Fastest electric cars for £40,000

Plug and play: the fastest electric cars for less than £40,000 or around £400 a month

James Mills
Sep 13, 2019

There’s a lot to like about electric cars. They don't contribute to roadside emissions like petrol and diesel models. And they can help reduce drivers’ running costs, as mile for mile, electricity costs significantly less than petrol or diesel. But there’s something else to like too: they’re fast.

As electric motors are able to deliver all their torque – that’s muscle to you and I – from a standstill, they are seriously speedy. Line up at the traffic lights alongside a bus or another driving who's trying to push in front of you and before you know it 30mph or even 60mph, has breezed by in near-silence.

So, for just a moment, setting aside the usual concerns when buying an electric car (such as price, battery capacity, range and charging time) here’s how the everyday electric vehicles shape up in a sprint.

We’ve looked at the new models priced at £40,000 or less, or around £400 per month when financed. All prices given include the plug-in car grant of £3,500. There is a wide selection, which is increasing surprisingly quickly, as nearly every car maker rushes to release their own electric car.



Fastest electric cars for under £40,000

1. Tesla Model 3

0-62mph 5.3 seconds
Range 254 miles

Tesla’s cheapest model is in a world of its own. For the sub-£40,000 mark, it’s by far and away the fastest, and most technologically advanced electric car on sale. Eager customers have been waiting five years for it, but right-hand-drive UK registered models are finally filtering through.

A 5.3-second 0-62mph time is sports car fast - matching the pricier Porsche Cayman - while a range of 254 miles between charges should be enough for most. The interior takes minimalism to new heights - everything is controlled by the supersized touchscreen media system, while the steering wheel has just two knobs. One to control audio and one to control the 'autopilot' self-driving system.

Tesla buyers' guides

2. BMW i3S

Latest BMW i3 S deals from £24,500
Monthly finance from £344
0-62mph in 6.9 seconds
Range 175 miles

It’s not big but it is clever. The BMW i3 is, in many respects, one of the most high-tech cars on sale today, regardless of whether powered by petrol, diesel or electricity.

Built from lightweight carbon-fibre, and featuring all manner of recycled and sustainably sourced materials in its construction, it is light and strong. This means its batteries – a modest 42kWh – don't need to expend so much energy moving it around, eking out a range of up to 175 miles.

Better still, the i3 S feels rapid. Off the line, it leaps away like a long-jumper going for a world-record, zipping from 0-62mph in just 6.9 seconds. That’s as fast as some hot hatchbacks. And with a rear-wheel drive chassis and direct steering, it feels just as responsive through twists and turns.

Only two things will hold you back - the flat seats that you're likely to slide out of if you take corners too fast and the narrow economy-boosting tyres, which don't offer the same grip as petrol-powered hot hatchbacks.

BWW i3 buyers' guide

3. Nissan Leaf e+

0-62mph in 7.3 seconds
Range 239 miles

Opt for the top-spec version of Nissan’s Leaf and you get more than just a larger battery with a longer driving range. You’ll enjoy impressive performance, with the ability to accelerate from 0-62mph in just 7.3 seconds.

That’s pretty impressive for a five-seat family hatchback. Acceleration dies off a bit as you pass 62mph, but the same can be said for most electric cars.

Nissan Leaf buyers' guide

4. Kia e-Niro

0-62mph 7.5 seconds
Range 282 miles

Kia is proud of the e-Niro. And not just because it can propel itself from a standstill to 62mph in 7.5 seconds. It’s one of the few electric cars capable of getting close to the driving range of a Tesla Model S, with the potential for more than 280 miles on a single charge. But just look at the price. At £32,995 for the plush First Edition versions, it’s far more affordable.

Sharing much that’s out of sight with the Hyundai Kona Electric (below), the e-Niro is a five-seat crossover that features plenty of tech. And with five seats and a boot that’s larger than a Nissan Qashqai’s, it’s as practical as it is green.

