The electric hatchback has come on in leaps and bounds over the last five years. 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 some cases, real-world range has doubled and that price premium has almost disappeared.
This is a list of our top ten electric hatchbacks compiled considering factors such as range and usability, driving dynamics and affordability. Some are still subject to relatively high prices compared to normal cars, but they can be offset by lower relative running costs.
Best electric hatchbacks 2018
Perhaps the biggest complement you can pay the e-Golf is that it feels much like any other Golf. It occupies the same dimensions as other seventh-generation five-door models and, aside from a slight reduction in boot space due to the underfloor lithium ion batteries, is just as practical.
The e-Golf is powered by a 134bhp motor that delivers 199lb ft of torque, with 33.2kWh of usable battery capacity offering a range of up to 186 miles. Performance is as strong as you’d expect to find in any typical five-door hatchback, and considerably better at town speeds, while the car’s handling disguises its mass very cleverly and practicality is first-rate,
The e-Golf as easy to use and uncompromised as any mass-market, pure-electric car can be right now – which is why it’s our current class champion.
The Zoe was a viable option as an everyday vehicle when it was offered with a 22kWh battery with a 80 mile range – and that practicality has been enhanced by a new 41kWh option that has a claimed 250 mile range, and is easily good for 150 miles in mixed real-world use.
The Zoe offers outstanding value for money against its competitors, and is also pleasing to drive, quiet and classy – albeit with a somewhat leaden feel.
The battery hire spreads the cost, and the price includes installation of a fast-charge port at home. Unlike other EVs, the car isn’t one that can be rapid-charged via a DC motorway charger, and that does erode its usability somewhat. But that aside, the Zoe is a fine entry point into EV ownership.
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 it’s designed for.
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, although its top speed is only 99mph, its strong performance getting there wouldn’t shame a warm hatchback.
That said, extracting such performance does impact on the car’s electric range, which in our tests varied between 68 and 94 miles.
Opt for the range-extender version, which adds a two-cylinder petrol engine and you can achieve around 150 miles between stops, turning the i3 into a truly viable go-anywhere vehicle; albeit an expensive and relatively impractical one.
The EV version does without the independent multi-link rear suspension of the others, in order to pack in a bigger lithium ion battery pack giving a claimed range of 174 miles.
The Ioniq EV produces just 118bhp, but with 218lb ft of torque it can reach 62mph in under 10 seconds. Driving dynamics aren’t bad, but won’t set your pulse racing: the steering has reasonable weight but is somewhat vague, and this is a car happiest being driven within its limits.
As EVs go, the Ioniq is practical and good value with decent usable range, and worth considering against rivals such as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3 if you're going to make regular use of the back seats and boot.
The original Ampera was a range-extender with separate petrol engine, but the model name has now been applied to a smaller, purely electric hatchback.
It features a notably high-capacity battery pack, with 288 cells delivering 60kWh, enough for a class-leading claimed range of 323 miles (236 miles on more realistic WLTP tests).
The car’s seating-position is MPV-high, the interior is stylish and there’s good rear leg room and a decent 381-litre boot. With 201bhp and 266lb ft of torque it’s pleasing to drive, and it’s good value for money.
The catch? It’s currently European-market only and is unlikely ever to come to the UK under the Vauxhall brand. But as a left-hand drive import, it would be well worth considering.
The original version of Nissan’s electric hatchback is on the eve of replacement by a newer model – a well-timed move, since the 2011 version is beginning to show its age.
At launch it was among the very first widely available EVs on the market and had a claimed range of 124 miles, which increased to 155 miles with a 30kWh battery in 2016.
It’s a strong town car, with ample room for a family of four, and became increasingly competitively priced in later life, but its age shows against better handling, better performing rivals.
Based on the conventionally powered version of the Soul hatchback, the EV gets revamped styling and a reworked, more rigid structure.
The single trim option includes an 8.0in touchscreen and other features. Power is drawn from a 27kWh battery, giving a range of 132 miles for the 109bhp electric motor.
The whole package feels dated: it doesn’t ride or handle brilliantly, and it’s not substantially cheaper than newer rivals with greater range and dynamic ability.
As with the e-Golf, Volkswagen has based this EV on its existing city car in order to drive down costs through shared parts.
And driving the e-Up feels familiar to those versed with the conventional version: the 81bhp motor sits up front, and the additional weight of the 230kg, 18.7kWh battery pack doesn’t affect the ride, even if the steering lacks feel. Claimed range is 75-100 miles.
Mechanically well-executed, but the compact size makes it an expensive option.
These are rebadged versions of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which dates from the early days of production EVs.
They’re cleverly packaged, and don’t compromise on the things that make city cars useful: they have four doors, room for four occupants and decent boots.
But they show their age, with a top speed of 88mph and a real-world range of around 93 miles.
But its ambitions and capacities are limited by size and price, and claimed 95 mile range doesn’t rank alongside the EV class leaders.
It’s also hindered by below par handling and unsettled ride, issues that also affect non-electric Smart models.