Electric car champs: Tesla Model Y vs Ford Mustang Mach-E GT vs Kia EV6 vs Volvo XC40 Recharge

Published: 04 March 2022 Updated: 27 June 2023

Model Y goes toe-to-toe with rivals in the UK…
…Including the hot Mustang Mach-E GT
► Which SUV is the best?

You wouldn’t bet against the Model Y becoming Tesla’s biggest seller in the UK, but is it good enough to become one of the best electric cars on sale today? We pitch it against the hot Mustang Mach-E GT, Kia’s exceptional EV6 and the classy Volvo XC40 Recharge.

Pre-flight briefing: Tesla Model Y

Why is it here?
Combining the platform of the wildly popular Model 3 with a fashionable SUV body is a no-brainer for Tesla. Beyond the elevated driving position, you get a far larger and easier to load hatchback making this a far more practical proposition for families.

Tesla Model Y vs Ford Mustang Mach-E GT vs Kia EV6 vs Volvo XC40

Any clever stuff?
Of course, it is a Tesla after all. There’s the familiar central touchscreen shared with the Model 3 loaded with a variety of both useful and gimmicky features, plus access to the Supercharger network. Advanced Autopilot is available to take the strain off long-distance driving, and it’s both lighter and more efficient than its rivals.

Which version is this?
You’re looking at the Long Range, currently the cheapest version of the Model Y. You get tonnes of equipment as standard including four heated seats, a heated steering wheel, electrically adjustable seats, adaptive cruise, and a pair of wireless charging trays. Options are limited to paint, wheels, and Autopilot. Those looking for more pace are best served by the Model Y Performance which drops the 0-60mph time from 4.8 seconds to less than four.

Ford Mustang Mach-E GT front detail

Pre-flight briefing: Ford Mustang Mach-E GT

Why is it here?
If Tesla covers off the young Silicon Valley upstarts, then the Mustang Mach-E represents the Detroit dinosaurs that are now somewhat on the back foot. While the Tesla is a relatively short and tall SUV, albeit with an aero-optimised roofline, the Mach-E is a longer, lower crossover.

Any clever stuff?
You’ll find a massive Teslaesque touchscreen to control most functions inside, but there’s still a few physical controls that make adjusting your driving position less of a faff. You can access and the car using the key, your smartphone with the right app installed or even a little touch sensitive keypad on the window frame of the driver’s door. 

Which version is this?
We’ve already group tested the bottom of the range Mach-E, so this time we’ve picked the top-spec GT. It comes exclusively with the higher capacity 88kWh battery and twin electric motors to give four-wheel drive. Crucially, those motors are the punchiest available in the Mach-E, serving up a combined 480bhp and 0-62mph in 3.7sec.

Kia EV6 front detail

Pre-flight briefing: Kia EV6 AWD

Why is it here?
Last time we group tested a bunch of electric SUVs, it was the EV6 that came out on top by some margin. We love the style both inside and out, it’s good to drive and has impressive performance, so it’s our benchmark here.

Any clever stuff?
Oh yes. Like the Porsche Taycan and closely related Hyundai Ioniq 5, the EV6 has an 800-volt electrical architecture that allows seriously rapid charging. Find a 350kW charger and you can get the battery from 10-80% in a mere 18 minutes, or faster than even a Tesla Supercharger. There’s also a clever switchable touch-sensitive panel below the main screen that shows either the heater controls or infotainment shortcuts. Crucially, there are still a couple of physical dials on it to make easy temperature or volume adjustments on the move.

Which version is this?
You’re looking at the regular twin-motor 321bhp GT-Line S, one rung below the range-topping 577bhp GT. Despite being packed full of kit and blessed with an official range of over 300 miles, it’s the cheapest car in this test, albeit the slowest. Still, 0-62mph in just over five seconds is nothing to be sniffed at.

Volvo XC40 Recharge front detail

Pre-flight briefing: Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Motor

Why is it here?
The XC40 is for those people that need an electric car, but don’t necessarily want to shout about it. Take one look at any of our other competitors and you’re left in no doubt that they’re powered by electricity, whereas it takes a keen eye to spot a fully electric XC40. It’s reassuringly familiar inside and just as practical as a petrol powered one.

Any clever stuff?
Volvo uses the transmission tunnel to package extra batteries whilst keeping a nice, deep footwell for passengers. The infotainment is also a mention as it’s Android-based like many smartphones. That means you can sign in to Google to download handy apps like Waze or Google Maps, and even connect it to your house to switch on the lights and heating before you get home.

