We run down the very best affordable electric city cars, superminis and family hatchbacks on sale today
9 April 2020

Electric cars have certainly been a long time in rising to prominence, but this looks like the year when they finally might hit the big time. And why wouldn’t they? An electric vehicle (EV) lets you travel in silence and produces zero emissions. You don't have to pay road tax, London dwellers don’t need to worry about the Congestion Charge, and the government will even give you a grant to buy one

As the range between mains charges increases and the charging infrastructure improves, an EV becomes a more viable alternative to petrol- or diesel-fuelled models almost by the month. Choice has been slow to grow so far, but is set to mushroom in 2020 as debutant EVs from Mini, Honda, Peugeot and others all arrive.

Having first appeared around ten years ago, the market’s first EVs were cars with around 80 miles of usable range, priced at a 50 per cent premium over their petrol-fuelled counterparts. Today, in many cases, real-world range has more than doubled and that price premium has almost disappeared.

This is a list of our top ten affordable electric cars compiled considering factors such as range and usability, driving dynamics and value for money. Some are still subject to relatively high prices compared to combustion-engined cars, but their premiums can be offset against lower running costs

Best Affordable Electric Cars 2020

1. Kia e-Niro

The Kia e-Niro redefines how much real-world range and family-friendly usability we should now expecting from an electric vehicle towards the more affordable end of the price spectrum. For around £35,000, the car’s 64kWh battery pack enables it to comfortably travel 230 miles on a single charge; and further still if you stay off the motorway or around town. A few years ago, that would be the sort of range you’d be expecting from something far pricier, and probably with a Tesla badge on its nose

Our Verdict

Volkswagen e-Golf

Volkswagen e-Golf is typically understated and classy in a world of original and unique looking electric vehicles

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That genre-challenging relationship between range and affordability isn’t the sole reason why the e-Niro now crowns this list. Indeed if it was, the Hyundai Kona would be right up there, too. Where e-Niro pulls ahead, though, is that it also remains a thoroughly usable, practical, pleasant-to-drive electric vehicle. It’s roomier than almost every other EV at the price, and it rides and handles with a greater level of sophistication and accomplishment. It may lack some of the accelerative potency of it rivals, but as a well-rounded, truly usable affordable electric vehicle, the e-Niro is going to take some beating.

Save money on new e-Niro deals from What Car?

2. Volkswagen ID 3

As Volkswagen looks to move on from the fallout of Dieselgate, the ID 3 is set to take centre-stage as the marque’s environmentally friendly wunderkind. This Golf-sized hatchback also gets the new ‘ID’ sub-brand off the mark, and aims to do so with the kind of mass-market sophistication and class-leading usability for which Volkswagen is rightly famed.

Built on an entirely fresh rear-engined platform, the ID 3 benefits from a long wheelbase, boosting cabin space, and is powered by a rear-mounted motor with 201bhp and 229lb ft. Initial impressions of a prototype driven in 2019 suggest it excels in terms of maneuverability and low-speed response, and would seem to hit the company’s high standards for ride sophistication too.

Prices are yet to be confirmed, but the ID 3 is likely to sit at the upper end of the EV hatchback class, with the entry-level model (with the 58kWh battery) costing just under £30,000 (after PiCG) and the 77kWh version, which ought to manage 300 miles range in the real-world, costing closer to £35,000.

Save money on new Volkswagen deals from What Car?

3. Peugeot e-208

The all-electric version of the 208 supermini is one of several PSA Group compact EVs coming to market this year. As these words were written, it was the only one (next to the related DS3 Crossback E-Tense and Vauxhall Corsa-e) that we’d driven on UK roads. And for its mix of usable range, performance, value, practicality, style, perceived quality and driver appeal, it clearly deserves to figure highly if you’re shopping for your first electric car this year.

Unlike more low-rent-feeling EVs, the car’s materially rich interior distinguishes it just as clearly as the stylish bodywork. Practicality is on a par with the Renault Zoe and better than in a Mini Electric, refinement beats both of those key rivals also, and performance is fairly strong.

The car rides with a suppleness missing from some smaller EVs, which often struggle to contain their body mass on the road. The steer steers with striking directness, although body control deteriorates a little bit if you drive more enthusiastically. Even so, it’s the roundedness of the e-208’s driving experience that really impresses.

Real-world range is good for 170 miles of mixed use, although it may be slightly lower if you spend extended periods of time at motorway speeds. For a car this size and price, that’s commendable.

Save money on new 208 deals from What Car?

4. Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh

Until quite recently, an electric car good enough to combine a genuine 300-mile daily-use range with a sub-£30,000 price point seemed an awfully long way off. The Hyundai Kona Electric made it a reality only a couple of years ago, however; quite a coup for its aspiring Korean maker.

