As competition in the electric vehicle (EV) market grows, the prices are starting to come down. The lowest-priced EVs aren’t as economical to buy as the least expensive gasoline-powered vehicles, but they’re certainly not out of reach for anyone looking for a late model car. Given tax incentives and the potential for lower operating costs in the long run, the 2022 EVs could be a workable choice for consumers who like novelty and aren’t as concerned about convenience.
Recent global consumer surveys of the most important factors when buying a new car show that people are greatly concerned about safety, fuel efficiency (or driving range for electric vehicles), quality, design, comfort, and, not surprisingly, low price. To this end, Expensivity offers you a comparison of the most economical electric cars with their gasoline-powered alternatives, information that’s far more practical than the fascinating study in style and extravagance provided by our comparison of the most expensive electric versus gasoline-powered cars.
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Countdown: The Ten Most Economical Electric Cars for 2022
The most and least expensive of the economical electric vehicles runs a gamut of familiar names—Ford, Tesla, Kia, Volkswagen, Mazda, Chevrolet, BMW (Mini), Nissan, and Hyundai. It’s perhaps not surprising, however, that on our comparative lists of ten, the lowest priced EV is still more expensive than the most expensive gas-powered vehicle.
Let’s hit the highway for some test drives, then, but make sure to take it easy: don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.
Ten: 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 – from $44,000
The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5, a Hyundai model that made its debut in South Korea last year, is a new compact EV that is the first of 23 electric vehicles that Hyundai intends to release by 2025. The 2022 model comes as either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. In the all-wheel version, the electric engine generates the equivalent of 302 horsepower (hp) and 446 lb-ft of torque and has a 77.4 kWh battery and will go from 0 to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds. The rear-wheel version isn’t as powerful, with 215 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque enabling it to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. With its operating voltage of 800 volts, it has a driving range between 258 and 300 miles when fully charged and, best of all, when hooked to a 350-kW charger, can go from 5 percent to 80 percent in eighteen minutes, which gives it charging times comparable to much more expensive EVs, like the Audi e-Tron GT and Porsche Taycan.
Both the exterior and interior of the vehicle have a modern design and many parts are made of eco-friendly materials. On the inside, the instrument cluster and “infotainment” screen are each 12 inches wide and sit on a single panel that extends from in front of the driver to the midpoint of the vehicle. Since you’re going to have to cool your heels while the car recharges–even if only for twenty minutes to half an hour–the front seats recline and have footrests. All-in-all, the Ioniq 5 is a sporty, roomy, and comfortable “economy” EV.
Nine: 2022 Ford Mustang Mach E – from $42,895
The new 2022 Ford Mustang Mach E SUV comes in a range of trim levels and with a range of options to satisfy the priorities of discerning car buyers. The 68-kWh battery version has a range of 230 miles in its rear-wheel drive version, and 211 miles in its all-wheel drive version. Longer-range versions have an 88-kWh battery that tops out at 305 miles. The GT performance version of the car will go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, but the standard model will do the same in a not-too-shabby 5.1 seconds. The Mach E has a comfortable and roomy interior, a stylish dashboard with a 15.5 inch vertical multimedia touchscreen powered by the latest Ford Sync-4A system and a separate instrument panel. It has 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat and a few more cubic feet in the front trunk. Also standard are a variety of safety and driver-assistance features.
This combination of stylishness, comfort and roominess on the interior, decent cargo-carrying capacity, safety features, driving range, and a charging time from 10% to 80% capacity in 38 minutes, garnered the 2021 Mach E Car and Driver’s 2021 EV of the Year Award.
Eight: 2022 Tesla Model 3 – from $40,690
The Tesla Model 3 sedan, with four doors and a roomy 5-seat interior, is the least expensive way to get into a Tesla. The standard-range rear-wheel drive version will go from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, has a top speed of 140 mph, and will travel about 270 miles before its 54 kWh battery needs to be recharged. It has an impressive 10% to 80% recharge time of 21 minutes. Long-range or performance versions of the Model 3 have faster acceleration and top speeds, as well as longer ranges, but they are more expensive.
