Two Best-Selling Crossover EVs Face Off
Whether you’re looking at gasoline or electric vehicles, crossovers are the new sedans. Consumers love their combination of car-like driving qualities combined with the taller ride height and elevated seating position of SUVs. Throw in the versatility of a big hatchback and split-folding rear seats, and you have the best of all worlds.
So it should be no surprise that, when it comes to electric cars, the Tesla Model Y and Ford Mustang Mach-E are two of the best-selling vehicles in America. In 2021, the Model Y was the top seller in the country, with the Mach-E in fourth place. They’re both fast, they’re both fun to drive, and if you choose the long-range versions, both vehicles have a range of over 300 miles, according to the EPA.
Which one to choose? Read on to find out what might be best for you.
Design and Interior
Ford’s Mustang Mach-E leans heavily on design cues from the Mustang coupe, which has over 60 years of history as a muscle car. You’ll find the same hexagonal “grille” up front (though it’s a body-color plate and not an opening for a radiator), the same three-bar tail lamps in the rear, and even a similar side window shape, that works well despite the extra doors. Overall, the effect is surprisingly cohesive.
It's the Tesla, however, that looks both sportier and more futuristic from outside. We’ve gotten used to the company’s high-tech face, which thanks to its lack of adornment, feels almost Apple-like in its simplicity, and its shorter wheelbase and larger wheels give it a more aggressive stance. It has taller side windows, but the teardrop shape of the side profile looks sleeker and faster, without sacrificing room inside.
Speaking of which, the big difference between these two vehicles is space. The Tesla Model Y rides on a wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) of 113.8 inches, while the Ford Mustang Mach-E has a wheelbase of 117 inches. While just over three inches doesn’t seem like a lot, it makes a world of difference in terms of rear-seat room, as the extra length gives rear passengers more space to stretch out.
Other than rear legroom, the Mach-E and Model Y both feel similarly spacious, with plenty of room up front and large cargo areas which can be accessed through a power-opening hatch. A glass roof is standard on both vehicles, bathing their interiors in natural light and contributing to a feeling of spaciousness.
In terms of quality, there’s not much to distinguish the two vehicles. Both are well-made (Tesla’s quality has improved a lot since its beginnings), but despite the presence of faux leather, neither is particularly luxurious. The Tesla’s seats are a little softer and more comfortable than the Ford’s, but not by much; your family will find plenty to like in both interiors.
Tech and Charging
Both of these vehicles offer drivers an impressive level of standard technology built-in. The Tesla and the Ford both have standard-fit adaptive cruise control, which makes highway driving stress-free, as well as pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, a 360-degree camera system, and more. Both come equipped with impressive audio systems (a Bang & Olufsen system, even in the base-model Ford), heated seats, and a large central touchscreen.
Interestingly, Tesla, which was the originator of the vertical-format screen with its Model S sedan and Model X SUV, has switched to a horizontal-format screen for the Model 3 and Model Y. It holds almost all of the vehicle’s controls, including the transmission selector. Operation is relatively intuitive, although switching gears and adjusting other vehicle functions using the screen is sometimes more difficult than physical controls would be.
We prefer the Mustang Mach-E’s approach. It still has a giant screen for infotainment and climate control functions – here in a vertical format, floating off the dashboard. But there are physical controls for important functions: a large volume knob actually sprouts from the touch screen, the gear selector is an easy-to-use knob, and other key functions can be accessed without digging into menus. The Mach-E’s big screen can also be divided into sections, letting you use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto while also having climate control or a map visible.
On the charging front, both the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model Y offer a maximum charging speed of 150 kW when using a Level 3 DC fast charger – about average for modern electric vehicles, but far off the fastest-charging vehicles like Hyundai’s Ioniq 5, which can charge twice as fast, at least in theory. In reality, most Level 3 chargers around the country deliver electricity at 150 kW or less, including most of Tesla’s Superchargers.
The Supercharger network is one of the Model Y’s key advantages if you frequently will be taking long trips in your electric car. The charging experience is seamless – you simply plug the vehicle in and it starts charging. The Mach-E can access almost any other charging network, but you may need to download an app or create an account; it’s just not as easy yet. On the other hand, most owners will set up charging at home, and will rarely need to charge on the go, such is the range of these two vehicles.
The Tesla Model Y and Ford Mustang Mach-E both provide all of the advantages of a pure electric driving experience. Whichever you choose, you get smooth, seamless acceleration, silent running, and instantaneous torque at almost any speed.
The Tesla is the hot-rod of the two: it will dash to 60 mph from a standstill in less than five seconds, while the Mach-E equipped with all-wheel drive takes 6.1 seconds. It’s the Mustang Mach-E, however, which handles better: while both of these EVs have a very low center of gravity, the Ford has more natural steering, and it’s easier to get into a nice flow on a country road.
On the braking front, Tesla Model Y drivers will have to get used to “one-pedal driving” – its regenerative braking is very aggressive, slowing the car noticeably the moment you lift your foot off the accelerator. On the one hand, this contributes to longer range, as the Tesla recaptures more energy than the Ford; on the other hand, it can sometimes feel too aggressive if you just lift your foot while cruising. The Ford’s default regeneration setting is less aggressive, and it allows the driver to adjust regeneration manually.
Costs and Conclusion
Like every EV model on the market, Ford has raised the price on the Mustang Mach-E for the 2023 model year. The least expensive Premium model now starts at $54,975 before incentives, but at that price you get the standard-range battery. Upgrading to the 91-kWh extended range battery costs an additional $8,600. Range goes from an EPA-estimated 247 miles to 306 miles. The larger battery not only provides more convenience, but also should help resale value, so your total entry cost is in the range of $65,000 MSRP.
That’s right in the range of the new entry level for the Tesla Model Y. The company has dropped the standard range versions of its crossover, and the cheapest Y you can get is now the Long Range model, starting at $65,990 MSRP. Equipped with an 82-kwh battery, the Long Range offers an EPA-estimated range of 318 miles, slightly more than the Mach-E. Standard equipment on the Tesla is slightly better, with 20-inch wheels as standard; however, note that the Tesla, unlike the Ford, does not come with any form of home charging equipment as standard.
In terms of efficiency, the Mustang Mach-E with the long-range battery is rated by the EPA at 98 city and 91 highway MPGe, while the Model Y is rated at 127 MPGe in the city and 117 highway. Over time, the Tesla’s running costs will be lower, but you won’t notice a difference in terms of day-to-day usability; their ranges are almost equal, and you’ll likely be charging at home overnight. Take advantage of off-peak charging rates to maximize your savings.
Which one of these two vehicles would we choose? It’s not hard to see why the Model Y is the most popular electric vehicle in the U.S.; it combines good range with exceptional performance, a clean design, and the best charging experience when you’re on the go. On the other hand, the Mustang Mach-E’s controls, its driving feel, and especially the additional space in the rear seat, make it a more practical package as well as one that’s very fun to drive. Whichever you choose, one thing is certain: you’ll be happy you went electric.