Which version is this?
The cheapest versions of the XC40 Recharge use a single motor driving the front wheels for tepid 0-62mph times in the seven second range. The Twin Motor in top Ultimate spec we’re testing unsurprisingly powers the rear tyres as well with a second electric motor, dropping the 0-62mph time to just under five seconds.

Tesla Model Y vs Ford Mustang Mach-E GT vs Kia EV6 vs Volvo XC40

Charging into battle: Tesla Model Y vs Ford Mustang Mach-E GT vs Kia EV6 vs Volvo XC40

Tesla has managed to do something quite extraordinary over the last few years. No, we’re not talking about the rollout of a charging network that actually works or the dubiously titled Autopilot system, instead it’s the popularity of the Model 3 that impresses, despite having a body style that’s deeply out of fashion.

So, if Tesla can make a fuddy-duddy three-box saloon into one of the easiest to recommend and most popular electric cars, surely an SUV version is effectively a license to print money? After all, the Model Y has the de rigueur elevated driving position, a fashionable coupesque roofline and, crucially for families, a much larger boot with a handy hatchback.

To find out just how good the Model Y is, we’ve lined up three quite different rivals. Our priciest protagonist promises to be the driver’s choice, with the Mustang Mach-E GT packing 480bhp, a sub-four second 0-62mph time and (hopefully) Ford’s expertise in making thoroughly entertaining sporting products.

The conventional choice is the Volvo XC40 Recharge, an SUV that was designed to have combustion, hybrid and fully electric versions from the start. It’s plush inside and surprisingly swift, too. Our final contender is our reigning electric SUV champ, the Kia EV6. With keen pricing, well-judged chassis tuning and those sci-fi looks, it’s an EV that both your head and heart can agree on.

Kia EV6 interior

Step inside…

That feeling starts before you’ve even turned a wheel in the EV6, with the twin hi-res screens, floating centre console and skilful combining of physical and touch sensitive controls all appealing. There’s substance to back up the style too, with plenty of plush materials and solid build. You’ll find less appealing materials lower down the interior, but then you could say that about every other car here.

Ford Mustang Mach-E GT interior

The EV6 certainly feels more sumptuous than the Mustang. Our GT might have leather and Alcantara highlights plus a few other natty trims, but the stalks and steering wheel buttons will be familiar to anyone that’s driven a Focus, while some of the buttons and dials feel flimsy for a £60k car.

Volvo XC40 Recharge interior

Even though the XC40’s relatively small touchscreen and general interior layout appear rather dated these days, there’s no arguing with the fine build and simply wonderful seats. Plastics feel dense to the touch, and the heavily carpeted door cards are a nice touch, especially if you opt for orange carpets.

Tesla Model Y interior

Can the Model Y beat the EV6’s interior? Yes and no; you’ll certainly find more squishy plastics and personally I love the pale wood trim, but the vegan leather just feels like vinyl and Tesla still hasn’t quite worked out how to screw stuff together properly. And while the minimalist interior looks clean and you soon become accustomed to the giant touchscreen, a few more physical buttons would be most welcome.

Ah yes, the touchscreen. With the exception of a couple of stereo controls, the electric windows, cruise control and indicators, everything is controlled by the 15in screen. That makes certain things like adjusting the steering wheel or mirrors a right pain, but once you’re set up it’s clear, responsive and easy enough to navigate.

However, the EV6’s screen is easier to get your head around and fitted with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. Add a few shortcut icons and we’d argue it’s the best system here. An honourable mention goes to the XC40 and its Android-based system that allows you to download a variety of apps straight to your car, although the screen could do with being an inch or two bigger. As for the Mach-E, it’s pretty responsive and certainly large, but why wouldn’t you angle the screen towards the driver to improve usability?

Space up front is plentiful in all, with ample cubbies for the contents of your pockets, too. Move to the rear and you’ll find similarities between the Model Y and XC40, and Mustang and EV6. The former pair feel more SUV-like with upright seating positions and pleasingly deep footwells, while the latter are best described as crossovers.

You sit lower with a bit more space for your legs and less for your head in the Mustang and EV6, although our biggest grumble is the high floor that pushes your knees up unnaturally high in both. Even so, our tallest 6’ 2” tester had enough just enough space in all four. Should a big boot be of interest, the Model Y gets the gold star by some margin, although we do wish it had a load cover to hide your stuff. The XC40 trails the EV6 in second by a small margin, with the Mach-E’s hatchback-sized boot disappointing.