The interior of the Model 3 is unlike most electric vehicles in that most of the driver controls and information are accessed through a 15-inch touchscreen on a dashboard that is otherwise quite spartan. The screen features a variety of entertainment options, though not AM or satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, or Android Auto. Standard are Tesla’s basic driver-assistance and navigation technology, as well as heated seats and an all-glass roof. The Model 3 also earns the highest safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). All considered, it’s a sleek and classy ride.
Seven: 2022 Kia Niro EV EX- from $39,990
The 2022 Kia Niro EV EX is a hatchback with a 201 hp electric motor powered by a 64 kWh battery that has a 239 mile range when fully charged. It isn’t exactly a quick recharger, however, taking up to 60 minutes to recharge to 80%. The Niro EV will accelerate from 0 to 60 mp in 6.2 seconds, has a top speed of 107 mph, and regenerative braking that helps recharge the car when you brake. The ride in the cabin is quieter, with less road noise, than in many of its competitors. The dash includes a 10.3-inch touchscreen and built-in navigation, and features a Harmon/Kardon audio system and SiriusXM satellite radio. Other notable standard features include heated front seats, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as driver assistance in the form of blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, and automated emergency braking.
Beyond this, the interior, while by no means uncomfortable, is not very luxurious, exhibiting an excess of black plastic. The cargo space behind the rear seats will accommodate 6 carry-on suitcases. If you fold down the rear seats as far as they will go, it is possible to triple this to 18 carry-ons that will fit behind the front seats. Because of the battery location, the floor in the rear passenger area is raised, creating rather cramped quarters for those unfortunate enough to have to ride there. As far as electric vehicles are concerned, then, the Kia Niro EV is hardly a standout, but it still gets the job done.
Six: 2022 Volkswagen ID.4 – from $35,000
The 2022 Volkwagen ID.4 EV is a practical family-friendly SUV with decent interior cargo cacacity and a comfortable cabin that will hold 5 passengers. The 2021 model won the World Car of the Year award. The 2022 RWD model has dropped around $5,000 in price from $40,000 to $35,000, but retains the 82 kWh 201 hp engine. It will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds and has a fully-charged range of about 250 miles.
The ID.4 has a roomy cabin with comfortable seating and dual-zone climate control, though it does admit a fair bit of road noise, which is not uncommon for the more affordable electric vehicles, since there is no engine noise and vibration to mask it. The ID.4 has all the requisite modern technology, with a 10-inch center touchscreen as standard and a 12-inch screen as an option, and a very spartan dashboard. The ID.4 has driver safety aids that are pretty standard now, including blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure mitigation, and adaptive cruise control.
Five: 2022 Hyundai Kona Electric – from $34,000
The 2022 Hyundai Kona Electric has a 64-kWh battery that powers a 201-hp electric motor that will take the car from 0 to 60 mph in a zippy 6.4 seconds. The car has a reasonable 258-mile range when it is fully charged and can be recharged from 10% to 80% in 47 minutes at a 70-kW DC fast-charging station. Recharging at home with a 7.2-kW rate of charge will take the Kona Electric from 10% to 100% in 9 hours and 15 minutes. The car has aggressive regenerative braking that allows for one-pedal driving and contributes to its 258-mile range, though paddles behind the steering wheel allow the driver to adjust the level of regeneration to make it less aggressive.
The inside of the Kona Electric is comfortable and made from quality materials. Standard is a touchscreen infotainment system with an 8-inch reconfigurable digital gauge display. The Limited model upgrades to a 10.3 inch display that includes navigation. The standard audio system features 6 speakers, while the Limited model has an 8-speaker Infinity system that offers much better sound quality. Unfortunately, the rear seat is cramped for adults and the cargo capacity is unimpressive, allowing for 5 carry-on suitcases when the rear seats are up, or 15 carry-ons when they are down. Standard safety and assist features include forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping assist; adaptive cruise control and pedestrian detection are optional features.
