Australians are increasingly considering an EV as their next family car, but just how practical is the current crop on our market, and do they represent good value for money?
Budget is, of course, a huge factor. We’ll limit our top five to under $100,000 – no small sum, but these days families have had to make peace with combustion SUVs, dual-cab utes and people movers costing $60,000 and upwards.
We’ve deliberately prioritised cheaper grades. For families, the bottom line is usually more important than dual motor acceleration or fancy seat trim that kids just wipe muck over anyway.
Options are very limited for super-breeders needing more than five seats – although the Kia EV9 due late in 2023 will provide a tantalising option – but a huge advantage of going EV (if built on an electric vehicle-only platform) is roomier and smarter interior packaging compared to petrol and diesel vehicles.
Here’s our top five, based on our review experts’ extended tests and some heated EV Central discussions. There’s some debate about the order, but not the final five. .
5. Mercedes-Benz EQB 250
Price: $87,800 ($90,700 with seven-seat option) plus on-roads
Max charge rate: 100kW
Boot space: 130L (seven seats); 465L (rear row folded)
If we swerve people movers, the Benz EQB mid-size SUV is the only fully electric seven-seater on sale in Australia.
Yes, it’s kind of funny looking, but as it’s a Benz the cabin is luxurious and full of tech, while the drive is impressively smooth. You can drive one away for a whisker under $100k. Not cheap, but there still feels like decent value here.
Its 66.5kWh battery is good for 371km range. Not massive, but for daily duties most will find this more than ample. Claimed energy use is 16.7kWh/100km.
The drive experience is cosseting rather than thrilling – 100km/h takes a leisurely 8.9 seconds – but it feels zippy enough in town. Adaptive damping means you can tailor your ride comfort level: plush in town and sportier on backroads, for instance.
You score faux leather power heated seats, a brace of 10.25-inch screens, generous space for the two front rows and strong safety.
The third row of seats – which Benz describes as being for “occasional use” – aren’t half bad. A six-footer’s head just touches the ceiling, but there’s tolerable legroom as the middle row can be moved forward on runners.
With seven seats in place the 130L boot space will just about handle some shopping bags, but fold the rear chairs and there’s a reasonable 465L on offer.
Maximum charge rate’s a fair 100kW, and a bonus is three years free charging on the Chargefox network. Charge time from 10-80 percent is 32 minutes when using a public DC fast charger.
Service intervals are annual or every 25,000km, and aren’t cheap for an EV. A service plan for three services is $1625, or $2650 for five years.
Arguably, that’s the price of premium. The cabin alone reminds you’re in a very prestige, class-filled offering.
4. Kia Niro S
Price: $65,300 plus on-roads
Max charge rate: 85kW
Boot space: 475L
Cheapest of our top five, the Niro S is Kia’s entry-level EV, now in second-generation guise after this all-new model arrived in 2022.
Unlike Kia’s flagship EV6, the Niro shares an ICE platform, meaning it’s not as well packaged as other EVs on this list. That said, despite being classified a compact SUV, it’s impressively roomy inside with seating for five.
Leg and head room are generous for rear seat passengers, while the boot’s a decent 475L – although some of this space is under the boot floor where a spare tyre lives in Niro hybrids. A 20L storage area under the bonnet adds a dash more convenience.
Equipment-wise there’s wireless smartphone mirroring, power driver’s seat and lengthy safety, while the cabin fit and finish ooze class. A relatively small 8-inch infotainment screen and being short on life’s little luxuries is the price of getting the ‘S’, but for $7000 more the GT-Line version utterly spoils on the luxe front.
The single electric motor over the front wheels offers only 150kW/255Nm, but there’s ample pull for town life and drivability and ride comfort are impressive. “A silky-smooth drive experience that really invites no criticism,” was our general take on the Niro’s on-road charms.
Range is a very good 460km, energy use is 16.2kWh, and maximum DC charging rate’s a not-great 85kW. A 10-80 percent charge from a 100kW charger is claimed to take about 45 minutes.
There are cheaper small electric SUVs available, but the Niro hits the sweet spot for decent space, classy cabin, drive experience and range.
3. Kia EV6 Air RWD
Price: $72,590 plus on-roads
Max charge rate: 240kW
Boot space: 490L
Now we’re getting really family friendly. If you can stomach the $7000 leap over the Kia Niro S, the EV6 Air is a dedicated platform EV rich with space, style, 528km range and superb charging capabilities.
As such, it’s proved so damn desirable you’ll find the queue to get one seriously off-putting. But, we reckon, still worth the wait.
What makes this such a great family tool is the vast rear seat space. There’s lounge-like room for three adults thanks to a completely flat floor, while the hatch-type boot gives a generous 490L, rising to 1270L if you fold the rear seats.
Tech goodies include twin 12.3-inch displays, sat-nav, dual-zone climate, wireless phone charging and a traditional powerpoint positioned below the backseat to power anything from your laptop to a portable espresso machine.
Just the single electric motor over the rear axle, good for 168kW and 350Nm, offering swift acceleration to 100km/h in 7.3-seconds. It’s a solid performer on a back-road (although lacking the surge of its AWD stablemates), while ride and handling are deeply impressive.
The massive 528km range (courtesy of a 77.4kWh battery) is backed by the EV6’s 800-volt architecture, meaning the 10-80 percent charging can be done in just 18 minutes at a 350kW fast charger.
