The times, they are a-changing. We’re guessing most readers will have only owned petrol or diesel cars prior to this point but it doesn’t take a genius to work out...
29 Nov 2021 by Keith Adams
Following the news that the government is set to ban the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars in 2030, many drivers are already looking to switch to pure-electric cars. For those hoping to convert to battery power, here is our list of the best electric cars you can buy now on the UK car market.
Electric Vehicle (EV) sales are rising fast in the UK, and the sheer number of new EVs on the way is mind boggling. But the good news is that with each new car, range is getting longer and prices are getting lower. The electric car-charging infrastructure is getting better, too, as providers have recognised the predicted growth in the lead-up to 2030.
These changes are helping shift the entrenched opinions of drivers who might previously not have considered an EV. Currently, battery-powered cars enjoy lower fuelling costs compared with petrol and diesel, and many workplaces now provide chargers for their employees. They are Congestion Charge exempt and have big tax advantages for company car users, so the reality of running an EV is becoming increasingly convenient.
Finally, EVs are becoming more desirable with each new launch. Want a small car? You can choose from great models, such as the Vauxhall Corsa-e, Peugeot e-208 and Renault Zoe. Need something bigger or faster, and Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Polestar and EV pioneer Tesla are all queuing up for your business.
Scroll down to discover our list of the best electric cars in the UK, hand-picked by our team of experts, who have thoroughly tested all of them – or click on your favourites below to jump down.
Top 10 electric cars 2021
Our choice: Best electric SUV for value and range
✅ Comfortable and roomy interior
✅ Long range option easily betters 300 miles
❌ Options really jack up the price
❌ Not the most adventurous styling
Battery range: up to 336 miles (WLTP)
Right now, this is probably the state of the electric SUV art – the Skoda Enyaq iV is roomy, comfortable, quiet, refined and well priced. It comes with two battery options – 62 and 77kWh – with the latter giving an additional 70-80 miles range. However, the price difference between the two tips the more expensive version way over the government £2,500 plug-in grant threshold, and therefore is one you really need to put thought into before buying.
But don't let that put you off, because the standard Enyaq iV in 60 form will also go more than 200 miles (real world) on a single charge, which is still very competitive. We really like its comfort, the way it looks and feels inside, and in typical Skoda style, it's bristling with clever features to make like that little bit easier.
Our choice: Best electric family hatchback
✅ Cheap entry-level model
✅ Good to drive
❌ Interior quality could be better
❌ Some controls are hard to master
Battery range: up to 336 miles (WLTP)
The ID.3 is probably the most important new electric car of the 2020s, and Volkswagen is pulling out all the stops to ensure that it appeals to as many buyers as possible. So there are two levels of motor power and two different battery capacities, and all offer a range of more than 260 miles (claimed).
It's had a few issues along the way and the launch was delayed while they ironed out bugs in the operating system, but it's here now, and comes with a tempting starting price to encourage buyers out of their petrol and diesel cars. We love how it drives and the space and tech that it's packed with, and it looks like those early quality niggles are now behind it.
Our choice: Best electric family car for long distances
✅ Unmatched efficiency and range for the money
✅ All models are quick and fun to drive
❌ Some quality concerns
❌ Minimalist interior might be off-putting
Battery range: up to 353 miles (WLTP)
There was a good reason we named the Tesla Model 3 our Electric Car of the Year for 2020... as well as Best Company Car, Best Safety, and overall Car of the Year. Put simply, it moved the game on – offering impressive range for a reasonable price, as well as some of the most advanced technology you can get on the roads today. For 2021, it still bagged our award for the Best Large Electric Car.
With up to 353 miles available on a single charge, and access to Tesla’s super-fast Supercharger network, the Model 3 is just about the most compelling option for people who do big mileage or a lot of long journeys. Add in a low leasing cost and the Model 3 suddenly becomes an affordable route into premium EV ownership. Oh, and did we mention the Performance model will do 0-62mph in less than four seconds?