Four: 2022 Mazda MX-30 EV – from $33,470
The 2022 Mazda MX-30 EV comes with a 30-kWh battery pack that drives a 143-hp electric motor, but it has a very limited range of 100 miles. Mazda’s rationale behind this design is that Americans typically drive about 30 miles each day, whether back and forth from work or on other errands, and they thought it would be good to design an electric car to meet the needs of this demographic. The car recharges from 20% to 80% in about 36 minutes when attached to a Level-3 DC fast charger, and it also comes with a Level-1 120V charger that can recharge from any household outlet overnight.
The inside uses eco-friendly materials and has seat space in the front sufficient for two adults, but the rear seat is cramped from the standpoint of both legroom and headroom. Cargo space is at a premium behind the rear seats, so even getting a substantial grocery order may require folding the rear seats flat. The front center console is trendy, being adjustable forwards and backwards to create storage space, and having a variety of standard features, including covered cup holders and a 7-inch digital display that controls the cabin climate. The MX-30 EV also has a power sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a standard bundle of safety features providing for collision-mitigation and lane-keeping to reduce accident risk. On the whole, though, the car comes up short—its acceleration is less-than-peppy at 8.7 seconds for 0 to 60 mph, and its range is frustratingly limited in a day when at least 200 miles before recharging is standard, and over 500 miles is possible.
Three: 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV – from $33,000
The 2022 Chevy Bolt EUV has a 65-kWh battery pack that drives a 200-hp electric motor with a range of 250 miles before needing to recharge. It only comes as a front-wheel drive. It has well over twice the range and is considerably peppier than the Mazda MX-30, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 7 seconds flat. Where recharge time is concerned, the Bolt is pretty standard. With DC fast charging, it can go from zero charge to being able to drive 95 miles in about 30 minutes. It also can be charged over several hours on a standard 120V household outlet and Chevrolet offers a purchase deal that provides a Level-2 240V home charge connection for faster recharge times.
The EUV version is longer than the non-electric Bolt hatchback, which provides more legroom in the rear seat area. Cargo space is still at a bit tight, however, though there’s sufficient room for groceries and luggage under normal circumstances. The Bolt offers a stylish console with a push-button gear selector and interior seats that have an artful geometric pattern. It has a large, 10.2-inch digital infotainment touchscreen with integrated cabin climate controls and a variety of connectivity features for music and the internet, as well as the ability to communicate with the driver remotely via a smartphone app. There are some standard driver safety features, including lane-keeping assists and automated emergency braking, but the semi-autonomous driving system is extra. When all factors are taken into account, the 2022 Chevy Bolt EUV is a solid car that provides reasonable value for the money.
Two: 2022 Mini Cooper SE Hardtop – from $29,900
The 2022 Mini Cooper SE Hardtop is the first EV, at least at the low-end of its price range, to squeak in at under $30K. It has a sporty look and is entertaining to drive, but many of its features are underwhelming at best. The Mini Cooper EV has a 32.6-kWh battery pack that powers a 181 hp engine. While it handles like a go-cart and will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in a very zippy 6.1 seconds, at best it will go 110 miles before it needs recharging, and this is with the assistance of two regenerative-braking modes, one that allows for coasting much like a gas-powered vehicle, and another that is more aggressive and almost makes the brakes superfluous. The battery can be recharged to 80% in 35 minutes with DC fast charging, but AC charging at home takes over four hours.
The console sports a 5.5-inch digital gauge cluster that displays battery charge, driving range, and other functional information. There is also an 8.8-inch touchscreen with various infotainment features and built-in navigation. The Mini EV has dual-zone climate control with a special heat-pump that uses 75% less energy than standard electric car heaters, along with heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Ambient interior lighting boasts six different colors, adding some stylish bling to the tiny car. Neither the back seat nor the cargo space offer much room. Lastly, the standard Mini EV has a variety of safety and driver-assistance technologies, including forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, pedestrian detection, and rain-sensing headlights and windshield wipers. All things considered, the Mini Cooper SE is a fun car to drive that has a lot of zip and handles well, but it’s not practical if you need to transport more than two adults a long distance or you need to carry much cargo.
