The 7 Best-Looking Affordable Cars that Drive Electric

Just because you want to drive an electrically propelled car doesn’t mean it has to be unattractive.

Although we’ve seen frumpy little eco-mobiles come along in the name of ultra-green earth-hugging minimalist sensibility, most automakers – if they hope to sell their vehicles – are designing cars that will appeal to a broader audience.

Of course vehicles from brands like Audi, Mercedes, BMW – and let’s not forget Tesla’s Model S and X – are nothing to kick out of your garage, but our list will focus on “affordable” models.

Looking at both plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles, most of which with subsidies net for somewhere in the 20s or 30s, we’ll attempt an unofficial beauty contest here, though of course beauty is ultimately in the eye of the beholder.

7. Kia Soul EV

Cool-looking enough for even the most street-wise and hip hamsters, Kia’s Soul is a unique animal among all-electric cars.

The stylized box on wheels delivers 93 miles of EPA-rated EV range, plus ample cargo and people space.

When Kia redesigned the gas-powered Soul a couple years ago, the company was smart enough to include room underneath the vehicle for a 27-kWh battery for an EV version to allow the roominess in the upper living quarters.

Adding to the design cues are a two-tone color scheme, blue-accented projector beam headlamps, and LED rear lamps.

Available two-tone mirrors with integrated LED turn signals add to the quirky charm, and because it is an EV with no gas engine to keep cool, the front grille with integrated charge port door is closed offering a different look and better aerodynamics.

6. Chevy Bolt EV

We’ve heard some people say the Bolt is not so pretty but with input from a form-follows-function vantage point, the Bolt’s spec sheet adds to the attraction.

Basically, the new tall hatchback – which Chevrolet insists is a “compact crossover” probably because that trending keyword helps its approval – delivers the most range for the dollar.

After a $7,500 federal credit it can net for a few bucks below $30,000 and serves up 238 miles of EPA rated goodness, so what’s not to like?

Further distinguishing it from others here is the beautiful fact that it’s a purpose-built EV with its liquid thermally managed 60-kWh batter integrated in the floor of a “skateboard” chassis design like Tesla uses (and which GM had originated prior).

Since it has such a big battery, Chevrolet’s engineers were unafraid to give it sizable horsepower and torque (which requires energy and which other EVs must limit lest range be too severely sapped). The Bolt gallops from 0-30 in 2.9 seconds, 0-60 in 6.5 seconds and this is quicker than other compliance vehicles in its class.

But this is about looks you say? Sure, it looks like a modern tall hatch with lines that are not jarring to our sensibilities from any angle. Inside, it is roomy and thanks to the battery in the floor, its 95 cubic feet volume is right there with a Tesla Model S (if not including the frunk, which the EPA does not due to an arcane rule on measuring space).

The 10.2-inch touch screen and comfortable interior are styled with contemporary materials, and all told the Bolt is a fetching piece of kit.

5. Volkswagen e-Golf

Back to judging just on aesthetics, there’s also nothing in a VW Golf to offend the eye of most people, and the German automaker’s ubiquitous hatch adds flair in the EV version.

The all-electric car gets the new headlights, taillights, front fenders, and bumpers from the refreshed, Europe-market Golf. that the regular gasoline-powered Golf won’t see until the 2018 model year.

To make the front stand out somewhat further, are large C-shaped LED running lights and a thin blue accent stripe across a stylish plate that substitutes for the gas-powered car’s grille.

As a converted EV, its space inside is alright, as VW packaged the battery so as to not compromise cargo or passenger room overly much.

Good news also is a new battery for 2017 bumps range by 50 percent to 125 miles by EPA reckoning.

4. Hyundai Sonata PHEV and Kia Optima PHEV (tie)

Hyundai Sonata Plug-in Hybrid

Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid

New plug-in hybrid cousins from Korea, both the Hyundai Sonata PHEV and Kia Optima PHEV tie for fourth position.

Both share the same 2.0-liter gas-electric powertrain and 9.8-kWh li-polymer battery in trunk – the largest in this midsized PHEV sedan class.

Range and mpg is thus very similar. The Sonata sings on pure electricity for up an EPA-rated 27 miles and after that it morphs to a regular hybrid churning out a decent 39 mpg. The Optima manages 29 miles on the EPA’s treadmill, and 40 mpg on gas.

Hyundai, like others endows them with blue accents (because blue is the new green, maybe?) and otherwise they get a spot because they are simply handsome looking vehicles that look like the non-plug-in members in their families lines.

3. Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet’s compact hatch that looks like a sedan in became 2016 the first plug-in car to undergo a comprehensive redesign.

The original model was more distinctive, but it there’d been mixed feelings about that one in that it did not look at all like the show car from 2007.

In any event, the “gen 2” Volt, while bearing no small resemblance to a Cruze, otherwise looks mainstream contemporary with techie features baked in.

Its lines are more sculpted and pointier, yet rounder for the nose, and it does show its DNA borrowed from others Chevrolets, including the Impala, and Malibu.

Attractive also is that the 53-mile range “extended-range electric” Volt offers more all-electric traveling range than any other full-range, full power plug-in hybrid competitor. Why, even the 2011-2015 model had more range than the rest of the pack, for that matter, and the new Volt is just that much further out in front.

Its 53 miles is enough for a large majority of people to do all their daily driving on electricity, a full foot to the floor will not kick on the gas as it will in other plug-in hybrids, and in hybrid mode it is rated 42 mpg for 420 miles total EV plus gas range.

Also attractive is it zips from 0-30 mph in just 2.6 seconds which is right quick.

The only downside is the Volt is not midsized, and the rear seat is low on legroom, just OK in headroom, and the middle back seat is roomy enough for a five-year-old who won’t mind straddling the battery hump, or an infant in a child seat.

2. Ford Fusion Energi

The range topper for the Fusion line which includes mild and aggressive gas versions, a hybrid and this plug-in hybrid, the Fusion Energi was an easy choice to make.

It sells relatively well, and its similar hybrid cousin is so much better looking than the new Prius that it has ascended the sales ladder to give that formerly dominant model fits.

The Fusion thus benefits from a mainstream-attractive coupe-profiled sedan look, which includes thin roof pillars and sweeping character lines, a new trapezoidal-shaped grille.

As true of the C-Max Energi, the Fusion Energi provides 19 miles EV range and the Fusion Energi also provides 400-plus miles of hybrid range at a respectable 38 mpg.

Inside, the design and layout are useful and aesthetically pleasing. It offers more room than the Volt, but unlike that longer-range vehicle which benefits form being purpose made as a plug-in, the converted Fusion’s trunk mounted battery does take space.

That prevents fold-down seats, and eats some luggage room, but the vehicle all told is a nice looking proposition.

1. Tesla Model 3

Source: Tesla Model 3 Fan Page on Instagram

Hands-down the most attractive plug-in car is the pending Tesla Model 3.

The sleek lines are expected to fare well against entry level BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes, and it’s already been rewarded by long lines of buyers who each plunked down $1,000 refundable deposits.

Due in July, the car which learns lessons from the Model S – but which company head Elon Musk says will definitely be down-market from – is also the quickest with base models doing 0-60 in around 6 seconds.

Minimal range for the $35,000 and up car is 215 or more miles, and other versions will offer bigger batteries and all-wheel drive.

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