4. Polestar 2
Our choice: Best electric family car for interior and driving experience
✅ Fabulous looking inside and out
✅ Good to drive
❌ Interior less roomy than rivals
❌ Lacking a dealer network
Battery range: up to 292 miles (WLTP)
We really like the Polestar 2 and think it's an attractive, well-rounded package. Polestar says it will especially appeal to business users thanks to tax breaks for EVs, but the packaging is sufficient to appeal to many family users, too. It's good or excellent in every area, and if you can afford the punchy launch price we would wholly endorse your decision to buy one.
It might lack the look-at-me gimmicks that other electric cars boast, but by focusing on getting the day-to-day stuff right, Polestar has created a car that should be easy to live with and enjoyable to drive every single day.
5. Citroen e-C4
Our choice: Best electric family car for ride comfort
✅ Comfortable ride and seats
✅ Roomy interior
❌ Divisive styling
❌ Battery range is disappointing
Battery range: up to 217 miles (WLTP)
If you're after a comfortable electric car that's relaxing to drive the Citroen e-C4 should be right up your street. It's a likeable EV that widens the options available in a rapidly growing market sector – after all, the only other electric car that is even comparably smooth riding for the money is the MG ZS EV and that's a less accomplished all-rounder, at an admittedly lower price.
Citroen has done a great job with the e-C4, and doubts about battery range aside, it’s an impressive new addition to the EV market that will go a long way towards smoothing out the most stressful of journeys.
6. Kia Soul
Our choice: Best electric car for range and outstanding design
✅ Brilliant battery range
✅ Funky styling, practical interior
❌ Only one model to choose from
❌ More expensive than the e-Niro
Battery range: up to 280 miles (WLTP)
The Kia Soul is a distinctively-styled electric vehicle with a particularly impressive range. It’s difficult to overstate how important the 280-mile figure is in this instance – range anxiety really becomes a thing of the past on a car that goes so far between charges, and has such an accurate range indicator.
In addition, this is a genuinely affordable car (in cash terms, not necessarily on monthly figures) that can tackle the vast majority of driver’s needs without stopping for a lengthy recharge in the middle. Shame it costs more than the e-Niro and has a less practical interior than its sister car.
7. Kia e-Niro
Our choice: Best electric family car for range and warranty
✅ Brilliant range
✅ Excellent value for money
❌ Lacks desirability
❌ Not that comfortable
Battery range: up to 282 miles (WLTP)
Kia’s affordable e-Niro isn’t as glamorous as the Tesla Model 3, but it’s stonking value and offers a remarkable range of 282 miles on a full charge. With 204hp at its disposal, it’s no slouch, and better yet it’s based around a practical SUV body – so there’s space for all the family and their luggage, too.
Plan to keep your car for a long time? Kia’s warranty is seven years and 100,000 miles, one of the best in the business. Don’t want to stand out? The e-Niro hardly looks any different to a standard car, so it flies under the radar perfectly.
Our choice: Best prestige electric car for driving enjoyment
✅ Currently the best-driving EV
✅ A roomy and nicely-finished cabin
❌ Hard ride on largest wheels
Battery range: up to 292 miles (WLTP)
The I-Pace is Jaguar’s first venture into the world of electric cars, yet it’s a true Jag through and through – with space, grace and pace (the company’s three hallmarks) in equal measure. It’s unusually proportioned for an SUV, with a large passenger compartment and short overhangs front and rear, but it’s still a handsome beast with a good amount of interior space for its size.
Performance is of course important in a Jaguar and the I-Pace doesn’t disappoint. It has 400hp on tap, giving it impressive acceleration, yet will achieve a range of 292 miles on a full charge.
