Ultra-low running costs and zero emissions – what’s not to like about electric cars? These are the best… Last Updated: 12 Feb 2019
The UK government recently reduced the financial incentive to buy a fully electric vehicle, cutting the plug-in car grant for these models from a maximum of £4,500 to £3,500, but even so they’re still selling in rapidly increasing numbers.
And as many people are finding out, there are lots of reasons why an electric car could and should be your next automotive purchase.
The cost of running these cars is incredibly low compared to an equivalent petrol or diesel – even in an eco-focused trim – while their performance is addictive. From the smallest city car to large electric SUVs, all deliver their power from low down with a strong surge, a feature that characterises electric cars.
This list shows just how much choice there is already, and with the sector still in its infancy, the number of electric cars on sale is only going to grow rapidly in the future. Here in the present, though, there are some appealing choices. These are 10 of the best.
With 282 miles of range and a starting price of £32,995, it’s no wonder the Kia e-Niro was crowned our DrivingElectric Car of the Year for 2019. This compact SUV is comfortable, practical and great value for money, making it one of the best all-round packages on the electric car market today.
Featuring a 64kWh battery and a 201bhp electric motor, the Kia e-Niro is well equipped inside with an eight-inch touchscreen, sat nav, leather heated seats, adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera and many other things besides. Its 451-litre boot is an ideal size for families, and Kia’s seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty is included too.
A full charge at home could cost you just £8, and possibly even less if you plug it in overnight. And for those occasions when you need to top up in a hurry, the e-Niro is ready for the arrival of 100kW public chargers, which will replete the battery in under an hour.
Jaguar has always been first for many technical innovations. As far back as the introduction of disc brakes in the 1950s, Jaguar lead the pack, and it’s doing the same in the modern era with the I-Pace.
This all-electric SUV is incredibly impressive. It combines a 90kWh battery with an all-wheel-drive electric motor setup that delivers 395bhp. Even though this zero-emissions EV is quite heavy, it’s still incredibly rapid, sprinting from 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds.
Although it might be mutually exclusive, a claimed range of 292 miles on a full charge is also impressive, and we found in real-world driving 250 miles is easily achievable.
On top of this, there are no compromises when it comes to packaging. It’s roomy inside and the 638-litre boot gives plenty of luggage space. Jaguar has also future-proofed the I-Pace with 100kW charging capability.
But best of all, despite a switch to purely electric propulsion, the I-Pace is still laced with Jaguar’s DNA, so it steers brilliantly, rides smoothly and offers agile handling but balances this with refinement.
The second-generation Nissan Leaf is an evolution of the original that launched Nissan onto the electric-car scene – and it boasts many improvements, not least when it comes to range.
The car’s 40kWh battery gives an official range of 168 miles . From our tests, 150 miles is a safe bet, which is more than enough for most people, especially given the Leaf’s affordability compared to more premium electric machines.
You’ll be able to recharge that battery to 80% in 40 minutes from a rapid charger, 7.5 hours from a home wallbox and 21 hours from empty to full with a three-pin plug, so the Leaf is relatively practical in this respect.
A roomy interior and 435-litre boot support this, as well as some of the advanced semi-autonomous Pro Pilot driving technology on offer on higher trim levels.
The infotainment is an improvement on the old Leaf’s with CarPlay and Android Auto on offer, but it’s still not the best around (the Volkswagen e-Golf shows it up), while performance is average, too. The 0-62mph sprint takes 7.9 seconds, but the instant hit of power from the 148bhp electric motor means around-town acceleration is good.
The ePedal takes some getting used to, but once you get it, you’ll drive around only modulating the accelerator – even to slow down. There’s enough regenerative braking to bring the car to a halt, which is a nice touch.
The regular Volkswagen Golf is one of the best family hatchbacks on sale, so it stands to reason that the e-Golf electric version offers the same ability as an electric car.
The 134bhp motor is supplied with energy by a 35.8kWh battery, which means 0-62mph takes 9.6 seconds – not as fast as a Leaf, for example, but there’s still plenty of performance from low speed.
Range is also reasonable, at 144 miles. There are only a few compromises to make running an electric version of the Golf – the boot space is a little smaller at 341 litres (down from 380 litres), but the interior and packaging inside is exactly the same, which means lots of usable space and nicely integrated technology.
The infotainment system is one of the best on the market. The touchscreen is bright, clear, responsive and displays electric-car data bespoke to the e-Golf in beautiful clarity.
Although the e-Golf is carrying a 318kg battery, it rides well, too – smoother than a Leaf, in fact, as the suspension absorbs bumps nicely. The battery can be charged in as little as an hour using a DC power supply according to Volkswagen, or around 11 hours at its slowest with a three-pin plug.
Tesla Model S
US firm Tesla pioneered the premium electric car with the Model S saloon. It has been facelifted since launch, with improvements made so that the car is even easier to live with. The 75D version is our pick from the electric executive saloon range. With 362bhp from a pair of electric motors (one driving the front wheels and one driving the rears) 0-62mph takes a sports-car-rivalling 4.2 seconds.
It feels that fast, but there are even more potent versions on sale. The Model S P100D is the fastest, and with its Ludicrous mode that draws the most from the battery and electric motors, the same test takes just 2.7 seconds, meaning it’s as fast as some hypercars.
