Electric vehicles have long faced an uphill battle toward consumer acceptance. Although there are a number of reasons for this, two in particular have stood out as significant barriers: high prices relative to equivalent gasoline-powered cars and limited driving range.
Both, though, are largely things of the past, with the prices and driving ranges of EVs inching closer to parity with their gas-powered counterparts. Need proof? Look no further than the three mainstream SUVs gathered here: the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV, 2021 Volkswagen ID4, and 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E. Each is priced at less than $45,000 (before factoring in government incentives), and they all can travel more than 200 miles when fully charged.
Admittedly, these three electric SUVs are not exactly direct competitors, with the 169.5-inch-long Bolt EUV occupying the subcompact SUV space, the 180.5-inch-long ID4 in the compact SUV class, and the 185.6-inch-long Mustang Mach-E playing in two-row midsize SUV segment.
So why compare this trio of two-wheel-drive EVs? Because there simply aren’t that many affordable, all-electric-powered SUVs on the market yet, and consumers interested in this emerging group are likely to cross-shop them, at least in the short term.
Some might quickly nix the Bolt EUV from contention due to its smaller size, but others could view the little Chevy’s $33,995 starting price—the lowest of any electric SUV currently on the market—as enough of a reason to give it a closer look. After all, you can add a fair bit of kit to a Bolt EUV with the $8,000-$10,000 you’d save over a base ID4 or Mustang Mach-E, which start at $41,995 and $43,995, respectively.
Alternatively, some buyers might value driving range over a lower price or additional toys. Although the Bolt EUV’s 65-kWh battery pack helps it return a respectable EPA-rated range of 247 miles, that’s a ways off the maximum available driving ranges of the larger ID4 (260 miles) and Mach-E (305 miles)—emphasis on “available.”
This is because only the base rear-drive ID4 Pro is EPA-rated at 260 miles of driving range from its 82-kWh battery pack. (The heavier, rear-drive ID4 Pro S with the same battery manages 250 miles of range.) Then there’s the base rear-drive Mustang Mach-E Select, which offers 230 miles of range from its 76-kWh battery pack—17 miles less range than the Bolt EUV. Only the far pricier $51,500 Mustang Mach-E California Route 1 hits the 305-mile mark, courtesy of its bigger 99-kWh battery pack, lone rear-mounted motor, and miscellaneous trim-specific kit.
Call us Goldilocks, because we aimed to find out which combination of price and driving range was “just right.” To do so, Chevy sent us a high-end Bolt EUV Premier, a trim that wears a starting price of $38,495 and adds the likes of leather seats, heated and cooled front seats, adaptive cruise control, and a 360-degree camera. To this, Chevy added $495 worth of Cherry Red Tintcoat paint, the $2,200 Super Cruise package that fits the GM’s hands-free Level 2 driving assist system to the vehicle (only available for the Premier trim), and the $2,495 Sun and Sound package, which includes a panoramic sunroof, Bose premium audio system, and an in-dash navigation system, bringing its as-tested price up to $43,685.
Volkswagen, meanwhile, lent us a base ID4 Pro. At $41,995, its as-tested price actually undercut the optioned-up Bolt EUV by $1,690.
Finally, Ford sent us its range-topping—as in driving range—Mustang Mach-E California Route 1. Besides the larger battery pack, the California Route 1 features a number of additional comfort and convenience features relative to its $7,505-cheaper Mustang Mach-E Select sibling. This includes items such as a 360-degree camera system, a fixed glass roof, and heated front seats. It also comes with Ford’s BlueCruise Level 2 hands-free driving assist system, which unfortunately wasn’t functional at the time of testing, as Ford’s over-the-air software update to enable BlueCruise had yet to reach our $51,500 Space White Metallic test vehicle.