Our choice: Best small electric car – with a long battery range
✅ The small electric car with the longest range
✅ Good to drive with a friendly interior
❌ Odd driving position
❌ Firm ride
Battery range: up to 245 miles (WLTP)
Externally, the latest Renault Zoe doesn't look as though it's changed much since it was launched way back in 2012. Under the skin and on the inside, though, it's been heavily updated and is so good we awarded it our Best Small Electric Car of the year 2021. The Zoe is small - only a bit larger than the Renault Clio - so it's ideal for those with a tight garage or who live in cities.
There's plenty of room inside, though, and the interior tech is great - a high-res infotainment screen, plenty of safety and entertainment features, all wrapped up in an attractive and high-quality dashboard. Better yet, a range of 245 miles from a full charge is enough for all but the most demanding drivers, and there's the option of CCS fast charging to make it easier to top up when you're out and about. Finally, it's attractive and good fun to drive. What's not to like?
Our choice: Best high-performance electric car
✅ Fantastic performance
✅ Stunning interior
❌ Expensive to buy
❌ Few rapid charges around to exploit it
Battery range: up to 288 miles (WLTP)
Trust Porsche to take the latest electric car technology and then over-engineer it until it's one of the most remarkable vehicles on sale today. There's no denying the Taycan is a seriously expensive car but it has a combination of performance, luxury and sheer driving pleasure you won't find anywhere else.
With its five-door luxury hatchback shape, the Taycan takes aim at the Tesla Model S, offering similar performance and range, but it justifies its higher price tag by eclipsing any Tesla product in terms of quality and dynamics. More importantly for buyers, it can manage up to 280 miles on a full charge - and is compatible with super-fast 800V chargers, which futureproofs it for a significant time hence.
All of these electric cars are outstanding in one way or another. The Tesla Model 3 may have been the clear front-runner when it first arrived in the UK in 2018, but the opposition is rapidly catching up. The stand-out challenger in the small electric car class is the Renault Zoe as it combines all of the advantages of a city car and a long battery range – something that (currently), no other small car offers.
Further up the size range, the Tesla Model 3 and Kia twins of the e-Niro and Soul are also very appealing. The former because of its long range motor and Supercharger network, as well as avante garde interior, while the two Kias are roomy, practical and also push 300 miles for a relatively modest sum of money.
At the top of the market, the Jaguar I-Pace and Porsche Taycan both prove that electric cars can be just as exciting (if not more so) than the very best petrol cars. With scintillating performance and great handling, they're desirable cars first, electric cars second...
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Small electric cars make a lot of sense on many levels. The best urban runabouts are tiny, making them easy to thread in and out of parking spaces and keep...
Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) are really starting to take off in Britain and this guide is designed to showcase our pick of the best cheap electric cars on sale...
Hyundai has spent years developing a range of electric cars, but a new generation is coming. It starts with the new Ioniq 5 family hatchback, designed to rival Volkswagen’s ID.3...
Skoda's first purpose-designed EV is an excellent, comfortable family SUV
Electric SUV that majors on usability
Mercedes-Benz's electric SUV is comfortable, smooth and packed with tech
Volkswagen’s first purpose-built electric car is an excellent all-rounder
BMW's first electric SUV is refined, good to drive and lovely inside
Battery-powered load-lugger focuses on value
Niche electric SUV coupe majors on style, not range
Familiar looks for all-new all-electric Fiat city car
Supremely refined family hatch is comfortable and stands out from the crowd
The only sound is the wind in your hair
Vauxhall's reinvented the Mokka SUV as a desirable electric car
Volvo's first EV sets a new standard in ease of use
The electric-only Smart is immensely fun around town
Cute electric city car is a loveable urban runaround
The Polestar 2 is the best reason yet not to buy a Tesla Model 3
Electric sports saloon delivers engaging handling and speed
Electric SUV with added lustre of the three-pointed star
Vauxhall's fully-electric car is an excellent gateway to EVs
Appealing electric city car now has a longer range
MINI is great to drive in electric form, but battery range could be better
Great used choice for those who need an electric city car
Electric hatch blurs the line between piston-power and high-voltage
Impressive value, upgraded driver-assistance tech and electric range
What is an electric car (EV)?
