No, not for myself (I’m happy with my recent EV purchase), but for somebody else. We went out to look at three specific models, and to ask about some upcoming ones. We ended up adding one more to the list while we were out.
The original plan was to check out the VW dealer in Oakland, then the Kia dealer nearby, and finally drive to one of the few Hyundai dealers (we ended up picking the Hilltop one). The cars we were interested in seeing and driving were the ID.4, the Kona EV, eNiro and to find out more about the Hyundai Ioniq 5 / Kia EV6.
First stop was the VW dealer, and after looking around a Pro S trim model they had in the showroom, we took a test drive in a First Edition model. Since I wasn’t buying, I didn’t do the driving – I just rode along and played with the tech.
Overall, we all felt the ID.4 was an excellent EV, and very competitively priced. I was surprised that the dealer had so many first edition models in stock, but it seems quite a few of the early reservations canceled before picking up their cars. The first edition is basically a Pro S with a few extras for less money. The catch is the white accents both inside and out which, honestly, look a little out of place (especially the steering wheel in an otherwise black interior).
The fit and finish of both trims we looked at (the only two currently available in the US) was excellent and overall the vehicle has a quality feel.
The ride was smooth, easily socking up the bumps on the rough Oakland streets. Acceleration is good, though its not going to be breaking records (not that anybody should expect it to). All round it felt like a solid, well planted, quality car.
Although our test drive was relatively short, the seats were comfortable, and there was plenty of space and plenty of headroom (both models had the full length glass roof, but we did part of the test drive with the shade closed and still had plenty of headroom).
Three years of free rapid charging at Electrify America. Even better, as I learned from the owner of the ID.4 Pro S in the photo, unlike my Taycan the ID.4 isn’t limited to 30 minute sessions) – they can plug in and charge for as long as it takes.
The small display for the driver seemed too small, and awkwardly positioned behind the wheel.
The “Hello ID” feature had a hard time working out where we were asking for directions to. In the end, we gave up and typed the location.
No AWD option yet. For a car in this class, the AWD option would be nice (especially if you’re planning on using that ski tunnel and heading to the snow in the winter, assuming we’re still getting winters here in California).
Kia and Hyundai
Going to group these as the Kona and eNire are so similar (and share a common platform). The Kia dealer in Oakland did not have any EVs to look at though. The Hilltop one did, and we took a look at the top of the range Kona, but opted to skip the test drive. The main reason for that was after the ID.4, the Kona felt small, dated and less well built (cheaper, more plastic interior for example)l.
That would not be bad if it wasn’t for the fact that the car we were looking at had a sticker price higher than the out the door price on the ID.4. The MSRP was $1,000 higher, but then the dealer had added a $4K “dealer markup” on top. For a while, the Kona might have been in demand enough to justify that kind of thing, but now, with Tesla, VW and Ford all offering newer vehicles around the same price point, it just seems like wishful thinking that they could command a premium over MSRP instead of a deep discount.
Unfortunately, neither dealer had any information on the availability, or even literature and specs for the upcoming Ioniq 5 and EV6 cars.
The Kona is a great size and has amazing efficiency, so if you’re looking for a car that will have a low cost of ownership, especially charging. The longer warranty terms will also come in here, though I suspect they may not need much maintenance.
Dated feel to the interior, and a lot of plastic made the car feel cheaper than its sticker price.
Cramped back seats would be OK for children, but for adults long journeys in the back are probably not a great idea. The middle seat is also a bit of a squeeze.
Ford Mustang Mach-E
The surprise entrant, as it was not originally on the list, was the Ford Mustang Mach E. By chance, across the street from the Hyundai dealer was a Ford dealer, and there charging right in front of their showroom was a black Mach E. We also spotted a couple more in the parking lot.
Being so close, we crossed over and went to check it out. Turns out this black one was available, the customer who ordered it having changed their mind.
After looking round inside and out, we took this one out for test drive as well, though with limited time before the dealer closed for the day, it was just a loop around the Hilltop mall area. This one evoked mixed optnions from the passengers along for the drive, and somewhat negative reaction from the driver. While its performance was clearly a notch above the ID.4, and the fit and finish was every bit as good, the ride was very different.
Unlike the ID.4 which seemed to soak up the rough roads, in the Mach E we felt all the bumps. Without air suspension, the Mach E appears limited to just one setting, and that seems to have been chosen with the performance driving modes in mind. Interestingly, the upcoming range topping GT Performance trim level will get adaptive suspension, so it will be interesting to see if the one labeled for performance might end up being the better daily driver too. At least around here where the streets are in need of repair.
Amazing infotainment screen. Yes, it’s big (actually, maybe too big), but it is clear that Ford’s software team didn’t just throw a tablet UI on there and assume drivers can handle menus and more just to get to essential features.
Acceleration. It’s quick off the line. It is under 5 seconds to 60 mph, and you can easily feel the difference between this and the ID.4. If performance is what you’re looking for, this one has it.
Harder ride left two of our testers, including the driver, feeling shaken and sick. And we were only doing in the 25 mph to 45 mph range. Even those not affected by the ride did feel like the car was more skittish. (The surprisingly narrow tyres on it probably don’t help, though I’m sure they help with the range).
Like the ID.4, the driver display seems very small. In this case, it is wider than the ID.4, but still not very high. I know I am spoiled with the fantastic driver binnacle the Taycan has, but to be honest I think a more conventional dash arrangement, similar to the virtual cockpit we have in our Q5, would work better than these small screens.
Obviously, as with any car purchasing decision, at the end of the day it comes down to what you are looking for in the car. The biggest surprise for me was how badly the Kona priced itself out of contention. It just felt way over priced when compared to the other two cars.
Overall, for those looking for a small or medium sized practical utility vehicle, I think the choice has to be the VW ID.4, at least for now. That may change when the Ioniq 5 / EV6 options are in the market too, but it is going to be tough to beat the VW for the price, especially if you factor in three years of free rapid charging. If you’re looking for a long distance road trip car, the ID.4 might well be ideal (although, being able to use the 350kW chargers would have made it even better).
I guess I would be remiss not to mention that the Tesla Model Y is also on the list to test; we didn’t have a chance to do that this afternoon, but it will be in the final comparison for sure. To keep to the same budget, it would need to be spec’d without the full self driving, and, while she has not driven it, our tester today has sat in one previously and had reservations about both the seat comfort / back support and the styling of the interior. While I’m not sure about the seats, I do agree wholeheartedly about the interior design – not my cup of tea either (the new Model S/X interior looks better and I was happy to see they didn’t just replicate the 3/Y styling there when the did the refresh).