By wielding what must be a sizable competitive advantage on battery buying power, Hyundai has delivered this car to the road with a sizable advantage on onboard electrical storage than plenty of the car’s it’s rivalled by in this list. That’s enough for more than 250 miles of range at typical UK motorway speeds, or more than 300 at a slightly slower clip or around town. And, in this car, it comes packaged with much stronger accelerative performance than its nearest rivals. The Kona Electric is quick enough, even, to live with some hot hatchbacks away from the traffic lights.

That the car’s slightly low-rent, restrictive interior doesn’t make it quite the match of a full-sized family hatchback on practicality is a bit of a disappointment. Also, there’s some frustration to be found in the car’s ride and handling, which both feel somewhat compromised by its weight and the low-friction tyres it uses. But if you want outright range for a small outlay, this is probably still where to get it.

Save money with new Kona deals from What Car?

5. Mini Electric

Mini has been a long time preparing to enter the electric car market; but now that it finally has, it has certainly brought all of the fun factor you expect of the brand - albeit packaged with a few equally typical usability restrictions.

Based exclusively on the three-door Mini bodyshell, the Mini Electric adopts the powertrain from the BMW i3S, giving it a very healthy 181bhp and 199lb ft of torque. Performance is notably stronger than many of the cars you might compare it with in this list, while handling is grippy and darty and agile in the enduring dynamic traditions of the Mini brand.

Range is the catch. Mini claims 144 miles; in reality, depending on how and where you drive it, you’re more likely to get between 100- and 120-. And that’s in a car with a pretty small boot, whose back seats are tricky to access and little use for anyone but younger kids in any case.

This clearly isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ sort of electric offering, but it’s priced surprisingly competitively and, if its limitations aren’t bothersome to you, could be the very car to show you how rewarding electric motoring can be.

Save money with new Mini deals from What Car?

6. Kia Soul EV

Kia’s boxy compact crossover is back for a third-generation, but this time around the Soul will be offered exclusively as an electric vehicle in European markets.

While not particularly sporty, it rides well, performs strongly and doesn’t make too much of a point of its 1682kg kerb weight. And because it makes use of the same powertrain as the slightly bigger e-Niro, it promises a WLTP-certified range of 280 miles when equipped with a 64kWh battery. It’s rather convenient, then, that this is the only battery Kia will offer here in Britain when it goes on sale next year.

UK prices start from £33,795 after the UK government incentive, so the car will only be a few thousand pounds cheaper than the Kia e-Niro, which offers slightly more in the way of practicality. It has more alternative styling appeal than the e-Niro, however, and should easily appeal to people who don’t need quite as much space as its showroom relation affords.

Save money with new Soul deals from What Car?

7. Nissan Leaf

The Nissan Leaf, in first-generation form, set the mould for the affordable electric car approaching a decade ago – and in new second-generation form, it’s still right in amongst the list of contenders who are following in its tread marks.

Having had a 25 per cent boost on battery capacity, the Nissan now leads some of its rivals with a WLTP-certified range of 168 miles - rising to more than 200 in the case of the range-topping 64kWh 'e+' version. It’s also got significantly more power and torque than its direct predecessor; performs fairly keenly; feels like a more rounded car to drive generally; and has one of the strongest showings here on daily-use practicality for a small family.

A value proposition that’s also improved, and is now on a par with that of a mid-market, conventionally fuelled family hatchback once you take the government’s £3000 PiCG grant into account, cement the car’s strengths. It’s our default recommendation for anyone looking to simply replace their fossil-fuelled family hatchback with an electric one well-capable of doing the same job – and doing it well.

Save money with new Leaf deals from What Car?

8. Renault Zoe

The Renault Zoe was always an appealing short-hopper electric supermini, even when it was offered with a 22kWh battery and had only 80 miles of real-world range. The car’s usability was enhanced during a mid-life update, however, by a 41kWh battery option which, on a warm day, turns the car into one good for 150 miles of mixed real-world use.

Now there is a comprehensively updated version with a significantly refreshed design plus a 52kWh battery and up to 245 miles of range on the WLTP cycle; or around 180- to 200- in mixed real-world use. It still offers strong value for money against its competitors, with the UK government’s PiCG incentive bringing the car’s entry price down to around £25,000. It’s also still pleasing to drive: very nippy and fairly quiet – albeit with some leaden feel to the controls.

Finally, whereas previously the Zoe couldn’t be rapid-charged at the motorway services quite as quickly as certain rivals, CCS fast charging is now an option, meaning the Zoe remains a fine entry point into EV ownership.

Save money with new Zoe deals from What Car?

9. Honda E

Honda has taken a leftfield approach with its first all-electric car, the Honda E supermini - which is unusually compact for an electric car, and innovative in several ways. A rear-mounted motor promises packaging efficiency (although the car itself fails a little to follow through with it) while all-independent suspension heralds the ride and handling sophistication of a bigger car (which the car does a deal better to actually supply).

The car’s available in 134- and 151bhp forms, but neither has quite the battery capacity of rivals: 35.5kWh ‘gross’ is all you get here, which makes for claimed WLTP range of 137 miles maximum (with the car rolling on 16in wheels). In testing, we struggled to get much more than 100- from our 17in-equipped test car.

