf: $50,990 plus on-roads
Leaf +: $61,490 plus one-roads
Nissan added a bigger battery, new styling and a revised interior for it’s second iteration. It’s a really good city car, with a range of about 250km-270km in 100kW basic form and nearly 400km in the 160kW version with the bigger battery.
The Leaf is not an excitement machine but the result of a lot of hard work from the Japanese company. It’s one of the few cars in Australia to feature vehicle-to-grid capability.
If you’re looking for a commercial vehicle, I understand that Nissan’s EV200 is on the way.
Audi has been faffing around with electrification for years. Concept car after concept car, there was even a very limited edition electric R8. After a long wait, we got the e-tron, which will be the first of many EVs from the VW Group empire. All Audi EVs sold here are built in Germany.
Audi’s first EV – well its first mass-produced EV – is the e-tron. Based on the MLB platform that spawns a number of Audis and VW Group cars, it’s a halfway house before any MEB-based cars arrive.
e-tron 55 SUV: $147,400
e-tron 55 Sportback: $158,400
The 55 is now the entry-level version of the e-tron in SUV and Sportback versions. The SUV is a more traditional shaped, well SUV. The Sportback is the same car with a racier rear end and a bit less boot space. Audi says you’ll get about 455km out of a charge, which isn’t too bad, and it does have fast-charging. I don’t mind this car – it’s big but very comfortable and looks and feels mostly like a normal car.
In 2023 the e-tron will be renamed Q8 e-tron and will have a bigger battery along with a facelift. The bigger battery is expected to push the range to 600km, but expect price rises.
Audi e-tron S
e-tron S SUV: $166,900
e-tron S Sportback: $173,900
The S arrived some time after the e-tron’s launch with a lot more power but a shorter range. While all e-trons are all-wheel drive (quattro in Audi-speke), the S has three motors for very rapid acceleration. The extra power and torque does eat into the range, however.
The German giant was early out of the gates with EVs, starting with the genius i3 city car and the i8 sports car. After a series of PHEVs in sedan and SUVs, the first of its mass-produced EVs started arriving in 2022. BMW’s current crop of EVs are all based on the company’s CLAR rear-wheel drive platform. BMW is working towards delivering a new electric-only platform known as Neue Klasse.
iX3: $114,900 before on-roads.
Like the Audi e-tron, the iX3 is based on an existing platform. The iX3 is barely changed from its X3 ICE version, with a few styling tweaks. The 74kWh battery delivers a claimed range of 460km but you’ll probably miss that by about 80km. It drives very well, has a great cabin and as of November 2022, the five year warranty expensive cars demand.
I like BMWs generally but really like the way the EVs drive. You also get five years’ subscription to the Chargefox fast-charging network, so your “fuel” is free if you’re close to a charger. The iX3 is made in BMW’s China factory.
BMW i4 Gran Coupe
i4 40: $99,900
i4 M50 xDrive: $129,900
As with the iX3, the i4 is based on the polarising 4 Series Gran Coupe. All 4 Series are excellent cars but adding electricity makes them really excellent.
The 40 is a rear-wheel drive “entry level” model while the 50i is an all-wheel drive sports car from the M Performance range.
They’re both great but not at all cheap. Softening the blow is a five year Chargefox subscription. Ignore the thing about the warranty in the below video, BMW has upped the coverage to five years.
The i4 range is made in Germany.
iX 40 xDrive: $135,900
ix40 xDrive 40 Sport: $141,900
ix 50 xDrive: $169,900
The iX is the mid-point of the company’s journey from using existing platforms to using the all-new Neue Klasse platform. The early BMW EVs were kind of like that too, the i3 and i8.
This one is a big SUV with a big battery, either 71kWh (420km range) in the 40 or the dual motor 112kWh 50 (620km range). They’re brilliant cars, with a gorgeous interior full of clever features and materials. It’s not the greatest packaged car – despite its size the boot is “only” 500 litres – but it has presence and arresting looks.
Again, ignore the bit about the warranty, it’s now a five year deal. The iX, like the i4, is made in Germany.
Volvo – as everybody knows – is a Swedish carmaker going all-in on electrification. The company has two electric vehicles on sale in Australia, the XC40 Pure Electric Recharge and the C40. Both are built in Volvo’s China factory.
XC40 Recharge Pure Electric
Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric: $72,990 + on-roads
The XC40 is a well-established SUV that has been available in petrol and diesel variants over the years. It’s a great looking car and with SUV practicality, a winner for families. Like the Polestar, the range figures are a little on the squiffy side but still strong in the real-world.
Since its initial launch, Volvo Australia added a front-wheel drive variant. You’ll note I didn’t say “cheaper” because the company used the new model as an excuse to push the dual-motor version up in the $80k-plus range. Unlike the Polestar, all the safety features come out of the box (as you would expect) and it is a lovely thing to drive.
Volvo has 3650 of them for 2023, so get ordering if you want one.
C40 Recharge: $74,990
C40 Recharge Twin: $82,490
The C40 is, um, more like the Polestar 2 but priced more like the XC40. All three are based on the same chassis. It’s complicated.
Anyway, the C40 is quite new and I haven’t driven it, so I can’t say much about it. Those who have driven it have said predictably complimentary things. Which is to be expected given it’s the third CMA-based EV.
The base model C40 Recharge is a front-wheel drive version with a single 170kW motor while the Twin has two motors for a total of 300kW. The official range for the former is 434km and 420km for the latter, but expect a miss given the XC40 and Polestar gaps.
Polestar is Volvo’s EV sub-brand, joint-owned with Geely Automotive who also own a large chunk of Volvo. It’s complicated. Also complicated is the fact that all Volvos will be electric in Australia by 2026. And eventually everywhere else.
You can specify and buy a Polestar online and slowly but surely brand centres (ie showrooms) will open. Right now, they’re hard to get a hold of because of high demand and low supply (November 2022).
The Polestar 2 is made in China.
Polestar 2: $63,900
Polestar 2 Long Range: $68,400
Polestar 2 Dual Motor Long Range: $73,400
The Polestar 2 is one of a number of EVs based on Volvo’s CMA platform. CMA was designed from the outset to accommodate ICE, hybrid and EV powertrains. It underpins the Volvo XC40 and C40.
Polestar 2 is like a high-riding five-door hatchback. The prices look attractive but the cars are missing some safety features that are part of the Pilot Pack. Since I drove it, the Pilot Pack has gone down in price to $3400 while the car itself is more expensive. Get the Pilot Pack, it’s worth it.
The range figures are also optimistic on all cars, but you can expect about 380km on the basic car and the dual motor. The long range car will squeak about 450km from a much longer claimed range while the standard range won’t make 400km.
They are great cars, though, despite having to option them up. The Dual Motor is an absolute weapon, even more so with the Performance Pack added with its adjustable Öhlins dampers.
I did speak to some Polestar 2 owners on Twitter. Russell Ivanovic, who also owns a Tesla Model 3, told me he gets 420km at a steady 100km/h. In the city, he’s getting 480km/h, which is better than I saw.
The Polestar 3 is coming next year to add to a rapidly range of production and concept cars.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.