The Best Electric Cars Under $40,000 You Can Buy Now


Thinking about an electric car? Not sure which one is best for you? The editors of Kelly Blue Book have picked the five best electric cars that sell for under $40,000 and ranked them according to a number of criteria including range, comfort, and performance. Here they are, starting at the bottom of the list and working upward to the top.

#5 — Nissan LEAF

NIssan LEAF leads electric cars in sales

In many ways, the Nissan LEAF started the electric car movement. It first went on sale in America in 2011 and has remained the same in appearance since then. Its styling may be its weakest points, with a slightly goofy front end and an oddly styled rear that few people find attractive. But inside, it is roomy and has plenty of cargo space. The LEAF is the best selling electric car of all time with over 250,000 now on the road worldwide. Gas2 readers who drive a LEAF have nothing but good things to say about their cars. Here are its specs:

Starting Price: $31,545
Range per full charge: 107 miles
Charging time at 240V: About 6 hours
Power: 107 horsepower, 187 lb-ft of torque
0-60 miles per hour: About 10 seconds
Battery: 30-kWh lithium-ion
EPA fuel economy equivalent: 112 MPGe (city/highway combined)

The LEAF is available in three trim levels — S, SV, and SL. The top of the line SL comes with plenty of tech features to keep the driver connected and entertained. It also uses a heat pump to heat the interior — an important feature in cold climates. The S uses an old fashioned ribbon heater that consumers a lot of battery power. KBB says, “If you drive less than 100 miles a day and want an electric vehicle at a mainstream price, the Nissan LEAF is about as mainstream as it gets for battery powered cars.

#4 — Kia Soul EV

Kia Soul EV

The Kia Soul is a phenomenon. The cute little box on wheels is extremely popular with people of all ages, who see it as a fun and fresh alternative to other cars on the market. The innovative happy hamster ad campaign that introduced the Kia Soul to America helped establish it as a favorite for anyone who wants to enjoy driving while getting from Point A to Point B. Among electric cars, which tend to be mostly boring sedans, the Kia Soul EV is definitely the Plan B alternative. Here are its vital statistics:

Starting Price: $33,145
Range per full charge: 93 miles
Charging time at 240V: 4.8 hours
Power: 109 horsepower, 210 lb-ft of torque
0-60 miles per hour: About 11.2 seconds
Battery: 27-kWh lithium-ion polymer
EPA fuel economy equivalent: 105 MPGe (city/highway combined)

Range is the weak point for the Kia Soul EV. Even thought the average American drives less than 30 miles a day, 93 miles of range is at the low end for electric cars in 2017. But if that doesn’t put you off, the Soul EV could be just the EV you need. KBB says, “The 2017 Kia Soul is a compelling choice for anybody searching for a nifty looking, fun driving and feature filled affordable compact car. It looks like nothing else on the road, can’t help but put out a fun vibe, and is quite practical thanks to a roomy interior.”

#3 — Volkswagen e-Golf

VW e-Golf

The Volkswagen Golf, which started its life in the US as the Rabbit, is  now in its fifth generation. That means the company has had over 30 years to smooth and hone the Golf into a world class small sedan. The e-Golf gets the advantage of all that attention to detail. It is smartly styled with the kind of ride and handling German engineers are famous for. For 2017, the e-Golf has a larger battery that gives it significantly more range. The e-Golf is sold only in California and the other US states that adhere to the emissions regulations promulgated by the California Air Resources Board.

Starting price: Prices in the US are yet to be announced by expected to start at around $30,000
Range per full charge: 125 miles
Charge time at 240V: 5.3 hours
Power: 134 horsepower, 214 lb-ft of torque
0-60 miles per hour: About 9.6 seconds
Battery: 35.8-kWh lithium-ion
EPA fuel economy equivalent: 119 MPGe (city/highway combined)

The Volkswagen e-Golf may be the best handling electric sedan since it shares all its underpinings like chassis, springs, shocks, and brakes with the regular Golf. If a car that is entertaining to drive is high on your priority list, the e-Golf may just be the car for you. DC fast charging is available on certain models, which means drivers can get an 80% charge in about an hour when connected to a Level 3 charger.