To drive, the Honda E feels plush, composed and easy to operate, with medium-paced steering but a tight turning circle, and moderate but responsive performance. It doesn’t excite but would make a relaxing city car, albeit one with even less usable space than a Mini Electric; and its alternative styling should also do much to recommend it.

Save money with new Honda deals from What Car?

10. BMW i3

The i3 has a rare quality for an electric car: multi-faceted appeal. You might want one because of the way it looks, or for the spritely, involving way it drives; and either way, you might not actually care much that it’s electric, such is the power of the car’s various lures.

While the i3’s short wheelbase can make it feel a touch nervous on motorways, its keen handling ensures it thrives in the urban environment for which it’s designed.

That’s helped by its innovative carbonfibre-reinforced plastic chassis, which ensures the car is remarkably light. The 168bhp electric motor (rising to 181bhp for the i3S) offers peak torque at zero revs; and so, although the car’s top speed is only 99mph, it has strong performance getting there which wouldn’t shame a warm hatchback.

Using that performance does impact on the car’s true electric range, although the addition of a 42.2kWh battery at the beginning of 2019 has finally taken the i3 through the 150-mile barrier on real-world range.

Until recently BMW offered a range-extender version with a backup petrol engine, but it discontinued the i3 REX in 2018.

Save money with new i3 deals from What Car?

Read more:

10 Best Premium Electric Cars 2020

10 Best Hybrid Hatchbacks 2020

Join the debate

Comments
17

1 March 2019

Very little or indeed no mention of resale residue values of Electric vehicles,I would assume  very poor due to battery degredadation and  battery lease arrangements,am I correct?

 

 

 

12 December 2019
Yeah, from experience I can tell you this is true. Battery degradation isn't really an issue though. The problem is that cars with better range are now on the market and are of course more desirable.

Who wants to buy an electric car with 80 or 100 usable miles when you can get cars with 50% better range that are arguably better looking (taking the leaf as an example).

22 April 2019

You forgot to mention Kia Niro. It is a bit more expensive than Hyundai Kona, but more practical thanks to bigger luggage capacity. All in all, a nice family EV.

Also I would like to share my electric car comparison website — EV Compare.It is an international electric car database, marketplace and community.I've created it to debunk EV myths and accelerate transition to electric vehicles.Please, give it a look. 

Thank you.

2 August 2019

I looked at an electric car (the Kia Niro and Hyundai Kona). Nice they were too with a reasonable turn of speed. What did I buy?

Petrol Ateca.

Why?

There really aren't any recharging points where I live (relatively rural but still a decent sized town) and none at my workplace.

To have an electric charging point fitted would cost me BIG due to the layout of my house and to be completely honest, I think the technology needs to mature more (and come down in price).

Then the Government need to commit to improving the infrastructure for charging (which is more than simply adding more plugs about the place and probably includes building more power stations).

I really wanted to go electric, but there is too much compromise for me and many people in my situation for it to be a viable choice for now.

12 December 2019

It would be good if people read the article before critising it. Plugging the own website is a poor idea. I personally would not trust it from the above comment.

12 December 2019

The article says this is a list of the top 10 EVs 'on sale in Britain today' but includes the VW ID3 and Kia Soul, both of which are 'yet to have their price confirmed'. So, not on sale then!

8 April 2020

They have to include a VW in order to pay the bills. Thats how this site works, everything German gets great reviews.

12 December 2019

A correction for the Zoe entry.  The new 50kwh version will not have a battery lease option. Renault say because residual values are now good enough not to need this option (improved PCP deals / less worry about battery degradation).  

2020 will be a very interesting year because of a lot of new EVs and also improved versions of existing models will be interesting to see what this competition does to the cost of ownership, which for some is certainly a legitimate barrier.  IF a manufacturer is really serious about moving to EVs they will no doubt be creative if not they are still just playing the compliance game.  This time though new EU emissions regulations will play its part .

 

13 December 2019
Kind of arbitrary that the definition cuts off just before the Model 3, which should really be at the top of the list. There's a £7.5k gap between it and the base i3, potentially a smaller gap to the VW ID3, and no gap at all to some cars on the list when they're optioned up to a more competitive spec (eg. Nissan Leaf e+ Tekna).

...Whereas there's a £22k gap between the base Model 3 and the cheapest luxury EVs, such as the I-Pace. Even the Performance Model 3 is priced below that end of the market. The Tesla clearly belongs on this list rather than that one.

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Also find it continually irritating that the mention of the BMW i3's relatively great handling is only described in the context of city driving. You don't need to stay in the city with 160 miles of range, it's perfectly capable on twisty country roads.

20 December 2019

Wow, that's a great article and I love to read about the cars because I love to drive cars and in these 10 cars, 4 cars are in my favorite cars list. Well, I was searching for some  and I found your post. Actually, I got some dissertation work from my college and now I found topics mill website for my work and i think it is the best website for the topics I have ever seen.

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