There is no better time to be going green, as the market is full of practical, attractive, and high-tech alternative-powertrain vehicles like electric vehicles (EVs), hybrids, and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). With more range than ever before, the latest crop of EVs also uses some smart battery management to help you get the most out of each charge.
Below are the six finalists for our 2021 autoTRADER.ca Awards for Best Green Vehicle Under $50,000. Our jury of more than 20 automotive experts from all over the country looked at every single vehicle in this segment and voted to advance their top five to the final round of voting. These experts considered many important factors when voting on this shortlist, including innovation, technology, performance, and design. Specific to this segment, the jurors focused on three key areas: Value, battery efficiency and range, and practicality. The winners will be announced in February 2021.
The always popular Toyota crossover has knocked it out of the park with not one, but two electrified variants of the RAV4. Most shoppers are likely familiar with the made-in-Canada RAV4 Hybrid, which pairs a 2.5-litre four-cylinder internal combustion engine to a hybrid-electric powertrain for a total system output of 219 horsepower. All hybrid models, even the base $32,490 LE, are good for 5.8 L/100 km in the city, 6.3 on the highway, and a subcompact-like combined fuel efficiency of 6.0 L/100 km. Not bad for an all-wheel-drive crossover that can comfortably seat five and features up to 1,977 litres of cargo space.
Those looking to commit further to the eco-friendly lifestyle will likely want to look at the new RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid, which uses a bigger battery for additional all-electric range. These Prime models can travel 68 km on a full charge, but are also the most powerful RAV4 models ever, with more than 300 hp. It’s a bit more expensive at $44,990 for the SE model and loses about 110 litres of total cargo capacity due to the bigger battery, but this model is faster, can tow more, and can go even further on a single tank of fuel and a full charge, nearly 1,000 km.
The quirky and unique Kia Soul has two EV models for 2021, each with different battery capacities and driving ranges. Fortunately, both models get the same unique styling, which leads to impressive interior space for a compact car. With 663 litres of storage behind the rear seats and a total of 1,735 when you fold those seats down, the Soul EV even challenges some larger crossovers in terms of storage space.
The two Soul models feature significantly different specs and prices. The Soul EV Premium is the one that fits best in this category, coming in with a price of $42,895 and a range of 248 kilometres. This model uses a 39.2-kWh battery and pairs it to an electric motor with 134 hp. Using a DC fast charger, you can recharge the battery in just under 60 minutes. A Limited trim with a bigger battery pack boasts 383 km of range, though we have seen upwards of 450 km on a good day. This longer-range Kia Soul EV starts at $51,895.
Kia never skimps when it comes to the features, and even the affordable model of the Soul EV has useful ones like a heated steering wheel, a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system, wireless phone charger, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assistance. Our experts are not only impressed by the Soul EVs price, but also by its range and the number of features consumers get for their money.
The Chevrolet Bolt EV is one of the older electric vehicles among these finalists, but it’s been upgraded this year to get a bit more range out of its 66-kWh battery. Now rated for 417 km on a single charge and featuring a $44,998 starting price, the Bolt EV is one of the most affordable electric vehicles with one of the highest range ratings on the market, catching our experts’ attention when it comes to value and efficiency. The Bolt is also plenty quick with 200 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque, which is enough to send this compact to highway speeds in about six seconds.
Although the Bolt is impressive, drivers might be missing some of the creature comforts found in many of its competitors. You won’t find a very comprehensive suite of driver assistants in the Bolt and there aren’t many comfort features either. There’s a delicate balance between performance and features when it comes to value, and our experts aren’t ignoring how important that is to buyers.
The Hyundai Kona is an excellent vehicle, as proven by the two autoTRADER.ca Awards it won last year: Best Subcompact Crossover and Best Green Vehicle Under $50K. Suffice to say, all the other cars on this list are looking to upset it this year. That’s pretty hard to do since the Kona EV is offered in two trims below $50k and even the base model features 415 km of range. While the $44,999 Kona Electric Essential trim just offers the basics, the $46,049 Kona Electric Preferred model comes with the Hyundai SmartSense suite of safety equipment, including lane-keeping assistance, forward collision warning, and adaptive cruise control. That’s a pretty good deal.
Beyond the features for the price, the Kona Electric is also practical, although not as practical as other vehicles on this list, with 544 L of storage space behind the rear seats, expanding to 1,296 L with the seats down. All of these factors are what our experts are assessing when it comes to voting for the winner in this segment.
The Nissan Leaf is one of the longest-running and most popular nameplates in the electric vehicle world. The Leaf is now offered with two battery options: A 40-kWh battery in the base $44,298 SV model, and a 62-kWh battery that’s found on all other models, starting with the $46,898 S Plus trim.
That kind of attractive flexibility and choice is what makes the Nissan Leaf such a good choice in this segment, not to mention its decent all-electric range. Leaf SV models offer 240 km of range to go along with 147 horsepower, while the S Plus is good for 363 km of EV driving. Don’t discount the SV Plus and SL Plus models, which are rated for 349 km on a single charge. The Plus models feature 214 horsepower as well, resulting in a more responsive drive. The Leaf also boasts a one-pedal driving experience that EV enthusiasts love and the ProPilot Assist suite of driver assistance systems, which helps drivers feel safe and confident on the road.
One of the downsides to the Leaf is that it’s less practical than the other vehicles on the shortlist, with only 668 litres of cargo behind the rear seats, and 850 litres when they’re folded down. It’s much smaller than the other cars on this list, which limits just how practical it can be, but fortunately, it’s much more affordable and that counts for a lot, too.