We’ve teamed up with motoring experts Car and Driving to bring car enthusiasts a range of car reviews that rate all the latest models on styling, drive and overall performance. Here we’ve selected the highest rated electric and hybrid models of the moment, so if you’re looking to make the switch then look no further.
Toyota Prius Plug-in – 7.7 out of 10
The second-generation plug-in version of the Toyota Prius is a very credible contender in the growing market for plug-in hybrid models. It can run up to 34 miles on pure electric power (more than twice as far as the first-generation model) and EV power is up by 83% over that original car thanks to a freshly developed Dual Motor Drive System.
A little forgotten today is the fact that it was Toyota who were the first to develop the whole concept of Plug-in hybrid motoring. Perhaps the reason for that is that the company’s initial contender in this segment, the first-generation Prius Plug-in, was so relatively uncompetitive. Not only was it prohibitively expensive but it would only at best travel around 15 miles on all-electric power. Not good enough. So Toyota went away and in 2018, came up with something better in the form of this far more competitive second-generation version.
This MK2 model immediately matched the class standard for all-electric driving range, developing far more power from its larger lithium-ion battery thanks to technological improvements in three key areas: battery development, maximised EV driving performance and increased battery recharging speed. The car also handles better and looks far smarter with its second-generation Prius styling. Now it’s also safer and better connected.
Nissan Leaf – 8.0 out of 10
The Nissan LEAF has always been a car that divides opinion. Some love this fully electric vehicle for its bold engineering and surprisingly enjoyable driving dynamics, but to date, many other green-minded potential buyers have struggled to make a case for it. But things are changing.
When test driving the first-generation LEAF model back in 2010, it struggled to get much more than 60-70 miles between charges. With this second-generation design, Nissan claims a homologated WLTP driving range of 168 miles from the standard 40kWh model – or 239 miles (WLTP) from the alternative ‘e+’ version with its 62kWh battery. Even if you think in terms of a ‘real world’ driving range being about two-thirds of those total figures (which is our experience anyway), you can’t deny that these readings represent an impressive improvement, representing a 50% increase over the final version of the original generation model.
There are two routes to styling an all-electric car. Either you make it look exactly like a conventionally-engined model, as Volkswagen did with the e-Golf, or you go for something overtly futuristic, as Nissan did with the first-generation LEAF model. That approach continues with this second-generation design, which gets a sleek body featuring a flat floor, a sharp nose and an aggressively tapered rear end. There are though, familiar cues from more ordinary Nissan models – things like the company’s signature ‘V-motion’ front grille, the ‘boomerang’-style lights and the kicked-up rear shoulder line for example.
The car is still quite expensive to buy, the looks will divide opinion and you won’t even be able to consider it unless you have off-street overnight parking. Little by little though, all-electric motoring is widening its customer reach. And, as it’s always been, the LEAF remains right at the forefront of that change.
Tesla Model S – 7.5 out of 10
Here is an electric car with up to 379 miles of range, a model that can seat up to seven, has acceleration to demolish an Aston Martin and features zero tailpipe emissions. There’s now a choice of either ‘Long Range’ or ‘Performance’ variants with 100 kWh battery outputs and either way, you get standard ‘Dual Motor All Wheel Drive’. Here’s what the future looks like – and it’s cause for celebration.
Co-founded by Paypal creator, Elon Musk, Tesla has been committed from the word go to changing how we think about electric vehicles. The Model S may look like a relatively conventional luxury car but it’s anything but. It’s a car that has the power to fundamentally alter the status quo in this sector. Electric power isn’t just for small cars. It works really well with big ones too.
Tesla deliberately set out to style this car in a relatively conservative fashion so as not to alienate its core buyers. There’s even a dummy air intake at the front. The car it most closely resembles in external dimension is a Porsche Panamera, but when you check the tape measure, you realise what a massive car this is. At 4978mm long, 1964mm wide and 1435mm high, it’s 8mm longer, 33mm wider and 17mm taller than a Panamera, which is already a pretty sizeable hunk of automotive real estate. The width makes it feel a handful on narrow city streets but there’s plenty of space inside.
The car is a comfortable five-seater and can even be configured into a seven-seat mode thanks to a pair of the cleverest rear-facing occasional seats we’ve ever seen. They flip out of the boot floor and while they may only be good for small kids, it’s a trick that few will see coming.
The Tesla Model S is a remarkable vehicle. It changes the way you’ll view the whole concept of a motor car. As long as you’re willing to alter your long-held preconceptions of what an automobile demands and, in turn, delivers, the Model S demonstrates that the genuinely practical electric vehicle has been achieved.
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