Ownership-wise, energy consumption’s a good 16.5kWh for such a heavy car, while a seven-year servicing package averages out at around $225 per year. Compare that to what Mercedes charges you…
Fun, easy-to-live with and brilliantly family-friendly. It also has the looks to out-gun practically anything in the private school car park.
2. Tesla Model Y RWD
Price: $69,300 plus on-roads
Max charge rate: 250kW (estimated peak)
Boot space: 854L
Think what you will about Teslas, but they’re Australia’s and the World’s best-selling EVs for good reason. Excellent performance and efficiency, rapid charging and a vast, convenient charging network. Decent value and incredible (for now) resales don’t hurt, either.
The Model Y is effectively a mid-size SUV version of the Model 3, albeit 56mm longer, 72mm wider and 181mm higher. The latter measurement accounts for its rather clumsy, goofy looks, but boy does that translate to serious space inside. A massive family tick there.
The entry-level RWD is currently under $70k before charges (prices can and do change often, in either direction), and trumps practically everything for availability. Tesla quotes the expected delivery times on its website, and is usually spot on.
Standard equipment is generous, comprising fake leather seats, electric front seats, dual wireless phone chargers, heated steering wheel, heated seats all around, electrically adjustable steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting, powered tailgate and satellite-navigation.
The sound system’s a belter, meaning even your kids’ worst music sounds acceptable through the 13-speakers. If the kids made the choice of family EV it’d always be Tesla: streaming services (like Netflix), arcade games and “caraoke” are built in.
The seriously minimalist dashboard is governed by a 15-inch central touchscreen which doubles as the instrument cluster, and packs in a heap of functionality and tech.
It’s a shame Aussie Model Ys can’t be had with seven seats (it’s offered in the US), but three across the back do enjoy good space. Head room’s massive, leg room’s acceptable, and there’s an open-sky feel due to the mighty glass roof.
The big win comes in the boot – it’s cavernously deep and gives a stonking 854L with five seats up. With a 117L frunk as back-up, family clutter is easily swallowed.
The single rear motor offers 194kW and 340Nm for brisk acceleration, and the relatively small 60kWh battery offers 455km range due to excellent 14.6kWh/100km efficiency.
The drive experience also charms: driver enjoyment is to the fore with solid handling, responsive steering and confidence-inspiring grip. Its ride is on the firm side, and you really feel those bigger bumps.
Fast DC charging on that ubiquitous Tesla charging network offers almost 300km range in as little as 15 minutes.
Negatively, The Model Y’s factory warranty’s a stingy four years and 80,000km of coverage. At least the high voltage battery is covered by a separate eight-year, 160,000km warranty that guarantees at least 70 percent of the original capacity, while servicing appears good value and not needed terribly often.
To finish on a family win, the safety kit is extensive, and these Teslas are scoring some of the highest marks Euro NCAP and ANCAP have ever awarded.
1. Hyundai Ioniq 5 2WD Dynamiq
Price: $69,990 plus on-roads
Max charge rate: 230kW
Boot space: 524L
Our list is, of course, subjective, but the Ioniq 5 is the EV most families would want to take home and live with.
Its boot can’t match that Model Y’s colossal effort, but this entry-level Ioniq 5 near enough matches the Tesla’s driving range and price, while offering vehicle-to-load capability to plug in your electric bike, portable fridge of coffee machine.
The electric Hyundai does most things very well, then backs it up with a quite spectacular, retro-cool body design. Looks still mean plenty in purchase decisions and – sorry Tesla – the Ioniq 5 simply hits it out of the park.
Range, at 451km, will ease the anxiety of most, while its single rear motor offers a healthy 160kW and 350Nm. Energy use is 17.9kWh/100km. The brilliant 800v charging means you can go from 10 to 80 percent battery charge in a mere 17 minutes.
The cabin’s fit and finish is generally superb, and the sense of space is a massive win. The floor’s completely flat and with no centre console you can practically walk from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat, almost like a giant American car from the 1970s.
There’s mighty rear room too, and the chairs recline and slide back and forward on runners. An adult has no problem sitting in the firm middle seat – there’s ample headroom.
The boot’s a winner with 524L – more than the longer bummed Kia EV6 offers – and with rear seats down it’s a cavernous space. Loading is easy thanks to that rear hatchback, and it’s truly wagon-like in its practicality.
Performance is adequate and sensible rather than thrilling (the Ioniq 5 AWDs the pick if you need that), but there’s enough zip, particularly from 30 to 70km/h.
Ride quality is very good on most surfaces, but gets crashy on really pock-marked bitumen. As a cruiser? It’s glorious on the highway and serene in town.
In short, here’s an EV that performs family duties exceptionally well. Proof, if it were needed, that families Do Not Definitely Need An SUV. The Ioniq 5 offers surprising space in its special-feeling cabin, the ride’s typically delightful and its charging speed and tricks are superb.
Remove looks from the equation and the Tesla Model Y trumps the Hyundai in many areas, but how could we ignore the Ioniq 5’s styling brilliance? Even in pragmatic family car buying world, this counts for plenty.
Volvo XC40 Pure Electric
Price: $73,990 plus on-roads
Max charge rate: 150kW
Boot space: 414L
Forgive us for not including the beautiful XC40 Recharge. It deserves its place here, but its price, as a small SUV, saw the Kia Niro S pinch its place in the line-up.