Dancing in the Street
Ignore the SUV labels Chevy, Ford, and VW apply to the Bolt EUV, ID4, and Mustang Mach-E, because other than their commanding seating positions and relatively tall rooflines, these three vehicles are essentially electric-powered station wagons. Heck, even the Toyota Sienna minivan comes with more ground clearance than any of these EVs, with its 6.3-inch figure bettering that of the ID4 by 0.2 inch, the Mustang Mach-E by 0.5 inch, and the Bolt EUV by 0.7 inch.
Given that Chevy doesn’t yet offer its electric SUV with all-wheel drive, we decided against any off-pavement excursions in our trio of 2WD SUVs and instead limited our real-world testing to the city streets and twisting tarmac in and around Tehachapi, California.
Predictably, all three of these torque-rich EVs proved plenty powerful for scooting about at low speeds. Yet in spite of the Chevy’s 200-hp electric motor’s 266 lb-ft of torque and the Ford’s 290-hp electric motor’s 317 lb-ft of twist, it was the VW’s 201-hp electric motor and its 229 lb-ft of torque that felt the most eager in low-speed environments.
The ID4 “feels relatively strong off the line but loses some oomph at higher speeds,” associate road tester editor Erick Ayapana said. Our test numbers bore this out, with the VW needing just 2.6 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 30 mph, 0.2 second quicker than both the Chevy and Ford.
Once past city speeds, however, the ID4’s limited power and 4,573-pound curb weight conspired against it, as the VW’s 7.3-second trot to 60 mph was a full second behind that of the more powerful and slightly heavier 4,599-pound Mustang Mach-E. The svelte-by-comparison 3,766-pound Bolt basically split the difference, requiring 6.7 seconds to hit the mile-a-minute mark.
That said, the VW’s acceleration is still plenty adequate for most electric SUV buyers, even if it lacks the sort of gut-punching pull past 30 mph that the Mustang Mach-E and Bolt EUV have. Arguably, this is part of the ID4’s appeal—for the most part it drives like a typical compact SUV. Although enthusiasts might bristle at the VW’s relatively mundane driving manners, many consumers switching from a vehicle with an internal combustion engine to one with an electric motor will appreciate the ID4’s decidedly familiar feel from behind the wheel.
Ready to (Silently) Rumble
The ID4’s battery electric powertrain also endows it with certain dynamic differences over its gas-powered competitors. Chiefly, like most EVs, its battery pack is mounted low in the vehicle. That and a slight rear weight bias combine to bless this rear-drive VW with generally neutral handling and comparatively limited body motions. Push the ID4 too hard, and it will understeer, but stay within the limits of the Pro’s 19-inch Hankook Kinergy AS X EV rubber, and it will carve corners with aplomb.
Dynamic competence and driving engagement are two different concepts, however. Although the ID4 proves itself quite well at the former, its numb steering, uninformative underpinnings, and spongy brake pedal leave this EV wanting for the latter.
“Good chassis, feels competent, but lacks fun dynamics,” buyer’s guide editor Bob Hernandez said of the VW.
The Bolt EUV proved itself the polar opposite of the ID4. It’s a reasonably engaging electric SUV that lacks any real sense of dynamic competence.
Like the smaller and lighter Bolt hatchback with which the Bolt EUV shares its platform and powertrain, the larger Bolt EUV features steering that weights up naturally through turns and a finely tuned regenerative-braking-based one-pedal drive mode (not to mention a paddle on the steering wheel that allows for additional regen). These characteristics make the Bolt EUV a decidedly captivating vehicle to tackle twisting turns, as you continually thread the needle between a connection with the tarmac and massive understeer—all at a relatively slow pace.
Then there’s the grip from the Bolt’s tires, or lack thereof. Given the exceedingly low limits, the Michelin Energy Save A/S rubber wrapped around the Bolt EUV’s 17-inch wheels struggled to maintain contact with the pavement through the serpentine mountain roads on our test route. “Oh my goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever driven a car with tires with such lousy grip,” road test editor Chris Walton said. Yet in some ways it’s their lack of grip that makes the Bolt that much more exciting to pilot.