Even the 75D (75kWh battery) gives a 304-mile range. We’ve tested the car and 280 miles is possible, so there’s plenty of flexibility here. That extends to the charging too, as with Tesla Supercharger network (120kW supply) you can top up the 75D’s battery to 80% in just 40 minutes. There’s relatively strong coverage across the UK as well.
There’s technology inside to match what’s under the Tesla’s body, as the 17-inch infotainment screen is brilliant. You can split the screen in half to divide up the display, showing sat nav or media info. Everything is controlled through the screen and it’s a nice piece of technology.
Interior quality could be better, but with no transmission tunnel there’s plenty of room. The Tesla also isn’t the best car to drive, as while it’s fast, the suspension is on the firm side and the steering light and slightly at odds with the dulled agility due to the Tesla’s weight. But this is still a great premium electric car.
The i3 was BMW’s first electric car, and it brought a premium edge to the compact end of the market. Electric cars are about efficiency and environmental performance, and the i3 reflects this by using reclaimed materials inside.
There’s lots of space in the front and you sit higher up, so it almost feels like a small SUV. However, it doesn’t handle like one, as the body is very stiff so the steering is precise
That’s because the i3 is made from carbon fibre, a light and stiff material that also keeps weight down – the enemy of range in an electric car.
With a 42.2kWh lithium-ion battery, the official range stands at 193 miles, although expect around 160 miles in real-world driving.
This is from the standard model, while the sportier, more powerful i3s that joined the range last year boasts a 180bhp electric motor which means a 0-62mph time of 6.9 seconds to deliver sporty supermini performance.
It’s best around town, though, even if this does highlight any i3 variant’s firmer suspension setup. Rear-hinged back doors are a nice touch and keep the car compact without compromising access to the back too much. It’s not the largest in the rear, and nor is the 260-litre boot, but even five years after its launch the i3 is still one of the best small electric cars on sale.
The ZOE is about the most affordable electric car you can buy today, with a choice of battery packs and electric motors. The latest to join the range is the 108bhp R110, which adds even more performance and improves response around town, even though the R90 model it replaced was still sprightly enough.
The 41kWh battery gets a Q90 quick-charge option, which speeds up battery charging. With 43kW charging capability, an 80% top-up takes just an hour and 38 minutes, which is great.
Opt for the standard battery (no difference in energy density) and although you can’t use a quick charger, an 11kW faster charger will take three hours and 20 minutes to supply an 80% recharge, so there’s still plenty of flexibility here for not much money compared to an equivalent supermini.
Hyundai Kona Electric
Electric cars and SUVs are two growing trends, so for manufacturers like Hyundai it makes sense to combine the two in one appealing car: in this case, the Kona.
It’s a small SUV that uses either a 64kWh or 39kWh battery. The former gives a range of around 300 miles on a full charge, according to Hyundai, while with the more affordable model with the smaller battery this drops to around 200 miles. Crucially, that’s still more than the Nissan Leaf it rivals so closely.
Both models offer enough capacity to avoid range anxiety in most situations, but don’t expect to see these figures if you exploit the Kona’s performance. On that subject, the 201bhp motor in the 64kWh model helps the Hyundai accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds. The 39kWh model makes do with 134bhp.
However, both offer great pick-up around town like all electric cars, with an instant hit of power when you push the accelerator, while the bigger battery model extends this with even strong acceleration at motorway speeds.
Both versions offer the same roomy interior, strong infotainment setup and 332-litre boot, while the ride is relatively fluid and forgiving, so it should prove easy to live with.
Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Yet another electric car from Hyundai in this list proves how the brand is forging ahead. The Ioniq comes in three forms – there are hybrid and plug-in hybrid models to rival the Toyota Prius, but Hyundai went one better than its Japanese rival by adding this all-electric version to the range.
It’s older than the Kona Electric, so the vital figures aren’t quite as impressive, but with a 118bhp electric motor and a 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds, performance is strong, so you’ll never feel swamped by traffic in the Ioniq.
Maximum range stands at a claimed 174 miles, while Hyundai reckons you’ll see 130 miles from a full charge more regularly. That’s because the Ioniq Electric’s 28kWh battery is smaller than even the most affordable Kona Electric – but this also means it’ll be quicker to charge.
With a built-in 6.6kW charger a wallbox supply will take four hours and 25 minutes to fully charge the car, while a 50kW rapid charger cuts this to just 30 minutes for an 80% top-up, boosting the Hyundai’s appeal.
Infotainment is similar to the Kona; a 350-litre boot and an interior that’ll seat five add to this, as does the more affordable pricing compared to the Kona Electric if you won’t need that car’s greater range. Just watch the ride, as it’s on the firm side.
The Audi e-tron is the German brand’s first all-electric car, and although we’re yet to drive it in the UK it looks like a seriously strong rival to the the Jaguar I-Pace, and even the bigger and (in most guises) more expensive Tesla Model X.
While the 248-mile range isn’t class-leading, it’s long enough to suit the executive lifestyles that are likely to be considering this £70,000 SUV, and with 150kW rapid charging it’ll match or even better Tesla’s ‘Supercharger’ network for speed of charging when public points of that speed start appearing in 2019.
Not only that, but with a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds, and an impressively high-tech interior that can even feature cameras in place of side mirrors, it looks set to be one of the best premium electric cars on offer, despite the stiff competition.