One: 2022 Nissan Leaf – from $27,400
Winning the prize for the most economical electric vehicle is the 2022 Nissan Leaf EV, which is only mildly wince-inducing at its starting price of $27,400. Its 40-kWh battery pack runs a 147-hp electric motor that will take the Leaf from 0 to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, but it has a limited range of 149 miles, which is fine for short commutes, but otherwise inconvenient and impractical. The “Leaf Plus,” which is more expensive, has a larger battery pack that will take you 226 miles, but that’s not too exciting either. All of this, of course, includes the Leaf’s e-pedal feature that enables the driver to switch between regenerative braking modes, one of which permits coasting, and the other that uses the car’s kinetic energy mores substantially to help recharge the battery. Charging times for the battery vary widely between the regular 120V home outlet recharging and a 240V connection, but even the latter requires a solid 7 hours recharge time. DC fast charging at 480V is much more efficient, with an 80% charge being attainable in less than 30 minutes.
While there’s a lot of black plastic on the interior, it’s well-assembled and doesn’t look too cheap. The instrument cluster on the dash has a 7-inch reconfigurable digital display, along with a large analog speedometer. There is also an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with a variety of standard music and smartphone integration features, but the navigation feature is optional and extra. One of the best features of the cabin, aside from its very comfortable seats, is its spaciousness. The rear seats have plenty of room for adults and the cargo-carrying capacity is among the best available: seven carry-on suitcases will fit behind the rear seats, and 19 will fit in the car when the back seat is folded down. Finally, the Leaf EV has standard driver-safety features, including automated emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alerts. Optional additional features include semi-autonomous driving and adaptive cruise control. All in all, the Nissan Leaf is a comfortable car that is enjoyable to drive, but its very limited range makes it unattractive for a lot of purposes.
Countdown: The Ten Most Economical Gasoline-Powered Cars for 2022
The first thing that leaps to your attention when you consider economy electric versus gas-powered vehicles is that the most expensive gas-powered economy cars are about $8K less expensive than the least expensive electric vehicles. This is no small matter when you’re looking to get into a new car on a tight budget. With an electric vehicle, you may get some tax benefits and save a bit of money on operating costs over the long term, but short-term financial benefits with electric vehicles are modest in comparison with the cost of the vehicles themselves.
When you add to this picture that you can fill up your gas-powered vehicle in five minutes at the corner gas station, whereas you may have to drive some distance to find an EV “fast-charge” station, where it may still take you the better part of an hour to achieve a less-than-complete recharge, the inconvenience of electric vehicles starts to take a toll.
Keeping these rather important factors in mind, let’s take a look at what the gas-powered economy cars have to offer.
Ten: 2022 Nissan Sentra – from $19,510
We start our gas-powered countdown with the tenth most economical gas-powered car, the 2022 Nissan Sentra. The Sentra is a front-wheel drive sedan with a 149-hp 2-liter 4-cylinder engine, a continuously variable automatic transmission, and an independent rear suspension. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a lot of pickup for passing on the highway, the steering doesn’t approach effortlessness, and there’s a lot of road noise in the cabin. It makes about 29 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway.
The interior design is pleasant and has a mixture of hard and soft plastics, with quilted leather upholstery available as an upgrade. The front seats are supportive and very comfortable. Adults have plenty of space in both the front and the back seats, though opting for the sun roof does reduce head room a bit. The car also has a 14-cubic-foot trunk that will handle 7 carry-on suitcases. The Sentra has a flat-bottom steering wheel and the dashboard sports a simple set of analog gauges. There are three central circular air vents in the dash above the climate controls. The center of the dashboard has a touchscreen supplemented by volume and tuning knobs. The basic model has a 7-inch display that works with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but more expensive versions have an 8-inch display with USB access in the front and the back seats and options that include a WiFi hotspot, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a Bose stereo with 8 speakers. As for safety and driver-assist features, the Sentra comes with standard technology that includes forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert, but every model beyond the base one also allows the optional inclusion of adaptive cruise control and a 360-degree camera system.
Nine: 2022 Kia Soul – from $19,190
The boxy front-wheel drive 2022 Kia Soul offers a 147-hp 2-liter 4-cylinder engine with a continuously variable automatic transmission in its base model. While it takes 8 seconds to reach 60 mph, it doesn’t give the impression of lacking power under normal driving conditions. The EPA rates it at 35 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in the city, which isn’t bad for a car that’s as aerodynamically challenged as this one is.
