Smallest electric cars

The smallest electric cars are fun to drive and cheap to run, and they’re becoming ever more affordable to purchase, too

Joe Holding
Mar 18, 2021

If you want a zero-emission car that is great fun to drive and cheap to run, then the smallest electric cars are likely to tick those boxes. Electric cars accelerate quickly at town speeds - with no delay between accelerating and the electric motor responding - and because they’re not big or heavy, they’re also often very agile. So they’re a hoot to get around in.

Meanwhile, it’s much cheaper to run a car on electricity than it is on normal fuel. As long as you can charge up at home, most electric cars will return running costs of around three pence per mile. This is roughly a third of the cost of the most efficient petrol and diesel vehicles.

While it’s true that the smallest electric cars aren’t blessed with range (their smaller batteries are designed for city dwellers and short-distance drivers), they’re perfect for trips to the shops and for doing the school run - and an increasing number offer a claimed range of more than 200 miles per charge. 

That means that an electric car already might work fine as an only-car for many drivers - even if you occasionally head out on a long journey. Meanwhile, many two-car families use an electric car to get from A to B, and then leave the longer journeys to a hybrid car, or something more conventional.

So if a small electric car sounds like the perfect runabout, but you’re not blessed with a huge garage or driveway space, these are the smallest in order of length.

Smallest electric cars

1. Smart EQ ForTwo

Used deals from £10,654
Monthly finance from £174*
 Dimensions 2,695mm long

The Smart EQ ForTwo is the smallest electric car going right now on account of the fact that it’s a two-seater. So while you can’t use it as a family car, it should feel nippy enough and with power being sent to the rear wheels, this allows a very tight turning circle, making it incredibly nimble.

It’ll do 0-62mph in 11.9 seconds, and while this is nothing to write home about, the thing to remember about electric cars is that they’re usually very quick over the first 0-30mph, tailing off thereafter, as the electric motors - whether they're powerful or not - respond very quickly when you press the accelerator. So when you’re in town and 30mph is the most you can do anyway, this isn’t a problem.

There’s 260-litres of boot space in the back of the EQ ForTwo (this is true of both Coupe and Cabrio models), and you’ll get up to 82 miles of range from a single charge. This means that the tiny Smart EQ ForTwo is much more suited to darting around town with zero emissions rather than long motorway trips.

SMART FORTWO BUYERS’ GUIDE

2. Smart EQ ForFour

Used deals from £10,900
Monthly finance from £175*
 Dimensions 3,495mm long

If four seats is a must, then how about the Smart EQ ForFour instead? On BuyaCar these cars aren’t much more expensive - if at all - than Smart’s two-seater above, but offer twice the number of seats, as the name suggests. Factor in the low costs from charging as well and you’ve got yourself an incredibly cheap package.

The 81hp motor and 17.2kWh battery are the same as in the EQ ForTwo, so the EQ ForFour only loses a tiny amount of range despite its bulkier proportions. Even though it’s longer, those extra seats eat into the available space, so you’ll only get 185 litres of stuff into the boot.

If you have a dedicated charging unit installed at home you could top up the battery from empty in under three hours. Find yourself a faster public charger and a full top-up should take just 55 minutes.

SMART FORFOUR BUYERS’ GUIDE

3. Seat Mii electric

Used deals Limited stock
 Dimensions 3,557mm long

The Seat Mii electric is one of three small electric cars, built by Volkswagen and its sister companies Seat and Skoda, that sit on the same platform. The Seat is the smallest at 3,557mm long, while the Skoda Citigo e iV and Volkswagen e-Up each measure 3,597mm.

Because they’re all the same car underneath, they all boast similar stats, achieving around 160 miles of range from their 36.8kWh batteries and hitting 0-62mph in around 11 seconds. Plug in using a dedicated charger at home and you’ll see a full charge in five-and-a-half hours, costing roughly £5 on a domestic tariff.

Whichever model you go for, the driving experience is a noticeable step up from Smart’s electric cars, with twice as much range making life far easier, with longer journeys becoming more practical. Don’t be fooled into thinking that these are upmarket cars though: there’s nothing as advanced as sat-nav, so you have to make do with a smartphone mounting bracket on which you can run Waze or Google Maps.

