Currently reading: Top 10 Best Family Electric Cars 2021
These are the very best electric cars that effortlessly will fit into everyday life and carry the family and its paraphernalia.
Autocar
News
11 mins read
17 September 2021

Electric vehicles (EVs) have been a long time in rising to prominence, but they’ve now well and truly arrived, with more options available to buyers than ever before. Because the battery pack is usually hidden in the floor, most are SUVs, but there are some hatchbacks, saloons and even an estate to choose from as well.

Battery technology has come a long way, too, which has brought down prices of new EVs and also means that range anxiety is much less of a problem than it used to be. Charging infrastructure still leaves much to be desired, but if you can charge at home, you may never need to visit a public charger.

Add in the fact that EVs let you travel in silence and produce zero emissions, are exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge, and qualify for a government grant if they cost less than £40,000, and they start to become a truly viable alternative to petrol- or diesel-fuelled models. 

While we have yet to see many true driver’s cars with electric power, the instant, silent punch, uninterrupted by gearchanges that even fairly basic EVs offer, will surprise and delight many drivers used to conventional powertrains.

This is a list of our top 10 electric cars for families, compiled considering factors such as range, usability, driving dynamics and value for money. Some EVs are still subject to relatively high prices compared with combustion-engined cars, but their premiums can be offset against lower running costs.

1. Hyundai Ioniq 5

20 years ago, it would have been surprising to see a list like this dominated by Hyundai and Kia, but the Korean duo have not only managed to build a range of impressive mainstream cars, they were also quick out of the gate with electric versions of regular cars. 

The Ioniq 5 is the start of them getting truly serious about EVs, debuting a bespoke EV platform with 800V architecture. An 800V system allows for much faster charging and the only others doing something similar are the Porsche Taycan and Audi E-Tron GT. Pretty good company. It’s not just a technical exercise. The Ioniq 5 draws attention with its distinctive retro-futuristic design and modern, high-quality interior.

We were impressed with the rapid dual-motor version when we drove it. Although it is too big and soft to be truly engaging, it proved a lovely relaxing cruiser, with good noise suppression and a comfortable ride. Good packaging means that space in the back is more than generous, with a usable boot. The long-range rear-wheel drive version narrowly saw off the Skoda Enyaq in a recent group test, proving a more engaging drive and winning over our tester with its more daring design. 

The range starts from £36,995 for a 168bhp rear-wheel drive car with a 240-mile range, rising to £41,945 for a 281-mile, 214bhp version, and £45,145 for the 302bhp dual-motor range-topper.

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2. Skoda Enyaq iV

Skoda often takes Volkswagen Group mechanicals and wraps them up in an even more sensible, spacious package that’s better value to boot. So too with the Enyaq. It uses the same VW Group MEB electric ‘skateboard’ platform that underpins the VW ID 3 and ID 4, and the Audi Q4 E-Tron. Clever design choices ensure it hits a sweet spot in the EV SUV market, though.

It impresses with a roomy and cleverly thought-out cabin that is a match for the Audi’s on tangible quality and personalisation. The chassis set-up proved very mature during our road test: it won’t appeal to keen drivers, but medium firm and tightly controlled to inspire confidence, without any meaningful detriment to the range.

The 201bhp ‘80’ version we tested showed performance that should satisfy most drivers and the 333-mile range makes the Enyaq very usable on longer journeys, too. For the more budget-conscious, Skoda offers a ‘60’ model with a 58kWh battery pack that yields a 250-mile range. An even smaller 50 exists but isn’t available over here at the moment. The 80X Sportline adds a front motor for extra power and all-wheel drive and details of the range-topping vRS with 302bhp and all-wheel drive are to be announced soon.

Only the added character of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and a handful of awkward design decisions, some slightly annoying active safety features and a slightly mean standard equipment tally keep it from finishing at the very top of this list.

Save money on new Skoda Enyaq deals on What Car?