Kia Niro buyers' guide

5. Hyundai Kona Electric

Latest Hyundai Kona Electric deals from £37,490
Monthly finance from £568
0-62mph 7.6 seconds
Range 279 miles

Under the surface, the Kona shares much of its technology with the Kia e-Niro, although it’s housed in a slightly more striking shell.

There are two battery packs for drivers to choose from. The first is a 39kWh unit which can manage up to 180 miles if driven very gingerly. But it’s the larger, more expensive 64kWh versions that would be our choice, because they provide the Kona with a driving range of up to 279 miles.

Unsurprisingly, when fitted with the more powerful motor that comes with the larger battery, the attention-grabbing five-seat crossover is pretty fleet-footed. It can scoot from 0-62mph in just 7.6 seconds.

Hyundai Kona Electric buyers' guide

6. Kia Soul EV

0-62mph 7.9 seconds
Range 280 miles

There’s a new generation Kia Soul EV on the way, and that gives us a warm glow inside. The Soul has always been a likeable character, with more distinctive styling than its bland siblings.

The imaginatively named Soul EV – electric vehicle – is due to reach UK showrooms at the end of 2019. And its ingredients are promising. It uses the same 64kWh battery as other electric Kia and Hyundai models, which suggests it should have a driving range of up to 280 miles. It also means it will be nippy. The Korean company claims the new model will go from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds – faster than a comparable diesel SUV.

Kia buyer's guides

7. Volkswagen e-Golf

Latest Volkswagen e-Golf deals from £21,999
Monthly finance from £305
0-62mph 9.6 seconds
Range 44 miles

The electric Golf is a great hatchback, with most of the qualities that make the regular model so appealing. Plus there’s a side-helping of silent and effortless acceleration, courtesy of the car’s 36kWh battery and motor combo.

However, take a look at its acceleration time: 9.6 seconds to 62mph is nothing special. It shows that Kia and Hyundai have stolen a lead over Volkswagen in terms of making electric cars speedy and engaging to drive. But for how long remains to be seen.

Volkswagen e-Golf buyers' guide

8. Hyundai Ioniq

Latest Hyundai Ioniq Electric deals from £22,490
Monthly finance from £329
0-62mph 9.9 seconds
Range 174 miles

It might not seem especially brisk but the Ioniq Electric is noticeably faster than its hybrid sibling, which takes more than a second longer to accelerate from 0-62mph.

Perhaps this electric car’s selling point is that it’s simply a sensible family hatchback that doesn’t feel the need to resort to any fancy-pants-engineering or design to be noticed.

So those looking for a five-seat electric car with a good-size boot and the peace-of-mind of a five-year warranty, at an equally sensible price, should look no further. If only the (28kWh) battery and maximum, 174-mile range were a little better.

Hyundai Ioniq electric buyers' guide

9. Renault Zoe Z.E 40

Latest Renault Zoe deals from £7,990
Monthly finance from £133
0-62mph 11.4 seconds
Range 186 miles

Just because the Renault Zoe is bringing up the tail end of the field of our fastest electric cars for less than £40,000, don’t discount it. It’s a great compact hatchback, similar in size to a Clio or Ford Fiesta, and that makes it ideal for anyone after a smaller electric car.

And you know what? It still feels athletic enough, especially over the initial dash from 0-30mph, which takes 3.9 seconds. And it will happily keep up with everyday traffic all the way to main road speeds. Only once you have to go faster still does the motor feel a little on the modest side.

Renault Zoe buyers' guide


10. Smart ForTwo EQ

0-62mph 11.5 seconds
Range 70 miles

It’s the smallest electric car, with the smallest battery pack (just 17.6kWh) and the titchiest of interiors. But for some drivers, that’s what makes the ForTwo EQ perfect for them. Here is a super city car or nippy second car, one that can be parked in the blink of an eye and yet offer the safety levels of a much larger car in the event of a crash.

And for those who are just making local trips, its limited range of 70 miles won’t be a limiting factor.

Smart ForTwo buyers' guide


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