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I’m trying to find an electric car for less than $20,000, although I can go a few thousand dollars higher if I absolutely have to. I want a car that was designed to be electric, instead of a regular car that has an EV version. I’m really interested in the BMW i3, although I wish it looked more like a normal car. – Manuel, Toronto

If you’re foraging for a good deal on an electric car, don’t leave out the Nissan Leaf.

To keep the price at less than $20,000, you’ll likely have to go back to 2015. For the BMW i3, we couldn’t find much out there for less than $25,000, even if you go back to 2014, its first year.

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For 2016, the Leaf came with an optional 30-kWh battery with a 172-kilometre range in its two top trims – a boost from the standard 135-kilometre range.

In 2017, Nissan made that bigger battery standard on all three trims (S, SV and SL). If you can find a 2017 Leaf, the average asking price on Canadian Black Book is $20,500.

Shockingly, unless Ontario axes its $14,000 electric vehicle incentive, you could get a new 2018 Leaf ($35,998 MSRP) in the mid-$20,000 range, before taxes.

2015 Nissan Leaf

Handout

  • First generation: 2012-2017
  • Average asking price for base: $19,309
  • Original MSRP: $31,798 (not including rebates in B.C, Ontario and Quebec)
  • Transmission/Drive: Single-speed direct/Front-wheel
  • Engine: 107-hp, 80-kilowatt electric motor
  • Advertised range: 135 kilometres (30-kWh battery)
  • Fuel economy: 18.4 kWh/100 km (2.1 Le/100 km)

When it first came out, Nissan helped electric cars turn over a new Leaf and get into the mainstream.

“It pioneered the segment by driving like a regular compact car, but with the affordability of a family sedan and persuaded thousands of shoppers to make the EV leap,” review site Edmunds said. “Short of spending three times as much for a Tesla Model S, shoppers looking for a capable all-electric car will be pleased with the Leaf.”

Edmunds said the Leaf offered “brisk acceleration from a stop, though getting up to highway speeds can feel a little belaboured” compared to other, quicker electric rivals.

Consumer Reports liked the low running costs, luxury car-like ride, instant power delivery, quietness, wide, tall doors that made access easy and the tight turning circle.

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It wasn’t crazy about the limited range, long charging times, a high-pitched whine and the overall lack of agility.

It gave the 2015 Nissan Leaf five out of five for reliability.

There were three recalls, including a fix to a passenger-side airbag that might not work properly in a crash.

2014 BMW i3

  • First generation: 2014-present
  • Average asking price for base: $26,610
  • Original MSRP: $44,950 (not including rebates in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec)
  • Transmission/Drive: Single-speed direct/Rear-wheel
  • Engine: 170-hp, 80-kilowatt electric motor, optional 34-hp, optional 650cc two-cylinder engine
  • Advertised range: 130 km (21.6-kWh battery)
  • Fuel economy: 16.8 kWh/100 km (1.9 Le/100 km)

If you could get past its looks, the i3 made it pretty easy to be green.

“There aren’t any all-electric cars that can match the i3′s sporty performance, interior usability and upscale amenities, save for the considerably more expensive Tesla Model S,” Edmunds said.

For another $4,000 new, the range-anxious could get a tiny gas motor to give you an extra 100 kilometres or so of range when the battery ran out. Used, the average asking price is nearly identical for both versions.

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“Inside, the i3 isn’t as upscale as other BMWs – cloth seats made of natural fibres and materials made from recycled items are everywhere,” Globe Drive said.

Consumer Reports said the i3 was “super energy efficient,” fun to drive and easy to park.

The magazine’s gripes? Limited range, even with the gas helper. Plus, you had to open the front doors to get into the back seat.

It gave the 2014 i3 three out of five for reliability.

There were three recalls, including a potential fuel leak in models with the range extender.

Send your used car questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com with the subject: “Buying used.”

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

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