The Chevrolet Volt and BMW i8 are well-designed and fun to drive, according to a new comparison.
The Australian-based CarAdvice.com tested both cars as part of sort of odd-ball match-up between electrified vehicles including the Toyota Prius, Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Outlander. The review used a 2014 Volt, which is rebadged as the Holden Volt for Australia and has a smaller 16.5-kwh battery instead of the 2015’s 17.1. Missing from the comparison are the Tesla Model S and BMW i3, which had not yet arrived at the time of their test.
The cars in this comparison offer “five very different takes on using electricity, and the results were really interesting,” said Daniel DeGasperi, Deputy Director at CarAdvice.com.
Joining him for the comparison was Lifestyle Editor Tegan Lawson. For their test, the duo focused primarily on each car’s range and efficiency. They also commented on driving performance, but don’t rate the cars comparatively or pick an overall winner.
For readers from the U.S. what may jump out at you is the higher price tags characteristic of the Australian market, and longer ranges the reviewers were able to squeak out of some of the cars. Further, there are no government tax breaks such as we have here on the federal and state level in cases, so in Oz, the (inflated) price is the price.
The Nissan Leaf was the only all-electric car in their test, and was one of the cheaper cars, costing $39,990 AUD. The Leaf’s large electric motor gave it the farthest electric-only range in their test, traveling 132 km (82 miles). This is just under Nissan’s projection of 140 km (87 miles). Lawson noted that it’s important to carefully watch the battery meter because there is no backup engine to recharge the Leaf.
With an electric motor for the rear wheels and an internal combustion engine (ICE) powering the front, the Mitsubishi Outlander is a four-wheel drive hybrid. Unlike the Prius, its electric motor stays engaged at speeds over the 30 mph, though the Outlander isn’t as efficient as the Prius. The SUV logged 37 km (23 miles) with its electric motor, and used 3.9 liters of petrol over 100 km (the equivalent of 1 gallon of gasoline per 62 miles).
The Toyota Prius was one of the most efficient cars in the test, using only 3.8 liters per 100 km.
“It’s clear that in this test the Toyota Prius remains brilliantly frugal even on the freeway limit for its size and price, or enough to make you reconsider whether the similarly sized Nissan Leaf is really worth the fuel saving given its range limitations,” said DeGasperi.
The Toyota’s blend of electric and gasoline technology is both simply and inexpensive to buy, said the review. At $33,990 AUD, the Prius was the least expensive car in the comparison.
“It’s perfect around town,” said Lawson.
But, according to the review, it was the Volt that delivered the best balance of power and efficiency. With an ICE to charge the batteries, there is no limit to the range like there is with the Leaf. In this test, the Volt drove 79 km (49 miles) with the electric motor, and consumed only 0.7 liters of fuel per 100 km. The comparison noted that it was also faster than the Prius and designed better than the Outlander.
“Unless you really need SUV space and a fifth seat, it’s clear the Holden Volt is the better option than the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV,” said DeGasperi of the Volt that’s a model year behind, and dfue to be replaced with an altogether improved Volt for 2016.
With an Australian price tag of $300,000, the BMW i8 is by far the most expensive car in the test. But the reviewers said it’s also the most fun.
“Behind us here is a 3-cylinder turbocharged engine, teaming with the front electric motor. So, like the Outlander, its four-wheel drive. But, it’s not like the Outlander. This is a proper hybrid sports car,” said DeGasperi.
The i8 was not very efficient, however. DeGasperi noted that out of all the plug-in hybrids in the test, the BMW was the first to run out of battery, traveling only 37 km (23 miles) before losing its charge. The gasoline engine is powerful, but thirsty, using 4.5 liters per 100 km.
Both DeGasperi and Lawson agree that even though the i8 isn’t the most cost effective hybrid – both at the dealer and at the pump – it is lots of fun to drive.
“I don’t think there’s a hybrid here that’s as much fun as this,” said DeGasperi. “While the BMW i8 may be out of financial reach for the majority, at least it proves ‘green’ cars can be exciting.”