The Chevy EV’s issues extend beyond its tires, which to be fair, are biased far more toward efficiency than dynamic performance. Chassis jitters, an unnervingly unnatural brake pedal feel, and poor suspension damping further handicap the Bolt EUV’s overall ride and handling experience.
The Mustang Mach-E proved to be the center of the Venn diagram that is the ID4 and Bolt EUV. Thanks to its plentiful power and poised platform, the Mach-E is a competent and engaging electric SUV that truly feels worthy of the Mustang name.
Want to light up the rear tires? Turn off traction control and boot the right pedal. Feel like kicking the tail out? Pop the accelerator while exiting a corner. The Mustang Mach-E does more than roast rubber, as its nicely weighted and communicative steering, natural brake pedal feel, and predictable chassis dynamics provide the necessary confidence to push the SUV to the limits of the available grip of its tires—Michelin Primacy A/S rubber wrapped around California Route 1-specific 18-inch wheels, in the case of our test vehicle. The outcome? A Cheshire cat grin spread across the face of the person behind the wheel of this electric pony car … err … SUV.
Trading the bustling back roads for a sprawling highway doesn’t make the Mach-E any less of a thrill, either, as its potent powertrain allows the SUV to overtake slower-moving traffic with ease. Of course, doing so is sure to cut into driving range—best to maintain a light right foot. The Ford is not free of flaws in this environment, however. Namely, there’s a noticeable though far from obtrusive amount of wind and road noise that enters the Mach-E’s cabin at highway speeds. The Bolt EUV also suffers from this issue, though the ruckus that finds its way inside is far more pronounced, as our test editors noted.
It’s the ID4 that ultimately feels most at home on the highway thanks to its whisper-quiet cabin and standard Level 2 driving assist system, which VW dubs Travel Assist. Despite lacking the hands-free functionality of our Bolt EUV test vehicle’s Super Cruise setup, Travel Assist deftly kept the ID4 centered in its lane and smoothly applied accelerator and brake inputs in response to the traffic ahead.
If only the ID4’s infotainment system worked as well as Travel Assist does. Alas, the SUV’s standard 10.0-inch touchscreen’s inconsistent reaction times to user inputs and confusing interface struck us as needlessly complex for an EV that aims to appeal to the masses. This is far from the VW’s only foible, either, as the German automaker seemingly went out of its way to complicate simple systems. This includes the slow-to-respond capacitive climate controls and the driver-side power window switches, which trade four individual window switches (one for each window) for two such switches and a separate button marked “rear” for toggling between operating the front and rear windows.
At least the ID4’s interior feels well put together, with liberal use of soft plastics on common touchpoints that lend the ID4’s cabin a sense of quality missing from a number of the brand’s other products, such as the Jetta and Taos. It also helps that the ID4 offers a maximum of 64.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats stowed, a sum that bests the in-cabin cargo space of the Mach-E by 4.5 cubes. (Factor in the Ford’s 4.7-cubic-foot front trunk, a feature the ID4 does not have, and the Mach-E tops the ID4’s maximum available cargo volume by 0.2 cube.)
Inside, Ford fits the Mach-E with a large 10.2-inch digital gauge cluster and a monstrous 15.5-inch infotainment screen, the latter of which features simple and logical menus that respond quickly to touch inputs. But the Mach-E’s infotainment system isn’t flawless, either. Notably, the portrait orientation of the display necessitates that some on-screen operations, such as the anchored climate controls, reside below the driver’s line of sight, making it difficult to peck precisely at these functions while on the move.