3. Kia e-Niro

The Kia e-Niro redefined how much real-world range and family-friendly usability we should now expect from an EV 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.

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It's now a few years old and looks a little dated, both inside and out, and Kia and Hyundai are starting to launch electric models on a dedicated rear-wheel drive platform that enables even faster charging. Nevertheless, its genre-challenging relationship between range, usability and affordability means it still scores very highly. It also pulls ahead of the technically related Hyundai Kona because the e-Niro is a thoroughly practical, dynamically well-resolved and pleasant-to-drive EV. It’s roomier than almost every other EV at the price, and it rides and handles with a greater level of sophistication and accomplishment than many of its rivals. It may lack some of the accelerative potency of its rivals, but as a well-rounded, truly usable affordable EV, the e-Niro is takes some beating.

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

4. Volkswagen ID 4

The ID 4 is the second Volkswagen to be launched on the group’s MEB platform, following on from the ID 3. It’s a bigger, pricier car than that earlier model, but also one that will play just as crucial a role in helping VW become a dominant player in the global EV market. The world is, after all, crazy for SUVs, and Volkswagen claims the ID 4’s packaging allows it to offer Touareg levels of practicality in a Tiguan-sized package. That sounds like a winning combo.

In practice, it works pretty well, too. There’s loads of space up front, and its 531-litre boot is larger than a Tiguan’s. Even better, since locating the battery under the floor allows for clever packaging, space in the rear is similar to a Mercedes E-Class. The only slight niggle is that it also means the rear bench sits a bit higher than you might like, which restricts head room.

Speaking of the battery, two sizes are available, and they correspond to the output of the rear-mounted electric motor. The 146bhp and 168bhp models come with a 52kWh unit, while the 201bhp model has a 77kWh battery that’s good for a WLTP range of 324 miles. A dual-motor, four-wheel-drive 295bhp GTX model tops the range, though it’s more of a fast cruiser than a true GTI for the electric age.

Performance of the normal 201bhp version is usefully brisk as well, and it’s very refined, even on big wheels. But there’s also enough character to ensure that it doesn’t leave you cold: neatly tuned control responses, sharp initial performance, interesting little design cues and a sense of maturity on the move.

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The ID 4 offers a neat, simplified and intuitive electric-car experience, though the interior ergonomics have been simplified a bit too much. Despite a very appealing ambiance inside the ID 4, the loss of most buttons means it’s not very user-friendly – a common complaint with modern Volkswagens.

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5. Ford Mustang Mach-E

The Blue Oval was a little late to the full-sized electric car market, but has made something of a splash in any case by appropriating its much-loved Mustang sub-brand for its first battery-electric production model. The Mustang Mach-E isn't a square-jawed muscle coupé, though, but a proper five-seater with an appealing-looking crossover bodystyle, as well as impressive real-world range potential and a more affordable price than some of the cars listed here.

It's available from just over £40,000 in the UK, so it’s not as affordable as the badge suggests. If you want the WLTP-accredited 379-mile Extended Range version, you’ll need almost £50,000. However, it's a proper, usable family car that beats premium rivals by up to 30% on both claimed range and value. 

In Extended Range RWD form, Ford’s first proper EV doesn’t dazzle with warp-speed acceleration. Instead it is the chassis that brings driving satisfaction, with its appreciable poise and playfulness when the moment takes you. Outright fun? Like its rivals, the Ford is too heavy for that, and its steering too synthetic, but this is the most pleasing driver’s car of its ilk.

Fears that the Mach-E would be very much ‘style over substance’ are further dispelled by what is a truly spacious and airy cabin, even if the look of the place is somewhat unimaginative and perceived quality a rung or two below what you’ll find in European rivals.

Save money on new Mustang Mach E deals from What Car?

