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Electric cars: the cheapest to purchase

  • We reveal the cheapest electric cars on sale
  • All offer low running costs and easy recharging
  • Could one of these tempt you into an electric car?

Electric cars have existed since the dawn of motoring in the late-1800s, but it’s only in recent years that car buyers are taking a greater interest in them.

Developments in battery technology have gradually extended the range – the potential driving distance between recharges – meaning electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming viable alternatives to petrol- and diesel-engined cars for more drivers.

Not only do electric cars produce no CO2 emissions, meaning there’s no VED car tax charge or London Congestion Charge to pay, the government will give buyers up to £3,500 towards the cost of them through the Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG).

The cheapest electric cars on sale now

We’ve saved you the trouble of running your batteries low by rounding up the cheapest electric cars on sale. Could one of these spark your interest enough to become your next car?

Read next: The Parkers electric car guide 

Kia Soul EV

Kia Soul - best electric cars

Now in its second generation, petrol- and diesel-powered versions of the Kia Soul already look unusual, so the conversion to EV format only has subtle changes to visually enhance it.

A re-profiled nose section, EV-specific alloy wheels, and an interior fitted out with white and pale grey materials give this Soul its own identity.

There’s less boot space and rear legroom than in the regular Kia Soul as the batteries are housed at the back. They’re big too offering a fine 132-mile range but will take over 10 hours to recharge on a normal domestic mains set-up.

Like the others in this quintet, the Kia Soul EV is a doddle to drive smoothly, making especially light work of the trudge of urban driving. Once again braking energy is recovered and stored as electricity in the battery pack.

It’s not cheap either at more than £25k even with the PiCG deducted, but it’s very well-equipped for the money.

Lease a Kia Soul EV from £240 per month

Domestic charge time*: 10-14 hours
Boot size: 281 litres
Equipment highlights: With its own dedicated EV specification, this Soul comes with cruise control, DAB radio, reversing camera, 16-inch alloy wheels, climate control and an eight-inch touchscreen with sat-nav.

Peugeot Ion

Peugeot Ion - best electric cars

All is not quite as it seems with the Peugeot Ion electric car, principally because it’s not really a Peugeot at all – it’s a rebadged version of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which to complicate matters further, is also sold as the Citroen C-Zero.

Compared to newer electric cars, it’s clear to see how technology has moved on with a range of just 93 miles claimed by Peugeot, although it’ll only take seven hours to recharge its modest battery pack.

There’s space inside the Ion for four, but the narrow bodywork makes it a tad cosy as well as making it feel less stable to drive than the cheaper Renault Zoe.

Lease a Peugeot Ion from £277 per month

Range: 93 miles
Domestic charge time*: 7 hours
Boot size: 166 litres
Equipment highlights: 15-inch alloy wheels, climate control, privacy glass, automatic headlights and electric windows.

Read next: The best hybrid cars

Smart Fortwo EQ

Smart Fortwo Electric Drive - cheap electric cars

The fourth-generation of the battery-powered Smart Fortwo remains ideal for city dwellers, with its notoriously tiny turning circly (6.95m) remaining, and just one gear. 

We prefer the electric iteration over the petrol engines, as the 81hp and 160Nm of torque are available from a standstill, meaning this little car is extremely nippy around city roads and away from traffic lights. 

Smart claims you can get 100 miles between charges. A depleted battery will need six hours to charge to 80% from a normal domestic socket, or two and a half hours from a professionally installed wallbox. From 2018 a version featuring a 22kW charger will reduce this time to 45 minutes – worth bearing in mind if you plan to buy a Fortwo Electric Drive as soon as it comes out.

Despite its tiny size, you still have enough legroom for two adults, plus 350-litres in the boot, too. The battery doesn’t take up room as it is hosted under the body in the centre of the car. 

At the time of writing, we don’t have a price for the new Smart Fortwo Electric Drive. 

Lease a Smart Fortwo EQ from £308 per month

Domestic charge time*: Six hours for 80%
Boot size: 350 litres
Equipment highlights: The three standard trim levels remain but with the electric car you get a special dashboard-mounted power meter. Heated steering wheel is an option, plus an Electric Drive styling pack which adds green paint to the Tridion safety cell and door mirrors.

Renault Zoe

Renault Zoe - best electric cars

Forget the not-really-suitable-for-Britain Twizy two-seater and the Renault Zoe is the cheapest electric car you can buy in Britain, from just £13,995 when the £4,500 PiCG has been deducted.

That attractive price masks one key factor with the Zoe – you have to lease the battery pack under a separate arrangement, with prices ranging from £49 to £110 per month depending on the length of the agreement and annual mileage.

Sweetening the deal is the inclusion of a faster-charging domestic wall box that could reduce a full recharge to just three hours. Clever on-board technology also recuperates energy when slowing or braking, storing it in the battery pack, which could give up to 130 miles of driving.

Similar in size to the more conventional Clio, the Renault Zoe is a spacious and safe five-door hatchback, boasting a five-star Euro NCAP crash rating, with lots of eye-catching detailing such as slender headlights, LED tail lights and a charging socket behind the Renault nose badge.

Lease a Renault Zoe from £325 per month

Domestic charge time*: 3-4 hours from wall box included in price
Boot size: 338 litres
Equipment highlights: climate control which can be operated remotely, cruise control, 15-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and a seven-inch infotainment touchscreen.

Want a used electric car? Here are the best used electric cars

Volkswagen e-Up

VW e-Up -best electric cars

Unlike the Zoe and Leaf, the e-Up is an electric version of the otherwise petrol-powered Volkswagen Up city car rather than a purpose-designed EV.

Available only with the more practical five-door body, the four-seater e-Up’s batteries are housed low down within the VW’s underpinnings ensuring that ride and handling remain positive attributes. Energy recovery ensures the batteries capture electricity which would otherwise be wasted to be used to re-power the car.

Visual differences from the regular Up are minimal and limited to LED day running lights in the front bumper and EV-specific instrumentation.

At £19,750 after the PiCG deduction, the e-Up looks on the pricey side but batteries are included as part of the package.

Lease a Volkswagen e-Up from £329 per month

Domestic charge time*: 9 hours
Boot size: 250 litres
Equipment highlights: Based on the higher specification levels, e-Up comes with cruise control, heated seats, sat-nav, climate control, parking sensors and an electrically-heated windscreen.

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