The Bolt EUV suffers from no such issue, as Chevy fits the model with physical climate controls. It also bestows the subcompact SUV with an 8.0-inch digital gauge cluster display and a 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system that features an intuitive interface. Nevertheless, the Bolt EUV’s middling interior materials and uncomfortable seats overshadow its infotainment-related triumph. Even with its sizable 44.3 and 39.2 inches of front and rear legroom (more than either the ID4 or Mach-E), the Chevy’s hard front buckets and lumpy, low-mounted rear bench obfuscate any of its cabin’s passenger-space-related benefits. The Bolt EUV’s cargo volume, meanwhile, is predictably the worst of this bunch. Even so, its 56.9 cubic feet of available space aft of the front seats is rather impressive given its overall size.
And the Winner Is …
Kudos to Chevy for building and selling such an attainably priced electric SUV. If price alone is what’s driving your EV purchase decision, then it’s hard to ignore the Bolt EUV.
That said, those taking into consideration the $7,500 federal tax credit are better served by either the VW or Ford. This is because Chevy has sold enough EVs that its battery-powered models no longer qualify for this incentive (though the brand’s EVs may qualify for certain state and local incentives). Factor in the federal tax credit, and the ID4 and Mustang Mach-E starting sums effectively fall to $34,495 and $36,495—or $44,000 for a Mach-E California Route 1 like our test vehicle. (It’s worth noting, however, that the Biden administration is pushing for changes to the federal program, both lifting the cap and increasing the size of the credit.)
For argument’s sake, let’s set aside the tax credit. We certainly wouldn’t shun anyone looking to save $8,000-$10,000 by picking a base Bolt EUV over the ID4 and Mustang Mach-E. But the equation changes when you consider a loaded Bolt EUV Premier like our test vehicle over the larger VW and Ford.
Although the Bolt EUV’s available Super Cruise driver assist system and easy-to-use infotainment setup are superior to those of the ID4 and Mustang Mach-E (well, at least until Ford finally enables BlueCruise), neither feature justifies spending north of $40,000 on the smaller and less refined Chevy over the similarly priced but slightly less feature-packed VW and Ford. Put the federal tax credit back on the table, one that Chevy can’t currently offer for the Bolt, and it simply fails to justify its cost, be it for a base LT or a loaded Premier relative to the effective price of an ID4 or Mustang Mach-E.
Choosing between the ID4 Pro and Mustang Mach-E is a tougher decision. The VW is perhaps the more rational option on paper, given its slightly lower starting sum and greater driving range compared to the entry-level Mach-E. Opting for the Mach-E’s California Route 1 trim—like our test vehicle—noticeably widens the cost of entry between the Ford and VW, but it also nets the Mach-E a sizable driving range advantage.
Frankly, though, the ID4’s ergonomic quirks, from its maddeningly frustrating infotainment system to its finicky touch-based climate controls to its unnecessarily complicated driver-side window controls, make it harder to love. Although common infotainment functions will quickly become second nature for an ID4 owner, hunting for less frequently used features, such as adjusting the brightness of the interior lights that VW for some reason buries within the infotainment system, will remain a frustrating experience. So, too, will the often unresponsive “rear” button that switches the driver-side window controls from opening and closing the front windows to opening and closing the rears.
Yes, the Mustang Mach-E has its own share of issues, but they’re considerably fewer in number than those of the VW. More important, the Mach-E is downright fun to drive, with comfortable seating for four (five, if you opt to use the acceptable but not ideal middle seating position of the rear bench). It also feels special in a way the ID4 simply does not.
Whether putting it through its paces on winding roads, pinning its accelerator pedal to the floorboard, or hiding goods in its sizable frunk, the Blue Oval’s electric SUV fully embraces its Mustang heritage and aptly takes advantage of the driving dynamic and packaging benefits a battery electric powertrain offers, all while providing up to 305 miles of driving range.
While our choice of this trio is the Mach-E, consumers in the market for longer-range electric crossovers now have multiple reasonably affordable options relative to similar subcompact, compact, and midsize SUVs with internal combustion engines. No longer can new vehicle buyers shun EVs for their perceived range deficiencies or exorbitant price tags, and that’s a good thing for the future, no matter which of these three ends up being more successful in the long run.
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