The e-Golf has an available Forward Collision Warning/Autonomous Emergency Braking system that includes pedestrian detection. The available Driver Assistance Package now includes adaptive cruise control, blind-spot/rear-traffic/lane-departure alerts, parking assist, and automatic high-beams.

#2 — Hyundai Ioniq Electric

Hyundai Ioniq Electric

The Hyundai Ioniq 5 door hatchback sedan can be had in hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or fully electric form. That gives Hyundai the flexibility to adjust production to meet the demands of customers at a time when changes in the market are happening quickly. The Ioniq has the advantage of being one of the newest electric cars. The LEAF, the Soul, and the Golf are now all seasoned veterans whose basic architecture is nearly a decade or more old. Here are the numbers:

Starting price: $30,335
Range per full charge: 124 miles
Charge time at 240V: 4.4 hours
Power: 118 horsepower, 215 lb-ft of torque
0-60 miles per hour: About 10 seconds
Battery: 28-kWh lithium-ion polymer
EPA fuel economy equivalent: 136 MPGe (city/highway combined)

Notice that the Ioniq has about the same range as the e-Golf with a slightly smaller battery. Hyundai is pricing all three versions of the Ioniq aggressively in order to build market share. Less battery in a lighter, slipperier package helps keep the price of the Ioniq Electric low. It is also the leader in terms of interior volume, thanks to its 5 door hatchback design. KBB says, “With a reasonable base price and a laundry list of standard and available features, the sporty-ish Ioniq feels like a premium compact car.” Who says you have to sacrifice comfort and convenience to drive an electric car?

#1 — Chevy Bolt

Chevy Bolt GM autonomous cars

The all new Chevy Bolt is getting a warm reception from the motoring press. Its biggest feature is its range — 238 miles. That is almost double the range of the e-Golf or Ioniq Electric. Like the Hyundai offering, it is a five door hatchback design. Call it an SUV, a crossover, or a cute ute, it is more in keeping with what American shoppers are clamoring for than any of the other cars in this group.

People who have driven the Bolt rave about its performance and comfort but are less complimentary about its somewhat cramped interior, especially with 5 passengers on board. Here are the specs on the Bolt:

Starting price: $37,495
Range per full charge: 238 miles
Charge time at 240V: 9.3 hours
Power: 200 horsepower, 266 lb-ft of torque
0-60 miles per hour: About 6.5 seconds
Battery: 60-kWh lithium-ion
EPA fuel economy equivalent: 119 MPGe (city/highway combined)

KBB says, “Simply put, the new Chevy Bolt EV is the most compelling pure electric vehicle produced to date. With its 238-mile EPA range, an impressive feature set, solid driving dynamics and an affordable price point, it really can take the place of a conventional alternative for many buyers.”

The Wrap Up

All five of the cars in this Best Electric Cars Under $40,000 group have pluses and minuses. The Soul EV is the most fun. The e-Golf has the best handling. The Ioniq Electric has the largest interior.  The Bolt has the longest range, but its starting price is also about $7,000 more than the others in the group. The LEAF is tried and true, although you should be aware that a completely redesigned car is rumor for 2018.

Which is best for you? Every driver has unique wants and needs. The important thing if you are considering an electric car is to go drive one. Better yet, drive them all. You can read specs all day long but they can’t tell how a car will make you feel. Electric cars have come a long way since the LEAF went on sale 6 years ago. You owe it to yourself to find out why the vast majority of electric car drivers are glad they dumped the pump and decided to do their motoring using electrons instead of molecules.

Source: Kelly Blue Book

About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I’m interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • The LEAF is available in three trim levels — S, SL, and SV. The top of the line SV comes with plenty of tech features to keep the driver connected and entertained.

    Isn’t the SL the top model and the SV the mid-level?

    Also, I’m not sure the Bolt deserves the top spot. I think both the e-Golf and Ioniq are likely better value propositions, especially since the former comes with DCFC standard.