An Electric Vehicle, also known as an EV, or sometimes BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle), uses at least one electric motor as its only source of propulsion. An EV is powered by electricity contained in a battery pack, which is stored in the car, generally under the boot or interior. As EVs are reliant purely on their battery pack for 'fuel', they need to be efficient, and capable of supplying a decent range. Car companies are developing increasingly efficient motors as well as battery packs capable of storing more energy.
Electric cars can be topped up by a regular three-pin socket, but for the most part this is done by using a dedicated chargepoint. These can be installed at your home assuming your domestic wiring is up to it. An increasing number of public and workplace charging stations are being rolled out across the country, and this is set to continue as EVs become more popular.
How much money do you save now with your EV?
In terms of buying a new Electric Vehicle, the cash and PCP prices are above what you’d expect to pay for an equivalent petrol- or diesel-powered car. Having said that, currently, there aren’t too many models out there (Volkswagen Golf/e-Golf, Hyundai Kona, Kia Niro) that are available in Internal Combustion Engined (ICE) and EV forms. But taking the Golf as a typical example, the EV version is around 50% more expensive than a 1.0-litre TSI SE per month on PCP. The gap is much closer on Personal Leasing (PCH), but it’s still stacked in favour of the ICE car (although the gap is closing).
In terms of running costs, electric vehicles are far cheaper per mile than even the most efficient petrol and diesel cars. Charging up in the most cost-efficient manner (at home, usually overnight on an Economy 7 or similar tariff) could more than half your fuel costs. Charging when out and about is significantly pricier, especially for the top-tier rapid chargers - but even these are cheaper than refuelling a petrol or diesel car.
Electric cars qaulify for road tax exemptions at present, as well as free entry into London's Congestion Charge zone. EV owners don't typically pay much more in insurance, either.
Do EVs drive differently to conventional vehicles?
Yes, but not as differently as you might think. And most importantly, most people find that once they’ve travelled a few miles in an EV, they no longer notice anything’s changed. If you compare an EV with a typical automatic petrol, and the differences are quite subtle. The most obvious contrast between the two is when you fire them up – the EV is completely silent. Although it sounds obvious, this takes some getting used to in the first instance.
The next thing you’ll notice is how responsive the EV feels. Other than that – and depending on the car, there are few other differences. What you will notice, though, is when you jump back into a petrol or diesel car, they will feel slow, unrefined and dead on their feet. This is completely normal.
Can electric car batteries be recycled?
Yes. All new EVs sold since the 1990s have been powered by Lithium-Ion (Li-On) batteries, which have been recyclable for years. The old days when electric vehicles such as milk floats and some ancient electric cars were powered by Lead Acid batteries have long gone. These are recycled just like your mobile phone or laptop batteries, just on a larger scale.
Most homes in the UK use about 2kWh of energy in a day – this varies, of course, but electric car batteries are being recycled by firms like Tesla to store energy from local renewable/environmentally sources to be used when grid demand is higher, or sources like solar or wind power might not be able to power the development.
At this stage, that's about the most environmentally friendly option for the battery - a prolonged life as a low-demand storage unit for homes, after the intense life as a car battery. The Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe are the longest-established EVs offered in the UK and most users report acceptable battery health and overall, much better reliability and lower service costs than a conventional car, even a decade on. The compromises - and impact of producing a new battery - are still worthwhile while EVs are the minority. When every British motorist needs a 30-70kWh power cell for their car, then we may have a problem!
How far can a typical EV travel on a single charge?
This really depends on the car that you’re considering looking at, and what type of journeys you’re using it for. For instance, the Volkswagen e-Golf can vary in its range between 80 miles on the motorway in deep winter to 140 miles of gentle summer driving around the city. This article offers more detail about electric car range.
