EV Crossover Comparison Test: Tesla Model Y vs. VW ID.4, Kia Niro, Hyundai Kona Electric

EV Crossover Comparison Test: Tesla Model Y vs. VW ID.4, Kia Niro, Hyundai Kona Electric

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Going electric on a budget might sound like a far-fetched idea, but you can hop into a highly competent EV for a perfectly acceptable price in 2024. The average cost of a new car these days hovers between $45,000 and $50,000, or right around $10,000 more expensive than it was just five years ago. Does “average” also mean “affordable?” Your perspective may depend on whether your paycheck has swelled at the same rate as new car prices. This is the new normal regardless of the country’s ability to afford it, so we used the average price of a new car as a guide to pit several electric SUVs right smack dab in the middle of the car market against each other.

Entrants for comparing electric SUVs include the Tesla Model Y Long Range, Volkswagen ID.4 Pro, Hyundai Kona Electric Limited and Kia Niro EV Wave. We invited mainstays like the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 (and even the Nissan Ariya), but those automakers either declined to participate or elected to send alternative vehicles. Of course, the Tesla was a rental, but a necessary entry considering the SUV’s popularity – it was quite literally the best-selling vehicle in the world in 2023.

“The affordability of electric vehicles is a hot-button issue, as technology, value and even politics are intersecting in ways the car business seldom sees,” Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore said. “With this test, we sought to analyze the merits of these vehicles through the lens of the consumer, while weighing their strengths and weaknesses against cost.”


With the field feeling a little lopsided in stature from the beginning, it became a question of which EV is the best value for around $45,000. While the low-trim and spartan Model Y and ID.4 had size on their side, both the Niro EV and Kona Electric came fully loaded with every goodie in the trick-or-treat bag. Other vitals like driving dynamics, charging speed, range and the charging network itself played into the scoring. In the end, two EVs shone the brightest, but there can only be one winner.

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Fourth place: Kia Niro EV Wave. $46,760; 155 points

Our very own Senior Editor James Riswick just so happens to own a Niro EV, but it fared the worst in this test. Like the Kona Electric, the Niro EV starts out life under a platform that supports multiple powertrain types — in the Niro’s case from a regular hybrid to a PHEV. Its lowlights are its charging performance, mediocre driving enjoyment, no federal tax credit and general lack of utility versus others in this test.

Personality-wise, the Niro EV wins big, though. Its slick aero blade scythes from top to bottom. The car-like height and hatchback utility give it an attractive stance with plenty of practicality. That said, the backseat and cargo space (while fine for some use cases) are undeniably tight compared to the ID.4 and Model Y. At least the tech interface is a roaring success, as most of us found the switchable toolbar center stack and dual widescreens sitting before us a great interface to use, minus the absent wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

Unfortunately for the Niro EV, we can’t overlook its sticking points in spite of its strengths. Fast-charging peaks at 85 kilowatts, which makes it a poor road trip vehicle. We saw no better than 77 kW when testing the Niro EV’s charging capability on Electrify America chargers, which is going to require some patience in the parking lot should you rely on public chargers.

Driving the Niro EV isn’t exactly a heart-pounding experience either, as it takes a second for its 188 pound-feet of torque to get those front wheels (no AWD option, another strike) turning before traction control reins them back in. It’s sorta fun to try and manage the silly torque steer, but Kia hasn’t designed the chassis to encourage any sort of enthusiastic driving.

“I was having a grand time scooting around in it until I was thoroughly embarrassed by a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid pulling away from a stoplight,” Associate Editor Byron Hurd noted. “These 2WD EVs are a lot like diesels; the torque makes them feel a lot quicker than they really are. And that's the Kia in a nutshell – it feels like a lot more car than it really is, and that's just not good enough in a segment becoming saturated with dedicated BEV models.”

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Third place: Hyundai Kona Electric Limited. $42,420; 165 points

Most of what we said about the Niro EV also applies to the Kona Electric, but despite how similar these two are, the Kona is a shoo-in over the Niro. Having just been redesigned for 2024, it enjoys a much more coherent and feature-rich tech interface than the Niro. Its plethora of physical interior buttons are a big plus in our book, and the design simply brings more excitement to the table in terms of colors and textiles. Not to mention, it’s over $4,000 less than the Kia, and the Niro doesn’t do much to make up for its extra cost.

The Kona’s charging – 100 kW max speed – is also notably better than the Niro EV, though it’s hard to get very excited about that still-slow charging or even how the Kona Electric drives. Its soft chassis tuning makes for a comfy and forgiving ride, and while the previous generation Kona was known for its enthusiast-friendly handling, this one prioritizes plushness and size over all-out driving capability. This turn toward civility also means the Kona is a respectable size, hauling along a big enough back seat and an eminently usable cargo space for how small it is. That said, it’s no better than the Niro where utility is concerned and certainly takes a backseat to the ID.4 and Model Y.