    • Steve Hanley

      You are absolutely correct. My error, which will be corrected asap.

  • James Rowland

    So, I went to the local Hyundai dealer again today. They have a demonstrator for the electric Ioniq now, in a rather jaunty yellow. There was also a new white one, which (of course) was already sold.

    I asked what the waiting list was like now, and was told it had gone up from six months to eight, in the two months since I last asked.

    Yeah, they’re not even close to meeting demand. Please Hyundai, take this more seriously in future.

    • Steve Hanley

      Did you drive the demo?

      • James Rowland

        No, the sales guys weren’t that interested in trying to sell me one – which I guess is understandable.

        • Steve Hanley

          No, it really isn’t understandable. Hyundai has spent a ton of money on these cars and no one wants to sell them? Elon is right. Traditional dealers have no business selling electric cars. And with that attitude, soon they may have no business at all.

          • James Rowland

            It is understandable in the sense that the car is (evidently) selling itself faster than Hyundai is making them. These guys couldn’t give me one if they wanted to.

            Granted, the dealership didn’t seem terribly clued up about EVs, but in this case they aren’t the bottleneck (yet).

            At least they’ve stopped ICEing their own charging bay now. (Yes, that was a thing…)

  • Joe Viocoe

    Can you drop the “You can buy now” from the headline? It feels like you’re jumping the gun.
    Most of the vehicles listed aren’t yet available outside 10 or so states. And the Ioniq certainly isn’t yet.
    Although I’m optimistic… some automakers have a history of discontinuing BEVs without even offering nationwide.

    • mb

      I am in the Bay Area and still waiting for the 35kWh e-Golf and Ioniq Electric to test drive and compare. No dealer wants to give me an ETA… Save this article until Model 3 is released 🙂

    • Steve Hanley

      Your critique has merit. Availability of several of these models is indeed an issue. Will keep that in mind when next I craft one of these articles — probably later today!

      • Joe Viocoe

        Is it onerous to change existing article headlines? Does it mess up the url or searchability?

  • Jim Smith

    Where is the best affordable EV on the market today…the Volt?

    • Not an EV. Get a grip. Uses gasoline. Not even in contention.

      • Jim Smith

        funny how i drive 44 miles a day and never burn a drop of gas. You should take your own advice.

        • Jim, that’s great, but stop crowing and take the next step: Go all-electric.

          • Your emissions help kill 53,000 people prematurely every year.

          • Jim Smith

            no. My electricity comes from nuclear and the solar on my roof.

          • Your Volt emissions are still killing people. And please stop using the cop out that there is no EV with “a low enough price point.”

          • Jim Smith

            I suppose if you include the vehicle exhaust for people/supplies working at the nuclear plant and in production of solar cells, then sure, _ALL_ EV’s have emissions which are “killing” people.

            Show me a sub 40k EV with 200+ mile range available last February.

          • Jim Smith

            would love to if there had been a pure EV which had enough range and a low enough price point.

  • Steve, are any of these manufacturers marketing their all-electric cars? Have you seen any TV commercials for any of them?

    One market all of them should be aimed at is seniors and other retired folks whose driving is limited — supermarket, doctors, volunteering. Many are affluent and still own their own homes, where they can plug in overnight and start out in the morning with a full charge.

    In northern New Jersey, where I live, an EV with 100 miles of range is perfect for seniors who go to the theater in Manhattan or out to dinner with kids who live in the city.

    • Steve Hanley

      Commercials? No, Victor. Not even the Bolt. I did notice over the weekend that Hyundai is doing a big marketing campaign for the Ioniq hybrid. Gotta start somewhere, I suppose.

  • M98987

    You might as well add the Prius Prime.
    Just 25 miles of range, but that might be enough for many.
    Also the Price is better, and since they all accelerate to 60 in 10 seconds, there’s no performance advantage, except for the Bolt.

  • MB

    40K is a pretty high price for a sedan/hatchback car. I would look forward to nationwide available cars under 25K in hopefully two years time. Till then the Volt or similar hybrids with a ~50 mile range are best alternatives to using (almost) no gas on daily trips.