The Kia’s rather vertical design provides for a spacious interior, and its relatively firm seats offer plenty of back support. Both the seats and the flat-bottom steering wheel have heaters that can be turned on. The cargo area behind the rear seats is large enough for 7 carry-on bags and, with the rear seats down, it will hold 20 carry-ons. Other niceties include keyless entry, a push-button ignition, ambient lighting, and a charging pad for smartphones. The touchscreen in the base model is 8 inches, though models above that have a 10.3-inch screen. The infotainment includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in all models, but those with the larger screen also have SiriusXM satellite radio, a 6-speaker stereo, and in-dash navigation with real-time traffic updates. Driver-assistance technology isn’t standard on the base model, but it is for the others. Available safety features include forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and also adaptive cruise control.
Eight: 2022 Kia Forte – from $19,090
The front-wheel drive 2022 Kia Forte comes with two engine options: a basic 147-hp 2-liter 4-cylinder engine and a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine that generates 201 hp, both with continuously variable automatic transmissions. The 2-liter engine is more sluggish, going from 0 to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds, whereas the turbocharged 1.6-liter gets the job done in 6.7 seconds. On the upside for the 2-liter, however, is gas mileage: the combined city/highway rating is 33 mpg, and the highway mileage is 40 mpg.
The pleasant interior of the Kia Forte uses high-quality materials, but has a minimalist feel, The cabin is roomy enough for four adults to take long trips in reasonable comfort. Dual-zone climate control and heated seats are optional and will cost you extra. With all the seats occupied, the cargo area behind the rear seats can accommodate 7 carry-on bags. The dashboard is attractive and the base model has an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen that handles Apple CarPlay, Android Audio, and Bluetooth. All models have a secondary 4.2-inch color display between the dashboard gauges and wireless smartphone charging pads are also available as an option in every version of the car. More expensive Forte models have a 10.3-inch infotainment screen as standard, and built-in navigation and SiriusXM satellite radio. Standard safety and driver-assist features include forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking as well as lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning; an optional safety feature is adaptive cruise control with lane-following assist that uses navigation to predict upcoming curves and adjust the car speed accordingly.
Seven: 2022 Hyundai Venue – from $18,900
The front-wheel drive 2022 Hyundai Venue has a 121-hp 4-cylinder engine with a continuously variable transmission that is fine for urban driving, but lacks power on the highway. It is EPA-rated at 29 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.
For its size, the Venue is relatively roomy inside and can accommodate adults comfortably in both the front and back seats. The seats themselves aren’t fancy, but they’re comfortable, and there’s a reasonable amount of cargo space: 19 cubic feet when the 60/40 split-folding back seats are up, and 32 cubic feet when they’re down. Regardless of model, each Venue has an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and the infotainment center has easy-to-use menus with volume and tuning knobs below the screen. The base model comes with 4 speakers and isn’t available with built-in navigation and real-time traffic updates, but the more expensive versions (the SEL and Limited) have 6 speakers and offer these options. All models of the Venue have some driver-assistance technology that is standard: forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning, and driver attention monitoring. More expensive versions also have blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts.
Six: 2022 Subaru Impreza – from $18,795
The all-wheel drive 2022 Subaru Impreza has a 2-liter 152-hp 4-cylinder engine with a continuously variable transmission. It comes in both sedan and a hatchback styles, the latter being more practical for many purposes. In both styles, the Impreza fails to impress when it needs to accelerate quickly, and its fuel economy rating is mediocre at 36 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg in the city.
The interior, while short of being able to be called stylish, is nonetheless roomy enough and comfortable. It is finished in soft-touch plastics with comfortable seats and plush armrests. There aren’t very many places to store personal items in the cabin and the cargo areas are a bit on the small side, though you can fold down the 60/40 split rear seat for extra cargo capacity when needed. All models of the Impreza include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in their infotainment features. The base and premium models each have a 6.5-inch touchscreen, while the Limited and Sports models have an 8-inch screen. All of them are user-friendly. While you’re out-of-luck if you want any safety or driver-assistance features with a manual transmission, all the automatic transmission models have available forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and rear-cross traffic alert.
