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Electric Crossover Showdown: Ford Mustang Mach-E vs. Tesla Model Y vs. VW ID.4

Which is best?

  • This trio represents the best affordable EV offerings
  • Advertised range figures can vary from real-world results
  • Revolutionary interior designs, for better and worse

If you're considering a quasi-SUV EV that has an affordable price, good range and fun technology features, the 2021 Tesla Model Y, 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E and 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 are the top contenders.

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  • EV ownership works best if you can charge at home (240V outlet) This typically means a 240V home installation, or other places your car is parked for several hours each day. Don't expect a regular household outlet (120V) to suffice.
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Each starts around $40,000, offers enough range for the real world, and provides a pleasant entry point to the EV ownership experience. But which one deserves your attention and why? Where does VW land in the Ford vs. Tesla battle? To find out, we tested multiple variants of each EV and subjected them to our standardized evaluation loop to see how they handle the real world.

What should I expect to pay?

The Volkswagen ID.4 is both the simplest and least expensive offering. It's currently available with an 82-kWh battery and rear-wheel drive for $41,190 (destination included). An all-wheel-drive version arrives later this year.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E starts at $43,995 and comes with a standard-range 66-kWh battery and rear-wheel drive. Depending on the trim level, an extended-range 88-kWh battery ($5,000) and all-wheel drive ($2,700) are available separately.

The Tesla Model Y's starting price is much higher, at $51,190, but that's because Tesla advertises it with all-wheel drive and the Long Range battery (Tesla doesn't specify kWh). Early in 2021 Tesla offered a rear-wheel-drive Standard Range version for special order, and it costs roughly $45,000. We've seen reports that these are no longer in production, but you might be able to find one in Tesla's inventory.

As of the time of this recording, the Ford and VW qualify for the $7,500 federal tax rebate, but remember that this rebate depends on your tax situation and is not a straight discount off the price of the car. Other incentives are available but vary from state to city to power company.

2021 Tesla Model Y.

2021 Tesla Model Y.

Which has the most range?

The ID.4's advertised range is 250 miles, while the Mach-E offers between 211 and 305 miles, depending on battery and drive type. The Model Y Long Range is rated at 326 miles, and the special-order Standard Range version boasts 244 miles.

Sounds promising, right? Here's the buzzkill: Both Tesla and VW advise against charging to 100% during daily use to prevent battery degradation over time, so subtract 10% to 20% from their rated figures. The Mach-E's owner's manual has a similar recommendation, but Ford says its battery's lifespan assumes customers would charge to 100% regularly.

In our experience as Tesla owners, we've found it more difficult to match Tesla's range figures in typical driving than it is in the majority of EVs we've evaluated. Every Mach-E and ID.4 we've tested easily exceeded their range estimates during normal driving and on our EV range loop (read more).

On the other hand, max range matters more on long drives or if you don't have a charger at home. And while Tesla's range advantage on paper is more difficult to achieve in the real world, our experiences with Tesla's Supercharger network have been far easier and more consistent than the third-party network, Electrify America, that Ford and VW rely on.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E.

What are the interiors like?

All of these EVs present interiors with reimagined functionality and designs that highlight their central touchscreens. Alas, these screens have steep learning curves and annoyances, from general sluggishness to glitches and crashes.

Overall, Tesla's screen is the snappiest of the trio, but it's also the only way to view vital information, such as your speed, and control interior functions, including the air vents. The Mach-E and the ID.4 each have a screen behind the steering wheel, which we prefer.

The Tesla's screen has the most character and variety of applications, from an endlessly entertaining whoopie cushion to Neftlix and even video games. The downside is that many of these features require a monthly subscription. While Tesla gives you up to a year free with the purchase of the vehicle, it's frustrating to think that the phone you have in your pocket, that you're already paying for, can do most of these same things. And unlike Ford and VW, Tesla does not support Android Auto or Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.

The Tesla's lack of physical controls gives the interior a clean, minimalist look at the expense of functionality. In the ID.4 vs. Model Y matchup, the VW looks more traditional but relies on touch-sensitive (or capacitive) switches for the majority of its controls. These switches offer no tactile feedback and often require multiple attempts to activate. The result can be maddening during daily use.

The Mach-E's interior is our favorite of the three. Its design and layout are the most visually appealing, with attractive materials and a clear attention to detail. We liked its balance of controls between physical switches and the touchscreen. And while the Mach-E loses the Tesla vs. Ford battle of screen responsiveness, it offers the functionality you'd expect and plays nice with your phone.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E.

What's the storage like?

The Tesla Model Y has the biggest cargo area. Its overall storage is the most generous of the trio, and it offers two sizable bins hidden under the rear cargo floor. And the Model Y is the only vehicle here with power releases that allow you to lower the second row from the rear. With the Ford and the VW, you have to reach for the levers on each seat.

The ID.4 and Mach-E have similarly sized cargo areas and slightly smaller underfloor storage. The biggest difference is that the VW ID.4 lacks the front storage compartment you'll find under the hood of the Mach-E and Model Y.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4.

How do they drive?

If you're coming from an older car with a gas-powered engine, each of these EVs will feel like spaceships with powerful acceleration. The Model Y is the quickest, followed by the Mustang Mach-E and then the ID.4, and this difference is noticeable during normal driving. All three travel down the road agreeably, but the Mach-E has our preferred combination of ride, handling and steering feel.

A bigger difference emerges under braking. EVs can use their electric motors in lieu of the  mechanical brakes by spinning backward to slow you down and recuperate energy back into the battery.

The Model Y and Mach-E have "one-pedal" drive modes that, when engaged, allow you to come to a stop without touching the brake pedal. Doing so takes some time to get used to, but it's our preferred way to drive EVs. The ID.4's regenerative braking isn't as strong, even in its most aggressive setting, so it requires using the brake pedal more frequently than the Mach-E and Model Y.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Edmunds says

The Mustang Mach-E is our favorite for most shoppers. Beyond the attractive styling and pleasing road manners, its broad range of configurations means you can get the one that best matches your needs. It regularly exceeds its range estimates, and it offers enough room and cargo space for a small family. If you're an EV rookie comparing the Mustang Mach-E vs. Model Y, the Ford provides the easiest and most appealing transition.

The Tesla Model Y is similarly enjoyable to drive and has the most cargo volume. We love the Tesla Supercharger network too. Beyond that, whether you choose the Model Y vs. Mustang Mach-E depends on whether you enroll in beta software updates for your phone. Have you owned Dogecoin? If so, the Model Y is for you.

Though capable in many areas, the VW ID.4 has some challenges that make it difficult to recommend over the Mach-E and Model Y. The biggest drawbacks are the interior functionality and lack of a front trunk. But if you can live with these, you'll appreciate the simplicity of the ID.4's configurations and the lower entry price.

Want to learn more? Read our EV rankings:

2021 Volkswagen ID.4.

2021 Volkswagen ID.4.

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