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'Quietest, Slowest' Comparison Ever: 6 Electric Cars Tested By Car And Driver

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2014 Chevrolet Spark EV  -  First Drive, Portland, July 2013

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV - First Drive, Portland, July 2013

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Oh, to have the resources available to Car and Driver, which published in its March issue a lengthy comparison test among six battery-electric cars.

They are the Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV, Nissan Leaf, and Smart Electric Drive Cabrio.

MORE: Electric Cars' Secret Advantage: They're Just Nicer To Drive

2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Cabrio, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Aug 2013

2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive Cabrio, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Aug 2013

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The tone of the Detroit-based magazine's review--written with the kind of chest-thumping, gasoline-burning contempt for the realities of electric-car use that owners now parry with skill--is set in the second paragraph:

...six compacts at similarly loony prices, and utility that amounts to, as senior online editor Ron Sessions says, “cars with one-gallon gas tanks that take five hours to fill.” Why do they even exist? Because government simply will not get off the industry’s back.

Ah, yes, it's that Evil Gummint again, screwing up the cars you buy.

(As for that "one-gallon" mention, the author's math works only if you assume that 1 gallon of gasoline will take you 80 to 120 miles. But we digress.)

Low range, charging challenges

The article kicks off with a lengthy rundown of the California legislation requiring sales of zero-emission vehicles. No mention of why: air pollution and emissions of climate-change gases.

Then there's a nod to the "comical" prices, and the "logistical gymnastics" the magazine had to undergo to keep them charged.

2013 Honda Fit EV drive event, Pasadena, CA, June 2012

2013 Honda Fit EV drive event, Pasadena, CA, June 2012

Enlarge Photo

Subtext: Electric cars won't take you where you need to go and they require, under all circumstances, such miserable travails to charge them that no American in his right mind will ever want one.

We also note that the editors omitted the Toyota RAV4 EV electric crossover from the test, which has sold in higher volumes than the Chevy, Fiat, or Honda entries--and has a rated range of 103 miles, higher than any of the cars tested.

On the other hand, the RAV4 EV's base price remains at $49,800 (although cheap leases and more than $10,000 of incentives are available in some areas), so they could have kicked it out on price point--as they did the Tesla Model S.

We'd also suggest the magazine missed a major piece of buyer information by neglecting to point out which vehicles are low-volume or compliance cars (five of them) usually sold in limited areas, and which are selling thousands each month (just one, the Nissan Leaf).

2014 Nissan Leaf

2014 Nissan Leaf

Enlarge Photo

Accurate assessments

Once you get past the page 1 political posturing, though, the editors of the august buff book get down to the in-depth assessments for which they're known.

Car and Driver has smart and astute testers who've driven a lot of cars and evaluate this group in their usual fashion.

Typical of the genre, there's a great deal of focus on handling, roadholding, and high-speed capabilities--which may or may not be relevant to buyers of the six cars they tested in cold-weather California.

MORE: Who Buys Plug-In Electric Cars, And Why? CA Report Explains It All For You

Electric drive seemed to highlight some of the basic flaws in the original design of the cars that were converted into electrics. We'd chalk that up to the smooth, quiet, seamless flow of electric power that brings other facets of a car's design into starker relief.

Some of the quibbles seem odd: Turning a key in an ignition switch (Fiat 500e, Honda Fit EV) is deemed starting the car "as you would a ’78 Monte Carlo." We rather wonder how much the ignition mechanism factors into the various reasons most owners give for buying electric cars.

Ultimately, the Smart Electric Drive came off in bottom place, and Car and Driver gave its first-place award to the 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV, calling it "the one gold that sparkles."

It's also the fastest--and its Volt-inspired interior is head and shoulders above the rest.

We encourage you to read the full article (all 8 pages), and give us your feedback. Did the magazine get the rankings right?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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