6. Volkswagen ID 3

As Volkswagen looks to move on from the fallout of Dieselgate, the ID 3 kicked off the brand’s rehabilitation. This Golf-sized hatchback thus became the first to use the MEB platform, an entirely fresh rear-engined architecture. That gives the ID 3 a long wheelbase, boosting cabin space, and it is powered by a rear-mounted motor with up to 201bhp and 229lb ft. It launched with two battery sizes: 58kWh pack lends a WLTP range of 261 miles, while the larger, pricier 77kWh battery ups that to 340 miles. Since then, VW has also added an entry-level ‘Pure Performance’ version with a 45kWh battery, which is rated for 218 miles and costs less than £30,000. 

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It excels in terms of manoeuvrability and low-speed response and, although heavy by compact car standards and sitting on wheels as big as 20in in diameter, it would seem to hit the company’s high standards for ride sophistication, too. Handling is surprisingly agile, balanced and nimble, despite a fair bit of body roll. It is also let down by its interior, which doesn’t have the same feeling of quality we used to expect from VW, and suffers from the same clunky and slow infotainment system as most modern Volkswagen Group products.

Save money on new ID 3 deals from What Car?

7. Kia EV6

Kia’s sister model to the Hyundai Ioniq 5 uses the same 800V E-GMP platform with the potential for 350kW charging and a 577bhp range-topping EV6 GT model. Although the range starts with a more family-friendly 226bhp model, it’s positioned as a sportier car than the Hyundai from the off.

We’ve only driven a late-stage prototype in 321bhp dual-motor spec, so we’ll need some more time with it to reach a definitive verdict, but we were very impressed anyway, and the EV6 might still rise in this list once we’ve driven a production-spec car in the UK.

There’s a pleasing directness and feedback to the steering that belies the EV6’s size and 2015kg kerb weight. It also turns and corners with relative gusto, helped by the rear-focused set-up of the AWD system. The ride can feel a little skittish at the rear, although Kia is still performing final tuning on the adaptive suspension’s innovative frequency selective dampers.

The interior also feels like a major step forward for Kia, and introduces a new design language for the brand. There’s plenty of space in there, and lots of practical touches such as the large centre console that hosts some key functions and plenty of storage elements. The comfortable seats are clothed in fabric made from recycled water bottles.

Prices are set to start from £40,895, so it’s at the premium end of the market, but that base model does already come with 226bhp and 77.4kWh battery for 328 miles of range, so there might be no need to upgrade at all.

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8. 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.

UK prices start from £34,945 after the UK government incentive, so the car will be only a few thousand pounds cheaper than the Kia e-Niro, which offers slightly more in the way of practicality. It's one of the pricier compact EVs on the market, clearly, but has more alternative styling appeal than the e-Niro and should easily attract people who can afford to pay a premium and don’t need quite as much space as an e-Niro affords.

Save money on new Soul deals from What Car?

9. Hyundai Kona Electric

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

By wielding what must be a sizable competitive advantage on battery buying power, Despite being a few years old, its range is still impressive, especially for the price. It has enough capacity for more than 250 miles of range at typical UK motorway speeds, and more than 300 at a slightly slower clip or around town. Hyundai seemed to be able to imbue its first EVs with efficiency matched only by Tesla, even though they’re based on combustion cars.

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. But if you want outright range for a small outlay, this is probably still where to get it.

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10. Nissan Leaf

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

Battery capacity has been boosted so that, in standard guise, the Nissan has a WLTP-certified range of 168 miles - still not much by today’s standards. However, this rises 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. Its interior is starting to look and feel pretty dated, though.

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 £2500 PiCG grant into account cement the car’s strengths.

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captainaverage 20 September 2021
Why have you quoted WLTP range figures for some cars, and your own guesstimate for others?

For example, that Enyaq 58kWh will only achieve the claimed 258 miles if you start at the top of a very large hill, or drive everywhere at 40mph. Whereas the quoted 230 miles for the E-Niro (a realistic figure for motorway driving in poor weather conditions) is some way short of its WLTP figure of 282 miles.