Five: 2022 Hyundai Accent – from $16,645
The front-wheel drive 2022 Hyundai Accent has a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder 120-hp engine with a continuously variable transmission. It makes relatively good mileage, with a rating of 33 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway.
The interior of the Accent is very spartan in appearance, with black being the standard color and feeling rather formal, and the alternative beige interior with two-tone tan and black seats, dash, and door panels giving a warmer impression. While the cargo space is a bit cramped when the rear seats are in use, when they’re down, 18 carry-on cases will fit in the cargo area. Standard to the dashboard is a 5-inch touchscreen with USB and auxiliary ports for mobile devices and Bluetooth phone connectivity as well, but higher-priced versions have a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system that also includes SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and an extra USB port on the back of the center console. Also optional, but available, are automated forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking as safety-oriented driver assistance technology.
Four: 2022 Kia Rio – from $16,150
The 2022 Kia Rio is a front-wheel drive subcompact car, available as a sedan or a hatchback, with a 1.6-liter 120-hp 4-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission. Its EPA mileage rating is 33 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway. It’s a bit sluggish, as you’d expect for a car with a 1.6-liter engine, clocking 8.6 seconds accelerating from 0 to 60 mph.
The interior is plain but tasteful, but while the front seats are roomy and comfortable enough, there isn’t a lot of legroom in the back. There’s also very little cargo room, especially in the sedan, but even in the hatchback with the rear seats up, though this is considerably expanded with the seats down. The base model standardly comes with air conditioning, tilt steering, heated seats, adjustable power mirrors, power windows and door locks, an 8-inch infotainment screen with a camera for backing up, Bluetooth and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a USB port, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, and 6 speakers. There aren’t many standard safety and driver-assist features, but the S Technology Package upgrade ($1800) includes pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping and following assistance, automatic high beams, and a driver attention warning system.
Three: 2022 Nissan Versa – from $15,080
If you want to take advantage of the lowest price for the new 2022 Nissan Versa, you’d better be able to drive a no-frills stick-shift 5-speed manual transmission, because that’s what you’ll get for $15,080. The next step up is the Versa S with a continuously variable automatic transmission at $16,750, and finally the Versa SV and SR, priced respectively at $17,890 and $18,490. All of the versions are front-wheel drive and come with a 1.6-liter 122-hp 4-cylinder engine. The Versa’s fuel economy is EPA-rated at 32 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.
The Versa’s interior uses quality materials throughout with soft-touch surfaces on the dashboard and the doors. There are 6-way adjustable front seats and the back seat can accommodate two adults, though both the Kia Rio and the Hyundai Accent have more headroom and legroom than the Versa. The center console has useful cubby holes for odds and ends. Six carry-on cases will fit in the trunk, with room for seventeen carry-ons if the back seat is folded down. The dashboard is user-friendly and functional, featuring a standard 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with associated buttons and knobs and Bluetooth connectivity. The base model has four speakers. Only the SV and SR versions offer Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM satellite radio, but every Versa has 3 USB ports and voice-command capability. Safety-wise, all Versa variants include 10 airbags, front and rear automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, and high beam assist. Other safety features available at extra cost include blind-spot monitoring, rear crossover-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control.
Two: 2022 Mitsubishi Mirage – from $14,645
The front-wheel drive 2022 Mitsubishi Mirage, whether the hatchback or the G4 sedan, has a 1.2-liter 3-cylinder 78-hp engine with a 5-speed manual transmission as standard, and a continuously variable automatic transmission as optional (at additional cost). Its EPA fuel rating is 36 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway.
