New Nissan Leaf vs Renault Zoe vs Volkswagen e-Golf

With an improved range between charges, Nissan’s new electric Leaf promises to be more usable than ever. Is it better than the Renault Zoe and Volkswagen e-Golf, though?...

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What Car? team
3 Feb 2017 08:00 | Last updated: 12 Oct 2018 13:20

Buying and owning

Costs, equipment, reliability, safety and security

Let’s face it: however much you care about the environment, you probably won’t buy an electric car unless it saves you money. Well, there’s good news if you’re a company car driver, because all three qualify for the lowest benefit-in-kind tax band of 9%. Curiously, that will rise rapidly to 13% in April and 16% in 2019, before plummeting to 2% in 2020. That’s cohesive government thinking for you.

What does that mean if you aren’t up on your accounting? Well, it means that over the next three years you’ll sacrifice roughly the same amount of your salary as if you’d plumped for a middle-of-the-range petrol Polo, with about £500 separating the Zoe, our cheapest option, and the e-Golf, the most expensive company car.

But you’ll also be spending a lot less on fuel than you would in any petrol or diesel car. Even based on our cold-weather range tests and an electricity price of 13p per kilowatt hour, these cars will only add between £400 and £500 to your electricity bill every 10,000 miles. Sign up to an Economy 7 tariff for cheaper charging at night and you’ll pay around 8p (or even less) per kWh.

New Nissan Leaf vs Renault Zoe vs Volkswagen e-Golf

However, if you’re buying privately with cash or on PCP finance, you’ll need to do a lot of miles before any of these cars actually start to save you cash. Even taking into account the £4500 grant from the Government you’ll get when buying an electric vehicle and the fact that you won’t pay any road tax, a small petrol hatchback is still likely to be a much cheaper option in the long run. The exception is if you regularly drive into London’s Congestion Charge zone, because you’ll avoid the £11.50 daily fee.

Buy the Zoe and you’ll get a free 7kW Chargemaster point installed at your home. However, the same charge point will only cost you around £350 if you’re buying the Leaf or e-Golf, thanks to a £500 grant from the Government. All three come with a Type 2 charging cable, but the Leaf and e-Golf also come with a three-pin domestic cable (a £560 option on the Zoe). This takes an age to charge the battery, although it’s handy for when you get caught short.

While the three cars use the same Type 2 connector for normal charging, they have different connectors for fast charging (see connector types panel). The Leaf’s CHAdeMO connector is the most ubiquitous fast charger in the UK, while the e-Golf’s CCS connector is the least common, although still not exactly rare.

New Nissan Leaf vs Renault Zoe vs Volkswagen e-Golf

The Leaf has the most standard luxuries; it’s the only one with heated front seats and has the biggest wheels. The Zoe is the least generously equipped, with no front parking sensors and only manual cruise control (the others have adaptive cruise to automatically maintain a set distance from the car in front). However, the e-Golf is the only car without a standard heat pump for more efficient heating of the interior, partly explaining its disappointing range in cold weather.

Mind you, the Zoe’s shortage of safety kit is more of a concern. You get just four airbags (the Leaf has six and the e-Golf seven) and there’s not even the option to add automatic emergency braking. The other two get this important safety aid as standard and the Leaf even adds traffic sign recognition and blindspot monitoring to its standard roster of safety aids.

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