If you’re leaning towards an electric or hybrid car - and you’re confident about the major differences between these options - it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. In this article, we help you make up your mind about the right car for you by comparing the following hybrid and electric-only cars:
|Nissan Leaf||Tesla Model 3|
|Smart ForFour||Kia Niro|
|Smart ForTwo||Toyota Prius|
Pure electric cars - performance and charging
If you’re taking up an electric vehicle (EV) for the first time, performance and charging are two of the major considerations.
The Nissan Leaf is an all-electric hatchback that can travel up to 168 miles on a single charge or, if you opt for Nissan Leaf e+, up to 239 miles. It comes with power steering, a three-pin charger and the capability for 50kW rapid charging. This technology will replenish your battery from 0% to 80% in 40 minutes - great for longer journeys when a quick top up is of the essence.
Slightly smaller in size, the Tesla Model 3 offers up to 329 miles on a single charge. Like the Nissan Leaf, it also offers rapid-charge capability which will take its battery from 20% to 80% in 40-60 minutes using a 50kW charger. Can’t wait that long? Then you’ve also got the option to plug into a 150kW charger reducing the 20% to 80% charge time to just 20 minutes.
As with the Nissan Leaf, overnight charging on a 7kW home charger is available too. It will take eight to 11 hours to charge your Tesla Model 3 from empty to full in this way. This is slightly longer than the Nissan Leaf (which takes about 6 hours using a 7kW charger) due to the Model 3’s larger battery.
In comparison to these larger cars, the smaller Smart ForFour - which is also classed as a hatchback - and the Smart ForTwo also run entirely off electricity. Both cars come with electric power steering and, as you’d expect, a charging cable.
However, with smaller 18kW batteries, rapid charging is not available as the Smart cars can be charged in one hour from 0% to 100% battery on a 22kW charging point, available at work or in public. The fastest home chargers - 7kW points - will take 7 hours to charge these Smart vehicles from 0-100%, making this an overnight job.
A fully charged battery in the Smart ForFour or the Smart ForTwo can take you on a journey of up to 70 miles. Which of these all-electric options suits you best will depend on your typical journey length and how often you want to charge.
Now let’s take a look at the hybrid cars.
Hybrid cars - performance and electric-only range
The Kia Niro hybrid offers 201.8mpg which compares favourably to the 58.9mpg achieved by the diesel Kia Niro models. You can also travel up to 30 miles in this SUV using electricity alone and it comes with power steering and a speed limiter.
In comparison, the Toyota Prius delivers around 68mpg and can travel up to 39 miles using electricity only. This slightly longer electric-only range could mean you can complete all your short, regular journeys without needing to use the combustion engine. This hatchback also has electric power steering, adjustable speed limiter and electric gear shift.
As with any plug-in hybrid, it’s important to keep the electric motor charged to ensure you’re using the car to its full low emission potential. Charging the electric battery from empty to full on both these vehicles will take around three hours using a 3.7kW, 7kW and 22kW charging point or four hours using a normal three-pin socket.
If you’re in the know about salary sacrifice, you’ll understand that these vehicles would attract slightly different benefit in kind (BIK) rates due to their varying emissions. The Toyota Prius would fall into a lower BIK band than the Kia Niro as it can travel between 30 and 39 miles using electricity only. In contrast, the Kia Niro can travel 39 miles or more on electricity. This will make 2% difference in BIK rate - perhaps not enough to sway your decision one way or the other.
Which car provides what technology?
The Smart cars come with the same range of technology including a DAB digital radio and a smart media system. In terms of driver assistance, they offer a rear parking camera and assistance, tyre pressure monitoring and cruise control.
In comparison, opt for a Nissan Leaf and you’ll enjoy:
Driver assistance comes in the form of a rear view camera, blind spot and lane departure warning systems and intelligent cruise control.
The Kia Niro has many of the same driver assistance features as the Nissan Leaf plus a few additions including: reverse parking camera and sensors, forward collision avoidance assistance, tyre pressure monitoring and the option to choose your drive mode including Eco and Sport modes.
In terms of entertainment, the Niro’s tech is similar to the Nissan Leaf’s with a six-speaker system, bluetooth streaming, shark fin antenna, DAB radio with MP3 compatibility, USB port, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with voice control, voice recognition and an eight inch touchscreen display.
The Tesla Model 3 also offers a range of tech features including:
Added to this is the following list of driver assistance technology:
Last but not least is the Toyota Prius which also provides a range of entertainment technology including: bluetooth connectivity, DAB digital radio, six speakers, front and rear 12v power outlets, shark fin antenna, a seven inch multimedia display, two 2.4 inch multi-information display screens and multimedia technology.
The driver assistance tech includes:
Essentially, the more you pay, the more tech you get. So if in-car tech is a major factor in your decision making process, you might need to be prepared to part with a little more cash to get what you want. Of course salary sacrifice car benefit schemes reduce the amount you pay significantly making it more likely that you’ll be able to afford the car you want.
Space - the final frontier
Another important consideration when choosing a new car is how much space it offers. Perhaps the kids have left home and you’re looking to downsize. Maybe you want a small city car. Or perhaps you’re seeking more room in the car itself and/or the boot.
Whatever suits your lifestyle best, one of these cars stands a good chance of meeting your criteria.
Despite the similarities so far, the Smart ForFour and Smart ForTwo differ considerably when it comes to size. As the names suggest the Smart For Four seats four people whereas the Smart ForTwo can carry two.
The larger of the two Smart cars is 3.5m long, 1.9m wide and 1.5m tall with a boot volume of 185 litres. The Smart ForTwo is smaller at 2.7m long, 1.9m wide and 1.5m tall, however, it has a larger boot space of 260 litres that uses some of the space feed up by fewer seats.
Moving up to the larger Nissan Leaf, Toyota Prius and Tesla Model 3 hatchbacks which provide more room again:
|Nissan Leaf||Toyota Prius||Tesla Model 3|
Although the Kia Niro sports a SUV-style body, there’s not much difference in terms of space in comparison to the hatchback models: it measures in at 4.35m long, 1.8 wide and 1.55 high with boot capacity of 382 litres.
As you can see, choosing between plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars involves many of the same decisions you need to make when it comes to combustion engine cars. Size and technology aside, the main consideration is around which car will best suit your lifestyle and the kind of journeys you tend to make.
Once you’re clear on how far you tend to travel and how often you can charge, you’ll be able to assess whether an electric car’s single-charge mileage is sufficient for your needs or whether a plug-in hybrid could offer you a better alternative.