AutoTrader Names 10 Best Electric Cars for 2021, With A Notable Absence

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A few days ago, AutoTrader named its ten best electric cars for 2021. While most of the vehicles on the list are good electric vehicles, there’s one notable manufacturer which is completely absent from the list. Before I get to which company was missing and discuss that further, let’s look at the list itself.

First off, there are some criteria for a vehicle to be included on the list (this will be important later):

  • vehicles must be priced under $75,000
  • the car must have a plug or a way to run on electricity only for fifteen miles or more
  • the car must be available for sale to the public within the next 6 months

Now, let’s get to the list itself. They chose 10 vehicles, but didn’t rank them. They’re listed in alphabetical order, and not in order of which is the best.

  • 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV
  • 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E
  • 2021 Hyundai Kona Electric
  • 2021 Hyundai Ioniq Electric
  • 2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring
  • 2021 Nissan LEAF
  • 2021 Toyota Rav4 Prime
  • 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge
  • 2021 Volvo XC60 Recharge
  • 2021 Volkswagen ID.4

One thing that stood out immediately was the Lincoln Aviator. We tend to focus on battery EVs here so much that it’s easy to miss when a new PHEV comes out. Despite the limited 21 miles of EV range, AutoTrader chose it for this list because it’s a decent family vehicle and has some get-up-and-go. Being optimized for performance, it doesn’t get great efficiency, so they were impressed that it managed to get 21 miles before becoming a hybrid again.

It was good to see that AutoTrader didn’t include a bunch of low-range PHEVs on the list. The other plugin-hybrid was the Toyota Rav4 Prime, and it has double the range at 42 miles. The rest of the vehicles on the list are battery EVs.

Another vehicle that stuck out was the 2021 LEAF. It seems that they’re most impressed with its price, which is an odd reason to include it in a top ten list. Personally, it’s tough to justify putting the vehicle in any top ten list with its passively cooled battery and limited range. Sure, the Plus model gives you over 200 miles, but even with the #Rapidgate fix, it still heats up quite a bit and isn’t suitable for road trips unless it’s cold out. I know my less-than-stellar experience with my 2018 LEAF does color my vision here, and the vehicle may be a lot better for other drivers, though.

Hyundai and Volvo each got on the list twice. In both cases, the vehicles were two different EVs. For Volvo, it was two different sizes of crossovers, while for Hyundai one was a sedan and the other was a small crossover.

The VW ID.4 and the Mustang Mach-E are both serious EV contenders, not for the best EV in the world, but because they’re built on dedicated platforms, are rear-drive based, and have decent charging speeds. One is sports car oriented, while the other is an affordable family SUV. They stand in stark contrast to the Chevy Bolt EUV, which is front-wheel-drive, has only 50 kW max DCFC, and otherwise is a rehash of the Bolt EV. Sure, the legroom in the back and Super Cruise are neat features, but let’s not pretend that the vehicle is revolutionary when they couldn’t be bothered to upgrade the drive unit’s power for the larger vehicle or give it a faster charging rate.

Basically, this list doesn’t make a lot of sense unless it was a paid advertisement that they sold to ten companies. In that case, AutoTrader sold their credibility to put serious vehicles in with less capable vehicles like the Bolt EV and LEAF.

A Notable Absence

Yes, Yes! I know! Before you smash that comment button at the bottom, I noticed that they didn’t list a single Tesla. Let’s talk about that for a minute.

The only vehicles that might have anything remotely resembling a Tesla-level EV experience on the list were the ID.4 and the Mach-E. Those vehicles are the most serious vehicles on dedicated EV platforms with reasonable features. I’m not saying that they’re better than a Tesla Model 3 or Model Y, but they are at least somewhere in the same ballpark.

That vehicles like the Nissan LEAF and Bolt EUV made the list while no Tesla vehicles did is downright confusing. Those budget vehicles with limited features, range, and charging capabilities are not anywhere remotely near what the cheapest, least capable Tesla can get you.

I have a few theories as to why AutoTrader did this.

First off, it may have been a paid ad that the company offered slots for, and Tesla doesn’t pay for advertising. That would explain why such limited vehicles made the cut while some of the best weren’t mentioned. I get it, a company has to bring in cash to make everyone a living, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of its credibility.

A second theory is that AutoTrader may have decided on $75,000 and under, and excluded anything that could pass that price if well optioned. A performance Model 3 with options added doesn’t quite break $70,000, so there’s no reason it could be excluded, so that theory is out. It also meets the other criteria (15+ miles of range, available for sale).

The situation with the Model Y is likewise under $75,000, so that vehicle also was not excluded from the possible criteria.

Another thing I wondered was whether AutoTrader was only working with new and recently refreshed models, but the Nissan LEAF, which hasn’t been refreshed since 2018, with the Plus arriving the next year, isn’t new or otherwise noteworthy from a news perspective. Some other vehicles on the list were the same.

I’m not a mindless Tesla stan. If you look at my past articles, you’ll notice that I try to give the company credit where credit is due, but I’m more than willing to call it like I see it when I think the company and its leadership is making a mistake. That having been said, I don’t see how any objective top ten of EVs could reasonably exclude all of Tesla’s offerings.

Tesla isn’t always the best at everything, but it is clearly superior to at least 2 or 3 of the vehicles that AutoTrader put in its top ten.

Featured image by Nissan


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