Tesla Model Y cornering

On the road: Tesla Model Y vs Ford Mustang Mach-E GT vs Kia EV6 vs Volvo XC40

With the Mustang’s claimed 0-62mph time over a second quicker than any other car in this test it’s no surprise to find out it’s the fastest on the road by some margin, especially if you’ve selected the raciest ‘Untamed’ driving mode over regular ‘Active’ and subdued ‘Whisper’. This firms up the steering and suspension, plus it puts the motors on high alert, too.

Although there’s only so much you can do to make two-tonnes of electric SUV feel like its namesake, you can tell that efforts have been made. The steering gives the best sense of connection to the road once you’ve got past a bit of a dead spot around the straight ahead, and it certainly has a playful side.

Ford Mustang Mach-E GT rear cornering

On cold, damp UK roads it doesn’t take much of an ankle flex to send the rear tyres on a very different arc to the fronts, even with the ESC on in Whisper mode. Of course, with twice as many driven wheels as a regular V8 Mustang, it’s unlikely you’ll find yourselves having a Cars and Coffee moment.

Instead, the Mach-E GT is slightly reminiscent of a Porsche Macan, firing torque at the rear wheels to get them slipping before using the fronts to pull everything back into line. Yes, it is rather contrived, and it certainly caused a few sweaty palms, but it’s the car that generated the most giggles.

Kia EV6 cornering

The Model Y is far more strait-laced, with a four-square cornering stance and electronics that reign in any exuberant corner exits. Grip is good, but the upright seating position and seriously quick steering rack make the Model Y feel disjointed in spirited cornering, reacting far quicker than you expect. In fact, the XC40 feels more natural in the bends on account of its slower steering that’s more in keeping with something so upright. Neither are particularly fun, though.

You won’t have a face-cracking grin in the EV6 either, yet it’s hard not to be impressed by the polished way in which it drives. The response of the controls feels well matched and like the Tesla, the brake pedal feels far more natural than the Mach-E’s clunky response or XC40’s slight inconsistency. You can flow pleasingly down a B-road at a decent lick, enjoying the precise steering and well contained body roll, making it a satisfying drive.

Volvo XC40 Recharge cornering

Despite this, the EV6 strikes the best balance when it comes to ride. It’s a little stiffer than the waftier XC40 and related Hyundai Ioniq 5, yet this allows tighter body control over challenging roads. The Mach-E takes the bronze here, assuming you stick to the milder driving modes to keep the dampers limber while the Model Y just feels unfinished. You’ll hear the most thuds through the suspension and it’s the fidgetiest riding SUV here. It’s as if the spring rates were ramped up over the Model 3 for the taller body, but nobody bothered to tune the dampers properly. It’s worth mentioning our test car came on optional 20in wheels. 19in wheels are standard, and hopefully bring a softer edge to proceedings.

Tesla Model Y, Mustang Mach-E, XC40 and EV6

Tesla Model Y vs Ford Mustang Mach-E GT vs Kia EV6 vs Volvo XC40: the final reckoning

If you think this is another Tesla walkover, think again. There’s no arguing with the convenience of the Supercharger network, and the Model Y will fit into young family’s lives the best on account of its vast boot and reasonable rear seats, helping the Model Y into second place. However, it doesn’t drive as well as the Model 3, nor any other car on this test. Even when you’ve got your head around the speedy steering – something that’s far less troubling in normal driving – it’s still too stiffly sprung.

The Mustang can’t take the top spot either, finishing in third. The Mach-E scores for entertainment assuming you like to travel sideways on occasion, and it’s seriously quick, too. Equipment levels are generous and the range is decent, but lesser Mach-E’s make more sense given their greater range and keener pricing.

With the XC40 lacking in range, rapid charging ability and character in this company and therefore bringing up the rear, it’s the EV6 that chalks up another win in a CAR group test. The concept car looks clothe a thoroughly well sorted chassis that makes the EV6 a pleasing if not thrilling drive. Factor in impressive range and rapid charging ability plus the keenest price, and it’s another comfortable victory.

First place
Kia EV6
Another easy win for the excellent EV6

Second place
Tesla Model Y
An impressive option that just needs a bit more polish

Third place
Ford Mustang Mach-E GT
The most exciting, but flawed in other areas

Fourth place
Volvo XC40 Recharge
Disappointing range and not that much fun

By Alan Taylor-Jones

New cars editor, seasoned road tester and automotive encyclopaedia.