Best small electric cars 2021: our pick of the battery babies

  • Our pick of the best small electric cars today
  • Compact EVs, small city cars, plug-in superminis
  • Tiny cars perfect for zero-emissions urban duty

Small electric cars make a lot of sense on many levels: the best urban runabouts are city cars and superminis which are easy to thread in and out of parking spaces and keep up with the hustle and bustle of town driving. It’s exactly the kind of environment where a zero-emissions electric motor can shine and where the range anxiety associated with battery-powered cars is less of a worry.

In this guide we talk you through the best small electric cars UK buyers can choose in 2021. We’ve road tested every single recommendation, so you can rest assured we’ve put these electric city cars and hatchbacks through their paces in the urban jungle. Here we detail their e-range, value for money and all-round ability.

Electric vehicles (EVs) remain more expensive than their petrol and diesel equivalents, owing to the high cost of batteries – but that premium is gradually eroding, as economies of scale kick in, technology costs fall and adoption grows. Read on to find out our pick of the best small electric cars 2021.

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Best small electric cars 2021

1. Volkswagen e-Up

2. BMW i3

3. Peugeot e-208

4. Fiat 500 Electric

5. Kia Soul EV

6. Vauxhall e-Corsa

7. Honda e

8. Renault Zoe

9. MINI Electric  

10. Renault Twizy

These cars are our favourite compact EVs and battery babies of 2021. Click on the shortcuts above to jump to each individual electric car.

1. VW E-Up

VW e-Up: one of the best small electric cars

Take one common or garden Volkswagen Up, electrify it and you have one of the smartest, simplest entry points into the EV marketplace. It’s undauntingly simple and feels easy to drive, with a small footprint meaning it’s stress-free to drive around town and won’t scare off technophobes. With a battery capacity of 33kWh, VW now claims a reasonable 159-mile electric range.

VW e-Up review

2. BMW i3

BMW i3: best small electric cars UK

BMW’s first all-electric production car has become a familiar sight on our roads and remains little changed seven years after launch. It still looks futuristic and high-tech – and for good reason. This is a cutting-edge design and uses F1-spec carbonfibre in its construction to save weight and eke out every extra mile out of its batteries’ capacity. The company quotes a 186-mile range on one charge. The BMW i3 is not a big car, but it is very tall so four adults will be perfectly comfortable onboard. Just watch out for a very small boot.

BMW i3 review

3. Peugeot e-208

Peugeot e-208 small electric car

The e-208 is a brilliant small electric car: compact enough to drive around town fearlessly, simple enough not to require a postgraduate degree in science to operate and with a stress-free range quoted as 211 miles on one charge, so you won’t be forever cursing the battery capacity. Peugeot has decided to offer its supermini in a choice of petrol, diesel or electric powertrains – and this means you can simply pick the energy solution that works best for your most common driving needs. Bravo.

Peugeot e-208 review

4. Fiat 500 Electric

Fiat 500 Electric: a classy compact EV

The new Fiat 500 is being launched as a standalone electric car – and the older model will continue to be sold as a petrol city car alongside it. Prices for the Fiat EV start at below £20,000 after the government’s Plug-in Car Grant and buyers can choose from a 24kWh battery (for 115 miles of range) or a larger 42kWh cell (for a quoted 199 miles). If you live and predominantly drive in a city, the smaller battery may well be enough but we suspect that many buyers may prefer the reassurance of the bigger unit. The Fiat 500 Electric is super-stylish outside and in and is also available as a convertible. In many regards, it’s the perfect electric city car. What’s not to like?

Fiat 500 Electric review

5. Kia Soul EV

Kia Soul: now electric only, with a decently long range

The latest, third-generation Kia Soul is exclusively an electric vehicle nowadays and no petrol or diesel versions are sold here. Under its distinctive, boxy design lie the EV innards of the excellent Kia e-Niro, so you get the same 64kWh battery and a 204hp electric motor for ample performance. The result? Kia claims 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds and a 280-mile quoted range potential. The icing on the cake of the Soul is how good it is to drive.

Kia Soul review

6. Vauxhall Corsa-e

A decent small electric car: Vauxhall Corsa-e

The first electric Corsa is a really smart choice and well suited to people wanting their first small electric car. You can’t currently buy a battery-powered Ford Fiesta or VW Polo, so Vauxhall has stolen a march for those wishing to plug in to a small EV. Fundamentally, the Corsa-e shares the hardware from the Peugeot e-208 and that means that its key stats are similar: a 50kWh battery, 209-mile e-range and charging times of as little as 30 minutes on a public rapid charger, or just over seven hours if you plug in at home.

Vauxhall Corsa-e review

7. Honda e

Best small electric cars 2021: the Honda e is full of character

The Honda e is the coolest little electric car on sale today – with cute, cartoonish design and a high-tech interior that boasts wall-to-wall digital displays instead of instruments. Even the door mirrors have been replaced by cameras and the central display has a built-in aquarium for a soothing, gaming vibe. It’s not all electro-gimmickry, though. The Honda e is a wonderful small car to drive, with a maturity to the way it goes, handles and stops - and the quality of interior is first-rate. Few small EVs make you feel as good. Just watch out for its small 36kWh battery and 125-mile quoted range (in theory, we never reached even 100 miles on our extended test when we lived with a Honda e for half a year). Watch out also for its tiny loadbay. 

Honda e review

8. Renault Zoe

Renault Zoe: one of the UK's favourite small EVs

The Zoe has been around for many years now and Renault has gradually evolved it into a sophisticated small electric car. Each successive upgrade has brought extra range and it now has more than enough electricity storage with a promised 250 miles of driving on each charge from the bigger 52kWh battery. The interior has been updated recently, but can’t quite match the quality of what you’ll find inside the cabin of a Honda e or Peugeot e-208. The Zoe has a similar footprint to its Clio sibling and is consequently very at home driving around town and is a worthy addition to our best small electric car list.

Renault Zoe review

9. MINI Electric

MINI Electric promises a lot of fun!

The Mini Electric is perhaps one of the coolest cars here; everyone loves the MINI’s fashionable shape – and this one carries across all the brand’s usual attributes (trendy looks, go-kart handling, premium feel) and bolts in some of the EV technology from the BMW i3. This makes for one of the quickest small electric cars on our shortlist, with 0-62mph times to rival many hot hatchbacks and fun dynamics to enjoy hustling across town. Downsides include a bumpy ride, a fairly cramped cabin and a minuscule boot.

Mini Electric review

10. Renault Twizy

The smallest electric car you can buy: the Renault Twizy

Want the smallest of small cars? Look no further than the Renault Twizy, which is technically more of a quadricycle than an electric city car – but it’s 100% EV and it’s utterly at home in the urban rat race. Half bike, half city car, the Twizy is great at threading across town but do remember that practicality is seriously limited and its 62-mile range may hinder progress too. A curveball to consider if funds are tight and you’re open-minded.

Renault Twizy review

Verdict

This raft of small electric cars in our guide are the finest compact EVs on sale today. Just remember that they will be most at home in town driving, where a smaller range will be less of a challenge, but that their smaller batteries may inhibit longer journeys and mean you have to plug in more regularly to charge up. Those with battery capacities over 45kWh will be best at coping with high-mileage duties.

Owing to their small size, many of the cars recommended have restricted boot capacity – so if you regularly need to carry lots of people or luggage, you may wish to upgrade to a bigger car. Read on for our separate advice articles for those seeking different types of electric cars. They come in all shapes and sizes! 

And don’t forget that every car on our list qualifies for support from the government’s electric car grants, which will subsidise the purchase price by up to £2500.

Further EV reading

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Best small cars 

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