What puts an electric vehicle at the top of the pack? Consumers have different ways of ranking green cars, but the common denominators are usually performance, charging times, electric range, and overall value.
The auto experts at Kelley Blue Book have a unique approach to ranking electric vehicles in that they consider the cars more of an alternate vehicle trim than an automobile standing on its own. (Obvious exceptions include the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf.) Using this system, plug-in hybrids tend to rank higher than the all-electric models thart usually populate lists of this type.
Here are the top eight electric vehicles according to KBB.com expert ratings. Any vehicle with a plug-in model was considered for the category. Vehicles available for lease only and compliance cars also were included when the KBB team went about rating the EVs on the auto market for the list.
8. 2014 Toyota RAV4 EV
The Toyota RAV4 EV has a battery pack from Tesla inside that gives this SUV one of the best electric ranges available. Production is going to end in the near future, but for now this all-electric SUV is one of a kind. KBB.com’s experts rated it a 6.9 out of a possible 10.0 on its ranking system. KBB’s overall high rankings for the RAV4 clearly influenced its rating for the EV model that can cover 103 miles of range on a full charge.
Toyota’s standing as the KBB best value brand also factored into the decision, though reviewers mentioned the RAV4 EV was “comfortable and composed” during regular driving and highlighted the SUV’s 78 MPGe as another standout feature.
7. 2014 Ford Focus Electric
Kelley Blue Book experts love the 2014 Focus for its fun-driving experience, style, and efficiency. That efficiency finds its best expression in the 110 MPGe city rating of the Ford Focus Electric, which can cover 76 miles on a full charge in ideal conditions. The KBB experts come close to giving the Focus EV a backhanded compliment when they say, “Even the Focus Electric can be fun to drive,” but their 7.0 out of 10 rating speaks volumes for the car that placed seventh overall on the list.
6. 2014 Fiat 500e
The little Italian green demon fared well under the scrutiny of KBB experts in scoring 7.0 out of 10 overall. In contrast to the Smart ForTwo electric drive that took a hurting in expert rankings, the Fiat 500e benefited from the “big dose of Italian attitude in a little body” as well as its efficiency with 87 miles of electric range, or 122 MPGe. This EV is only available in California as of press time, which commonly leads to the suspicions it is a compliance car rather than a larger electric effort by Fiat. The 1.4-liter gasoline model gets up to 40 mpg on the highway with manual transmission.
5. Honda Fit EV
Like the Fiat 500e, the Honda Fit EV is doomed to limited audiences in select coastal states in the tradition of compliance cars. Kelley Blue Book experts acknowledge the costly terms of the Fit EV as one of the reasons behind the move but celebrate the car’s “whopping 189 lb-ft of peak torque” and rewarding driving experience. Overall, the Fit EV scored 7.2 out of 10, which ranked it in fifth place. An electric range of 82 miles and 132 MPGe are standout figures in any estimation.
4. 2015 Ford Fusion Energi Plug-in
In its 7.8 rating (out of 10), KBB experts celebrated the 2015 Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid’s versatility. The reviewer noted plug-in drivers “could go for weeks without refuueling” with its 21 miles of electric range though “it’s also good for road trips” with 620 miles of total range. Above all, the car site cheered the Fusion’s European-inspired styling and 88 MPGe efficiency, calling Ford’s midsize sedan “a hard car to dislike.” That allowed it to steal fourth place on the EV list.
3. 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in
With 98 horsepower and a total of 11 miles of pure electric range, it may be a surprise to some to find the Prius at No. 3 in the KBB expert rankings. Admitting to a “benign” driving experience in “an inexpensive, albeit bland, family car,” Kelley Blue Book editors trumpeted the “best fuel economy” of the Prius plug-in at 50 mpg and 95 MPGe. Overall, it scored 7.9 out of 10. The experts acknowledge that consumers seeking style and more exhilaration behind the wheel should probably look elsewhere.
2. 2014 Nissan Leaf
In handing the Nissan Leaf a score of 7.9 out of 10, KBB experts called the car “the everyman EV to beat” on the market, touting its low sticker price and “smooth quiet operation” on the road. With its 84 miles of electric range and 126 MPGe in the city, the Leaf is certainly no slouch in the efficiency department, though editors warned of the hurdles involved with the limited range and lengthy recharge times. Nonetheless, the Leaf’s “torque-rich electric motor” delivered enough returns to push the Leaf into the upper echelon of EVs.
1. Honda Accord Plug-in
Kelley Blue Book’s automotive experts may have saved their biggest surprise for last in awarding the Honda Accord plug-in hybrid its highest rating. With 13 miles of all-electric range, 46 mpg, and 115 MPGe in hybrid mode, there are cars that are more efficient and able to travel farther below the Accord on this list. Generally, the KBB editors love the resale value and reliability of the Accord as a whole, calling it the “something for everyone” car in handing it a score of 8.2 out of 10.
The Accord’s hold on the top spot may be a disappointment to fans of Tesla, but the Model S was not considered for its list because it did not have a comprehensive rating from KBB’s editorial team. KBB’s review of the 2014 Model S was glowing in almost every aspect except range, which suggests it could have placed in the top three.