In Singapore, these are the first electric vehicles (EVs)/ electric cars to put on your shopping list (and a couple to avoid)
Why you should trust us:
CarBuyer.com.sg is the online version of CarBuyer Singapore, which is currently the only homegrown car magazine on newsstands here and has been in circulation since 1997, pointing out the good, bad, and ugly of Singapore’s car market.
What makes these cars ‘the best’? : The cars here have been tested and voted on by CarBuyer’s editorial team. We have a combined experience of more than 70 years in the car industry and have tested thousands of cars. In short, you can rely on us to tell you what’s worth your time and dollars, and what’s not.
SINGAPORE — If you want an electric car, there’s good news: there are already several on sale now in Singapore. And there’s better news. Public charging stations are sprouting up around the island, with more than 1,000 set to be in operation by the end of this year. More than 250 of those will be speedy Direct Current chargers that can top up a battery electric vehicle (BEV) in less than an hour.
But there’s bad news, too: BEVs still aren’t quite for everyone. While it’s possible to run one on public chargers, at the moment owning an electric car is still far more viable if you have access to charging at a regular location, like at home or at work.
Clueless about EVs? Our Dummies Guide has all you need to know about owning one in Singapore
The whole point is to enjoy the convenience of battery power, after all — and trust us on this, plugging your car into a charger from time to time beats stopping at a petrol station every week.
Other reasons to go electric? There’s the silence, the smooth and instant acceleration, and the low running costs (electricity is way cheaper than petrol per kilometre traveled, plus servicing is cheap because a BEV has very few moving parts).
Then there’s the feeling that you’ve done your bit to hold back climate change — even factoring electricity generation, an electric car here emits less carbon per mile than a comparable fuel-powered car. No single person can save the environment, so what would help is a small effort from each one of us.
Convinced? Here are the three electric cars to put on your shopping list (plus two to avoid). We’re not asserting that they are the absolute best, but at their given price points they represent strong value and genuinely serve up the kind of driving experience that BEV enthusiasts look for. Test drive them first so you know what electric cars should feel like.
Why it’s one of the best: Feature-filled, practical Korean with charge-once-a-week EV range in the real world
Price: from S$187,999 with COE
Read our full review here
Kia’s first BEV for Singapore is a great choice. It’s roomy, well-built and very refined. The 204 horsepower motor makes it lively to drive, and you can get a quoted 455km from a single charge — more than enough for a once-a-week top-up if you’re lazy about plugging it in.
The Niro EV is also well equipped, with the latest in safety, connectivity and convenience features pretty much all present and accounted for — among other modcons, it has seven airbags, blind spot detectors, wireless smartphone charging, adaptive cruise control.
There’s more than enough space in the cabin (along with storage bins) and room in the boot for a family of five.
The downside is that at S$187,999 with Certificate Of Entitlement (in March this year), the Kia isn’t cheap. But the money simply buys an excellent car. Some won’t be able to look past the Kia badge and will demand something more prestigious, but if it’s an electric car you want, this is the best one at this price level.
Why it’s great: Nothing in this car’s S$130k price range comes close in range, features and overall accomplishment
Priced from S$126,888 with COE
MG returned to Singapore in January with the ZS EV, a crossover that runs on battery power. Eurokars Group, the mega franchise behind Mazda, Mini, McLaren, Porsche and Rolls-Royce here, is handling the brand here, which brings a nice bit of balance to its battery-electric offerings — Porsche’s Taycan will sit at one end of the price scale, while this MG is much more budget-oriented.
In fact, at its price (S$126,888 with COE when we tested it in February), the ZS EV competes head-on with comparable petrol crossovers. For that money you get a five-seat, five-door Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) that fulfills family car needs well, only without a combustion engine. Instead, you get a 141hp motor driving the front wheels and an underfloor battery pack that delivers around 300km per charge, in our experience.
The MG’s cabin is basic but easy to use, and the car itself is admirably well put together — have a peek under the bonnet and look at how neatly the components are laid out.
More to the point, it’s nice to drive in a BEV sort of way, with seamless acceleration and the instant response to your right foot that only motor drive can offer. It’s also whisper quiet. Many electric cars are actually noisy inside on the highway, thanks to wind noise and tyre roar, but the MG is superbly refined.
A Chinese car giant, Shanghai Automotive, now owns MG, and that might cause some potential buyers to worry. But China buys half the world’s electric cars, and its industry doesn’t have a hundred years of combustion tech to catch up on. If anything, driving the MG ZS EV makes you wonder why other car companies can’t offer this level of quality and performance at this kind of price.
Why it’s great: The US EV maker delivers an EV experience that’s a technological tour de force inside and out
Priced from S$276,000 with COE
Our Pick: Tesla Model 3 Dual-Motor Performance
Read our full review here
If any BEV maker needs no introduction, it’s Tesla. Love or hate its chief executive, the company’s cars are an exciting introduction to electric motoring. As a company with no legacy in combustion technology, Tesla happily does things its own way, and the result feels refreshing and futuristic.
You can buy Teslas here though Hong Seh Motors, which is grey importing them, and in December the company handed us the keys to a Model 3 Dual Motor Performance. That’s the top-of-the-line version of a car that’s aimed squarely at BMW’s 3 Series, as offered by Hong Seh.
We judged the huge touchscreen system “slick and easy to use”, said the cabin would be better for four adults than five, pointed out the small cargo carrying capacity (relative to its German rivals), and found the cabin design clean.
But it’s the performance that took our breath away. The Model 3 Dual Performance feels even faster than its 0 to 100km/h time of 3.4 seconds suggests, which is just as well, because the car we drove cost S$345,000 with COE.
Hong Seh’s Model 3 pricing actually starts at S$276,000 with COE for the Standard Range Plus variant, which covers more than 400km on a single charge. That might seem like a lot to pay still, but even the most basic Model 3 leaps to 100km/h in 5.3 seconds. For all the reasons to go electric, the Tesla shows you that excitement is one of them.
Also consider: BMW i3s Suite
BMW’s carbon-aluminium urban car offers an engaging drive and peerless maneuverability, with a refreshingly minimalist cabin design. At S$205,888 with COE, it’s pricey — the other cars here are much roomier — and its ride is bumpy, but it does feel like a BMW-flavoured electric car. Worldwide, sales of BMW’s first BEV have gone up every year, which says something about this groundbreaking car.
ELECTRIC CARS TO AVOID
BEVs are futuristic, yes, but many are still relatively expensive. That’s largely down to batteries, which are still costly things to build. That means premium machines are probably the most viable — cars like the Audi e-tron or Porsche Taycan can find buyers because they’re aimed at the wealthy anyway. The converse is true for now; apart from the MG ZS EV, budget-oriented electric cars are a hard-sell. Here are two offenders that tell you why.
Another successful Chinese company, BYD is a battery specialist that decided to get into the car industry. Problem is, that shows. The technology driving the e6 might be robust, but the car on top of it is awful. It’s badly made and slow, with vague handling. Future models from BYD will undoubtedly be better, but the e6 would still feel amateurish if it cost half the price.
Early BEVs had a reputation for being glorified golf carts, for some reason. Casting the Zoe in those terms might be an insult to golf carts. This French effort feels toy-like and plasticky, with sluggish performance and a cramped cabin with uncomfortable seats. It sells strongly in Europe, where incentives make it cheap, but taxes here mean it’s not cheap. It just feels it.