Best environmentally-friendly cars in 2023

Australia still lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to electron-powered vehicles but eco-minded Aussies do have options

Wheels Reviews 2022 Kia EV 6 Vs Polestar 2 Vs Hyundai Ioniq 5 Australia Static 1 C Brunelli

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.


Under $50K

Over $50K

Environmentally-friendly cars under $50K

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Toyota RAV4 hybrid

Bland it may be to some, but the RAV4 is popular for a reason.

Key Points

  • 😎 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.

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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.

Key Points

  • 😎 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

The MG 4 hatch is the first of China's bargain EVs we've driven, so it may well be displaced from this list by the BYD Dolphin or GWM Ora if those similarly-priced EVs prove to be better things.

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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.

Key Points

  • 😎 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.

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Skoda Fabia

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.

Key Points

  • 😎 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.

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Toyota Corolla

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.

Key Points

  • 😎 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.

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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.

Key Points

  • 😎 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.

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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.

Key Points

  • 😎 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.

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Polestar 2

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.

Key Points

  • 😎 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.

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Kia EV6

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.

Key Points

  • 😎 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.

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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.

Key Points

  • 😎 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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