Just three years ago, the low-emissions landscape looked bleak in Australia, as we dragged the chain behind other country’s fast adoption of electric vehicles.
But since Tesla staked a claim as EV game-changer in Australia with its attainable Model 3 sedan, things changed quickly. An electric vehicle is a great way to cut local emissions, but we’re aware that not everyone is able to justify an EV so we’ve included alternatives, such as traditional hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and even one ultra-efficient petrol vehicle.
With the change in Federal Government, emissions mandates are finally on the cars for Australia, but until they pass there’s no incentive beyond your own inner tree-hugger to go green.
Still, it doesn’t mean there aren’t choices; below are ten of our favourites split into more affordable vehicles with starting prices below $50K, and those that cost a little more.
Environmentally-friendly cars under $50K
Toyota RAV4 hybrid
Bland it may be to some, but the RAV4 is popular for a reason.
- 😎 WE LIKE: Price, practicality, performance
- 😐 NOT SO MUCH: It’s a little bland; won’t stand out from the crowd
- ⛽ FUEL EFFICIENCY: 4.7L/100km
- 💰 PRICE: From $42,260-$58,360 + on-road costs
It’s a safe choice with a hybrid powertrain that won’t break the bank and will cut your emissions by around 40 per cent compared to a petrol-only family SUV.
Wait times may be protracted, but having been around for some time, Toyota’s hybrid powertrains – available in the Corolla Cross, Camry and Yaris as well – are an eco-conscious choice that won’t hurt the wallet too much.
MG 4 hatch
MG's new kid on the block is a game-changer – it brings real-world usable driving range (320-450km) to a sub-$50K EV. It also happens to drive rather well, and has very European packaging.
- 😎 Excellent packaging, athletic drive and attainable starting price
- 😐 No physical HVAC controls, base car feels de-contented
- ⛽ 350km to 530km (WLTP)
- 💰 From $38,990-$55,990 + ORCs
BYD Atto 3
Any time a new Chinese start-up brand is mentioned the comments fill with disdain, but BYD's Atto 3 small SUV is one of the few vehicles bringing refined EV motoring with realistic driving range to Australian punters for $50K.
- 😎 Cheap price of entry; unique cabin design; fast charging
- 😐 Unproven brand; servicing/warranty questions
- ⛽ Driving range: 345-420km (WLTP)
- 💰 Price: From $48,011-51,011 + ORCs
It may not be perfect (or to everyone’s tastes) but it is an affordable way to cut your local carbon emissions with space for the family.
Okay, there’s no electrification to speak of here, but with the VW Group’s cutting-edge petrol engine tech the Fabia’s 4.9L/100km fuel consumption rating is better than some hybrids such as the Honda Civic.
- 😎 Refined and frugal petrol engine; great handling; intelligent packaging
- 😐 Not cheap to buy; EV is better for the environment
- ⛽ 4.9L/100km
- 💰 $38,590 drive-away
The Fabia is expensive for a small car, but it's stylish, fun-to-drive, and has genuine space for four adults.
A second Toyota in this list? Well, it's a deserving one. Regularly Australia's favourite passenger car, the Corolla hybrid is an attainable and frugal option that's been lowering carbon emissions for years.
- 😎 Price; practicality, performance
- 😐 It’s a little bland and you won’t stand out from the crowd
- ⛽ 3.9-4.0L/100km
- 💰 $32,110-$40,260 + ORCs
Available in hatch or sedan guise (and technically now SUV), there's a Toyota Corolla to fit most budgets and requirements.
Environmentally-friendly cars over $50K
Tesla Model 3
All-electric, minimalist cabin, brutally quick (if you like), extremely energy efficient and the very manifestation of the technological bleeding edge; the Tesla Model 3 is a profoundly futuristic thing.
- 😎 Ultra-fast; best-handling Tesla so far; tech fiesta
- 😐 Buttonless cabin is perhaps too minimalistic
- ⛽ 491km to 602km
- 💰 From $57,400-$83,400 + ORCs
With a sub-$60K (for now) starting price, it's also a compelling alternative to cars like the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. That rang true in sales numbers, where the Tesla Model 3 beat Toyota’s Camry in 2022.
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
The second-gen Outlander PHEV is a mighty complicated piece of engineering, luckily it drives in a way that won’t scare off punters.
- 😎 Clever drivetrain tech, yet easy to drive; 84km EV range is solid; available with seven seats
- 😐 You’ll need to charge to make the most of it
- ⛽ 1.5L/100km
- 💰 From $56,490-70,990 + ORCs
Able to fit into family life when running as a normal hybrid, buyers will reap rewards of zero-emissions driving for up to 84km.
Much like the Tesla Model 3, this lifted sedan makes EVs cool enough for the middle class. If Polestar 2's stylish interior and buff body make it attractive; its electric credentials seal the deal.
- 😎 Stylish looks; excellent infotainment; Dual Motor’s turn of speed
- 😐 Rear seat ride
- ⛽ 532-654km (WLTP)
- 💰 From $67,400-$85,400 + ORCs
Polestar makes a big fuss about lowering CO2 emissions in its production so the 2 may be the most environmentally-friendly car on the market.
A Wheels Car Of The Year winner – the third EV to take the accolade – the EV6 made electric SUVs cool with its sharp exterior styling.
- 😎 Sharp styling; spacious cabin; great ride and handling
- 😐 Lacks interior customisation
- ⛽ 424-528km (WLTP)
- 💰 From $72,590-$99,590 + ORCs
It’s also spacious, practical, and a crisp handler thanks to Kia’s Australian ride and handling localisation program.
Hyundai Ioniq 5
A regular runner-up to the EV6 in group tests, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 is potentially the heart’s choice thanks to jaw-dropping futuristic styling, an airy cabin and clever ‘Relaxion’ seating.
- 😎 Jaw-dropping looks; funky cabin; plush urban ride; ultra-rapid charging
- 😐 Lacks body control at speed
- ⛽ 454-507km (WLTP)
- 💰 From $72,000-85,000 + ORCs
One of the fastest-charging EVs out there (just like EV6) and a real statement piece.
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