The interior of the Mirage is functional and reasonably comfortable. Cloth seats are the order of the day and the driver’s seat is 6-way manually adjustable, while the rear seats are split-folding to create extra cargo-carrying capacity that is comparable to the Nissan Versa. The design of the center console is split, with the heating and air-conditioning controls sitting just below the infotainment system. An extra-large speedometer dominates the dashboard and is flanked by smaller gauges. Along with its 7-inch touchscreen, the Mirage standardly features Apple CarPlay and Android Audio compatibility, AM/FM stereo, and four speakers, along with Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port. Standard conveniences include automatic climate control, cruise control, power windows and door locks, and remote keyless entry. In terms of safety and driver assistance, there are front-impact side-impact, and rear-impact airbags, and the upgraded ES model standardly has low-speed automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection as well as front and rear parking sensors with a rear-view camera.
One: 2022 Chevrolet Spark – from $13,600
At less than half the price of the least expensive electric vehicle, the 2022 Chevy Spark gives solace to your wallet if not your need for breathing room. All versions of the front-wheel drive Spark are powered by a 1.4-liter 98-hp 4-cylinder engine that will take you from 0 to 60 mph in a sluggish 10.7 seconds and give you a relatively unimpressive (for its small size) 30 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. The choice between a 5-speed manual transmission and, for an additional $1,100, a continuously variable transmission, makes no difference to this performance.
The interior is functional but cramped. The Spark will transport 4 adults and there is a height-adjustable driver’s seat, but average-sized rear passengers will find that headroom and legroom are at a bit of a premium. Cargo carrying capacity is worse than the Kia Rio. Beyond this, every Spark comes with air-conditioning, a 7-inch touchscreen that has Apple CarPlay, Android Audio, and WiFi hotspot capability with OnStar communications, and two USB ports. The base model has a four-speaker audio system, but every grade above has a six-speaker sound system with steering-wheel-mounted controls. Beyond this, there’s not much by way of standard safety features other than the airbags. In the top-of-the-line 2LT model, but only with the continuously variable transmission, you can get automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning, but even then, they’re an additional $295.
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Wrapping Things Up: A Reality Check with Recommendations
So what’s the bottom line here? Electric vehicles are novel and kind of cool, but unless you really, really want one, you’re still better off with a gas-powered car. EVs, even the least expensive ones, are much pricier than gasoline-powered vehicles, and they are really, really inconvenient when they need to be recharged and you haven’t got time to waste. You can fill a gas-powered vehicle almost anywhere in less than five minutes (unless you have to wait in line at the pump), but even at the still relatively rare “DC fast charge stations,” it’s going to take half an hour or more to get your EV 80% recharged.
If you really want to reduce your carbon footprint, for whatever that’s worth, you’re better off making arrangements to work from home and using your car sparingly. because the electric power grids that charge EVs mostly run on gas and coal anyway, and there are substantial environmental costs to the lithium mining in developing countries that making EV batteries requires. It’s ironic, but unless you’re really into them, the benefits of owning an EV come mostly from the virtue-signaling it allows to the overweening and short-sighted, but very vocal, environmental-activist demographic.
This much said by way of grounding our discussion in reality, among the lower-end electric vehicles we have reviewed (the really expensive ones are much more interesting), the standout for us is the Tesla Model 3 at $40,690, though the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Ford Mustang Mach E, and Volkswagen ID.4 are also defensible choices. Perhaps we have a soft-spot for Teslas, but the Model 3 has a great 270 mile range, a “quick” recharge time of 21 minutes to 80%, lots of power, a roomy interior with ample cargo space, nice amenities, an excellent safety rating, and a stylish look both inside and out. For our money, it’s the best choice.
On the economical gas-powered front, the choice is a bit more difficult, but when all the factors are considered, we recommend the top-of-the-line Nissan Versa SV or SR at $17,890 or $18,490, respectively. While the upgraded versions of the Kia Soul and the Kia Forte are a close second and third, the Versa gets great gas mileage, and while its acceleration is a little slow (0 to 60 in 9.7 seconds), it’s a comfortable ride with reasonable cargo capacity and lots of nice amenities and safety features that are great value for the price. A bit less clearly than the Tesla Model 3 in the EV category, then, the Nissan Versa is (defensibly) the best choice in the economical gas-powered category.
That’ll do it. If all this talk about cars has given you wanderlust, then it’s time to get On the Road Again: