Drive Car Of The Year

Best Electric Car Under $70,000 2023

Best EV Under $70,000

Australians are buying a record number of electric cars, but for many motorists they remain out of price reach. Here are the best electric cars among the most affordable offerings.

Electric-car sales are on the rise as more models – and new brands – arrive in Australia.

Although they only represent less than three per cent of the entire new-car market today, the appetite for electric vehicles is growing.

Waiting times for most electric cars range from six to 12 months. In some cases, there is a two-year delay on customer deliveries.

The biggest challenge facing electric cars outside infrastructure, driving range and charging points is affordability.

The cheapest electric cars in Australia are not exactly cheap, in the $49,000 to $55,000 price bracket, whereas the most affordable petrol cars are in the $20,000 to $30,000 range. Nevertheless, price has not dented the popularity of electric cars.

With that in mind, we have included Best Electric Vehicle Under $70,000 as a standalone award in the 2023 Drive Car of the Year – one of three categories catering for the diverse range of battery-powered vehicles.

Our finalists: the newly arrived BYD Atto 3 (from $50,600 drive-away), the MG ZS EV (from $48,990 drive-away) and the updated, extended-range Nissan Leaf e+ (from $67,600 drive-away).

Winner: BYD Atto 3




2 variants available

$ 48,011 - $ 51,011* MRLP

What we love

  • -Zippy performance
  • -Roomy cabin
  • -Sleek, futuristic design

What we don't

  • -Tyre grip and lane-keep assist need work
  • -Small instrument cluster with patchy illumination
  • -Some ergonomics could use refinement

The BYD Atto 3 is the 2023 Drive Car of the Year Best Electric Vehicle Under $70,000.

The BYD Atto 3 is proof that an entry-level electric car can offer as much technology as it does personality.

This Chinese brand is new to Australia and in some ways is still finding its feet, however, the car itself is a worthy winner.

As the newest electric car in the sub-$70,000 segment – based on an all-new, dedicated platform – it should top the class.

The MG ZS EV (also from China) and the Nissan Leaf from Japan (although built in the UK) are starting to show their age and feel old in the company of the BYD Atto 3.

The BYD Atto 3 is a smooth and easy car to drive, has a roomy and comfortable cabin, and when this test was conducted it was priced about $50,000 drive-away, making it one of the most affordable electric vehicles in Australia at the time.

Although the exterior styling is futuristic yet inoffensive, the interior design is daring. Judges were divided on cabin appearance but, on balance, it was praised for several reasons.

Good design is also about practicality, and the BYD Atto 3 interior is roomier and more user-friendly than the other electric cars in this price range.

Of course, no car is perfect. The judges noted the BYD Atto 3 would benefit from having an easier-to-access ‘P’ for park button (it's hidden from view under the top part of the gear selector). Without a full customer handover, some buyers or their family members may not easily locate it. Cruise control, annoyingly, only works in 5km/h increments.

The BYD's lane-keeping assistance system needs better calibration, its tyres performed poorly in our emergency swerve and braking tests, and the driver's instrument cluster has a couple of small operational issues.

The tyres have extremely low grip (by class standards, not performance-car standards), as evidenced by its poor performance in our braking and emergency swerve tests.

The digital speed display is small, and the instrument screen needs a light sensor so it does not dim when driving with headlights on during the day.

If BYD can address some of the above feedback, it would make it an even more compelling proposition against newer and as yet unknown competition in the future.

The BYD Atto 3 has all the ingredients here to continue to be a good electric car for the money for the next five years, provided BYD keeps updating it.

It is a worthy winner of this category given its price, comfort, roominess and performance – and it shone against the competition.

Runner-up: MG ZS EV




3 variants available

$ 43,990 - $ 47,990* MRLP

What we love

  • -National drive-away pricing
  • -Seven-year warranty
  • -Strong braking performance

What we don't

  • -Starting to feel its age
  • -Limited driving range
  • -Heavy steering feel

The MG ZS EV is one of Australia’s top-selling electric cars in this price range.

It is able to limbo below $50,000 because it is based on an older, petrol-powered model – rather than a clean-sheet electric-car platform.

While this enabled the MG ZS EV to be among the first movers in the affordable electric-car race, it is now starting to show its age in present company.

Judges praised the MG ZS EV for its familiar and straightforward cabin controls, relative comfort and space for this size of car, supple ride over bumps, and its class-leading seven-year warranty (which is two years longer than the coverage for the BYD and Nissan).

In isolation the MG ZS EV feels perky enough, but against its newer or updated rivals it was a touch slower.

These cars are, of course, not about straight-line speed, but the 0 to 100km/h times do illustrate their level of performance even in the daily grind.

The updated Nissan Leaf long range was the most brisk of this trio (7.5 seconds) ahead of the BYD Atto 3 (7.7 seconds) and MG ZS EV (8.1 seconds).

The MG ZS EV redeemed itself with the best emergency braking performance from 100km/h (a highly respectable 37.2 metres versus 38.5 metres for the Nissan and a below-average 39.1 metres for the BYD Atto 3).

While the MG ZS EV has many happy buyers – and will suit the needs of many customers who want a no-frills commuter car – there are, as always, areas for improvement.

The MG ZS EV steering feels heavy, there is no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, and the R symbol for ‘reverse’ looks like P for ‘park’ from the driver’s vantage point because part of the R is obscured. Several judges found themselves in ‘reverse’ rather than ‘park’, which understandably gave them a bit of a fright.

Nevertheless, the MG ZS EV is a worthy finalist in the 2023 Drive Car of the Year Best EV Under $70,000. And worthy of making your consideration list if shopping for an electric vehicle in this price range.

Finalist: Nissan Leaf e+


Nissan LEAF

Nissan LEAF

2 variants available

$ 50,990 - $ 61,490* MRLP

What we love

  • -Zippy performance
  • -Class-leading handling
  • -More range than before

What we don't

  • -Starting to feel its age
  • -Modest driving range
  • -No electric park brake

The Nissan Leaf has been refreshed to help it take the fight to newer (and cheaper) electric-car rivals.

The first-generation Nissan Leaf arrived locally in 2012 and this second-generation model – which is effectively an update of the original from a decade ago – has been in Australian showrooms since 2019.

The most recent round of upgrades have been worthwhile. The Nissan Leaf e+ has perky performance, impressive handling and grip, and a bigger battery that aims to deliver longer driving range.

While its official name is the Nissan Leaf e+, in automotive shorthand it’s called the Nissan Leaf long range. Although, to be fair, the extra driving range has merely put it on par with the competition rather than deliver genuinely long range.

The driving range claim for the standard Nissan Leaf is listed at a modest 270km (closer to 200km to 220km in our real-world testing), while the Nissan Leaf e+ is rated at 385km (closer to 320km to 350km in our real-world testing).

These estimates compare to the BYD Atto 3's driving range claim of 420km (closer to 350km in our real-world testing).

Judges praised the Nissan Leaf for its sharp and responsive driving dynamics and for having the zippiest acceleration among this trio.

The cabin is cosy but comfortable, and the controls are familiar as most are shared with Nissan’s petrol car range.

The artificial spaceship sound when reversing – inside and outside the car – is a nice touch and aids pedestrian safety.

Downsides? For all its merit, the Nissan Leaf feels old. As with the MG ZS EV, it is based on a petrol-car platform that has been electrified (rather than a ground-up dedicated EV design) and that compromises cabin space and battery capacity.

The low-profile tyres are noisy, and there is a foot-operated park brake – which is reassuring on the one hand but shows the car’s age on the other.

In the end, price weighed heavily against the Nissan Leaf e+. It’s a car worthy of consideration but be prepared to drive a bargain. In our opinion it’s a $50,000 to $55,000 car with a $67,000 (drive-away) price tag.

You can read about all the other 2023 Drive Car of the Year categories and winners here:
Drive Car of the Year categories and winners

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