Electric SUVs

Speed, space and silence: electric SUVs from Audi, Mercedes, Hyundai & Jaguar head a green revolution, with over 200 miles from one charge

Dominic Tobin
Oct 24, 2018

It was only a few years ago that drivers of tall, aggressive-looking sport utility vehicles (SUVs) were branded climate criminals. Now the continued popularity of these rugged machines means that they are leading the charge towards emissions-free motoring.

The first purpose-built electric cars from Mercedes and Audi will both be SUVs, and the two cars have recently been unveiled, with sales starting in the coming months. When they arrive in Britain next year, they will join the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X, which are already on the roads. 

Less expensive, but still offering a range of more than 200 miles on a single charge, are the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV SUVs.

It’s too early to rank each car on their merits, as they haven’t all yet been tested. But if you like the concept, enough is known about their specifications, design and price to give you a reasonable idea of what to expect. None are cheap, even when the government’s £4,500 plug-in grant for new electric cars is factored in. It’s already included below in the official price of cars that are already on sale.

If you're not ready to make the electric leap just yet, then you might want to consider a hybrid SUV, which brings reduced emissions and a limited electric range, with the familiarity of a petrol or diesel engine.

 

Electric SUVs

Audi e-tron

On sale early 2019
Price from £70,805

The official range between charges of Audi’s e-tron SUV is 248 miles, which is boosted by electric motors that can be set to recover energy aggressively.

In their most efficient setting, they immediately reverse when you take your foot off the accelerator, slowing the car down so much that you’ll rarely need to use the brake - like the e-pedal on the Nissan Leaf. Audi says that you can charge the battery with an extra mile's-worth of range by travelling a mile downhill with your foot off the accelerator.

As with all electric cars, the e-tron’s real-world range will be lower than official figures suggest, but it’s not known whether the energy recovery system will reduce the difference.

The car is extremely aerodynamic, which improves fuel efficiency. That’s partially thanks to the optional rear-facing small cameras that replace side mirrors and display their view on screens inside the car (not seen in the disguised car, above). A recent change in legislation has made these legal.

It's roughly the same size as the Audi Q5, the e-tron should include plenty of space for five adult occupants.

 

BMW iX3

On sale late 2019
Price from £60,000 (estimated)

BMW’s electric SUV is based on the current X3, whereas its rivals have been designed as purely electric cars.

It remains to be seen whether the iX3 will be compromised in terms of space or performance, but the company does know how to make a decent electric car, having had the i3 and i8 on sale for several years.

The production model has not yet been revealed, but the concept car shown above gives a strong indication of how the final car will look. A larger grille is the only striking difference between the iX3 and the conventionally-powered car. BMW may well decide to keep the interior similar to the standard X3 too.

An official range of 249 miles is promised, which is identical to the Audi e-tron.

 

Hyundai Kona Electric

On sale now
Price from £25,995

The vastly more expensive cars on this page might be attracting most of the attention, but it's the Hyundai Kona that could really change the way that drivers look at electric cars.

it's affordable for a start - or at least more affordable than the larger vehicles on this page - but still has a real-world range of around 200 miles, if you opt for the 64kWh version with a bigger battery. This range extends towards 300 miles the more economically that you drive.

For a small SUV, the Kona is reasonably spacious. Tall adults won't need to contort themselves to fit into the back seats, but here isn't a great deal of room to stretch out once you're there. Only the 332-litre boot seems a little meagre, with less space on offer than in a Nissan Leaf or VW e-Golf.

Used examples of the Kona Electric aren't yet available, but there are plenty of petrol-powered models for sale if you like the look of the car.
Hyundai Kona Electric buying guide

 

Jaguar I-Pace

On sale Now
Price from £59,995 (new)

Jaguar has stolen a march on most of its rivals by launching its all-electric SUV first. Aside from the more expensive Tesla Model X, there’s currently nothing else you can buy that’s like it.

Even when Mercedes, Audi and BMW do join the fray, there’s every chance that the Jaguar will remain at the head of the field because it’s an excellent car. The flowing design is low for an SUV, but it feels spacious inside, thanks to the extra room available by not having an engine.

The high-tech dashboard, with dials that appear to float above one of the touchscreens, is fitting for a car of the future, while its performance and nimbleness makes it sporty to drive.

Its official range between charges, of 91 miles, should equate to more than 200 miles in real-world driving, which is more than enough for the vast majority of journeys. A high speed charging network is planned that will charge the battery to 80 per cent capacity in 45 minutes, but public charger speeds are slower now.
Jaguar I-Pace buying guide

 

Kia Niro EV

On sale early 2019
Price £32,000 (estimated)

Kia is part of the Hyundai motor group, which is why the electric version of the Niro comes with the same battery and motor setup as the Hyundai Kona Electric. This means that you can expect a real-world range of at least 200 miles from the largest 65kWh battery, with the potential to reach almost 300 miles with careful driving.

The Niro is larger than the Kona, which is most noticeable in terms of boot space: the 451 litre loading area is bigger than you'll find in Volkswagen Golf or Vauxhall Astra. Together with the promise of nimble performance and a generous level of equipment, it could become the best affordable family SUV on the market when it arrives in Britain next year.

Until then, the Niro is available in hybrid or plug-in hybrid form.
Kia Niro hybrid buying guide

 

Mercedes EQC

On sale summer 2019
Price from £65,000 (estimated)

The statistics for Mercedes’ electric SUV suggest that it’s similar to the Jaguar I-Pace in performance, range, size and price. It’s more conventional in design, though, with a taller shape and a large grille, which hasn’t met with unanimous approval.

An official range of 280 miles should translate to more than 200 miles when driven normally and, like its rivals, the car will accelerate swiftly from 0-62mph. In this case, it takes 5.1 seconds, thanks to the instant response from the electric motors.

At 4.7 metres long, it’s bigger than the family-friendly Mercedes GLC and a little shorter than the larger GLE.

Mercedes has not yet announced the car’s standard specification, so it’s not known how much of the flashy interior seen in photographs, with widescreen digital displays and rose gold vents will be included in the expected price of around £65,000.

 

Tesla Model X

On sale Now
Price from £78,000 (new)

For maximum range, space and performance from your electric SUV, the only car to choose is the Tesla Model X.

You will pay for it, though, as prices start at £78,000, including the government’s plug-in car grant, and can easily top £100,000 as you add a larger 100kWh battery to take the car’s official range to 351 miles (expect around 250 miles in real-world driving), and extra sensors that could allow for a self-driving upgrade at some point in the future.

As with any electric car, maximum power can be delivered to the wheels as soon as you press the accelerator, which gives this big SUV sports car-like acceleration. It’s extremely practical too, with a good-sized boot, an extra luggage compartment underneath the bonnet and a seven-seat option.

Getting in the back might be the highlight of Tesla Model X ownership for some: the so-called falcon wing doors are hinged at the top, and rise dramatically over the car. They require little space on either side of the vehicle, which is useful in tight car parks but they are slow to open.

 

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