How do I know an electric car is right for me?
How long is a piece of string? First question to ask is how many miles you’re doing. If you find yourself on the motorway most days, and time is of the essence, then EVs probably aren’t for you. Equally, if you live in the middle of a city or don’t have access to a driveway for your own charger, a workplace charger, or a local chargepoint, then you might struggle.
Just because you can't charge at home doesn't mean you shouldn't have an EV, however. City-dwelling Tesla owners are getting into the habit of parking up at home and using nearby Superchargers to top up either at the end or beginning of their previous journeys. And now ZipCharge Go is here, there are additional solutions for urban EV drivers.
How do I charge my EV?
There are several ways of getting juice into your EV. If you're at home, you can plug in via a traditional three-pin socket and use the lead that came with the car. However, that takes ages (more than 20 hours for something like a Tesla) and should be considered a last resort. If you get a home chargepoint fitted, you'll need decent electrics, and a recommended chargepoint installer, such as Pod Point. There may be government grants to help you cover the cost.
If you're charging elsewhere, you'll be looking at one of the public chargepoints across the country. Currently, the UK infrastructure is growing, but it still has someway to go, if it wants to become as convenient as petrol or diesel. The good news is that these chargepoints are contained in convenient parking bays for EVs only. You can find your nearest public charger using an app or website such as Zap Map.
What happens if I run out of power?
It will go slowly, shutting down all non-essential features. You'll be warned of the need to recharge at about 20% of the battery. Let it trickle to 1% and the car will crawl, and then stop.
You'll be going some to run an EV out of juice, such are the number of warnings you get. But it's worth knowing what to do should the worst happen. First things first, if you're down to your last 20% you should start looking for somewhere to top up - Zap Map is an excellent tool for this if your in-built system isn't up to scratch. This will reliably lead you to your nearest public charger, showing in real-time availability, charger status i.e. out of service or not, so you don't waste precious charge, and even help you to pay, since there's now a companion service called Zap-Pay.
The best advice is not to run out if you can help it. It's not safe and in the worst instances, you can damage the car's battery pack, as deep discharging will drastically shorten its life. If the worst happens, call your breakdown recovery service, as you would with a regular car. If they don't have a mobile recharge unit in place, they'll advise you that the car will need transporting to a chargepoint on the back of a flatbed truck. Whatever you do, don't allow them to tow your EV. It may damage the traction motors. You have been warned.
So, the advice is simple: just like a petrol or diesel car, it's best not to run out of power.
Do EVs cost more than petrol and diesel cars?
Prices are going down but there’s no two ways about it – an electric vehicle is currently more expensive than a comparable petrol or diesel car, whether buying outright or financing via PCP or lease.
What are resale values like of EVs?
The residual values for electric vehicles are not very strong, but are improving, so if you buy outright then you'll suffer heavy depreciation. This also affects a fleet manager's decision on whether to introduce EVs on to the fleet. This will change in the coming years as EVs become more accepted.
Are EVs really better for the environment?
There’s plenty of debate surrounding this but in short, electric vehicles are more environmentally friendly than a petrol or diesel car. While there’s plenty of CO2 involved in building them, particularly in mining the rare earth metals in the batteries, this is wiped out in just a few short years. The batteries are almost totally recyclable as well, and we expect to see this to improve in years to come as well.
EVs produce zero local emissions – that is to say, no fumes or exhaust like a combustion-engined car – and even if the electricity that powers them comes from a dirty source, total emissions are reduced compared to even the most efficient petrol or diesel car.
Better yet, an EV is as eco-friendly as the grid that powers it – and as the UK generates more of its electricity from renewable sources, EVs will become greener too. When’s the last time a diesel car became LESS polluting as it aged?
Useful links and further reading
- List of vehicles eligible for the government plug-in car grant
- Best electric cars and EVs guide: our sister site CAR magazine