4. Mini Electric

Used deals from £24,000
Monthly finance from £344*
 Dimensions 3,845mm long

There aren’t many examples of the Mini Electric around just yet, but keep an eye out because the electric hatchback looks set to do very well in the UK over the coming months, meaning there’ll be many more used models to choose from soon. The longer you wait, the lower the prices will be, too.

This Mini won’t win any awards for practicality, as the 211-litre boot is quite small and the three-door-only configuration means getting into the back seats can be tricky. But what the Mini Electric lacks in this area, it more than makes up for in terms of enjoyment; sharp handling makes it fun through corners, and the acceleration feels rapid from behind the wheel too, with a quick 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds.

Official tests promise up to 145 miles of range per charge, although in the real world you’re likely to see closer to 100, especially in colder weather. This is because electric cars are much less efficient when the temperature drops, so you won’t be able to travel quite as far in winter. This is worth keeping in mind when considering any electric car.

MINI ELECTRIC DETAILS

5. Honda e

Used deals from £24,000
Monthly finance from £322*
 Dimensions 3,894mm long

The Honda e is a rival to the Mini Electric, although the Honda should appeal more to lifestyle-conscious drivers who value its unique style over the sporty feel of the Mini above. There’s little else on the road that looks like it, while the technology inside is far more adventurous than you’ll see on most other cars of this size.

The dashboard features an almost full-width screen, which is split into sections so both driver and passenger can use the touchscreen media system. There are also two further screens flanking the main one: these relay footage from slim exterior cameras that act as mirrors, in theory reducing wind resistance - as there's no need to have large wing mirrors - which boosts range without compromising visibility.

As the Honda e is so new, you won’t see many used models yet, though the longer you wait, the more will become available and the lower prices will become. At most you’ll get 136 miles of range from a full charge, with a top-up taking about five hours at home. If you can locate a 100kW charging point at a service station, you’ll get 70% of a full charge done in just half an hour.

HONDA E DETAILS

6. BMW i3

Used deals from £13,490
Monthly finance from £218*
 Dimensions 4,006mm long

While most of the electric cars on this list are relatively new, the BMW i3 has been around since 2013. There’s only been one generation of i3, but significant upgrades over the course of its life have made the latest examples far more capable than earlier models.

Other than age, the main reason to go for a newer model, therefore, is the vastly increased range; the i3 started out offering 124 miles from a single charge, although the latest editions can achieve up to 189 miles. You should always check the claimed range and battery size of any electric car to make sure you’re getting the version of the vehicle you want.

Like the Mini Electric and the Honda e, the i3 is great fun to drive, while the interior has a minimalist design that feels very different to most cars. But if practicality is your main concern, there are more affordable options out there.

BMW I3 BUYERS’ GUIDE

7. Peugeot e-208

Used deals from £20,495
Monthly finance from £287*
 Dimensions 4,055mm long

The Peugeot e-208 is another car that shares the platform it's built on. The Vauxhall Corsa-e is identical underneath and is just a fraction longer at 4,060mm. Both cars use a 50kWh battery and offer over 200 miles of range, and recharging at home can be completed in less than eight hours.

That might sound like a long time, but remember that if you just leave your car plugged in overnight, it’ll be like waking up to a full tank of fuel in the morning. You'll never have to worry about turning the car on in the morning and realising that you have to make a detour to get petrol or diesel again.

At this end of the spectrum you’re looking at hatchback practicality, with five doors for easy access and over 300 litres of boot space - that's similar to most petrol and diesel cars of this size. You can seat five in both the e-208 and the Corsa-e, and although they aren’t exactly limousines, rear passengers won’t feel as squashed as they would in the smaller cars on this list.

The e-208 arrived in the UK ahead of the Corsa-e, so there’s more of the former to choose from on BuyaCar. As such it’s also more keenly priced when nearly new. Expect to find more and more e-208s available at ever lower prices as more used versions become available over the coming months.

8. Renault Zoe

Used deals from £4,800
Monthly finance from £95*
 Dimensions 4,087mm long

The Renault Zoe is quite possibly the best affordable electric car, with the latest model offering up to 245 miles of range from a full charge and levels of practicality that smaller vehicles can only dream of.

At a shade over four metres long, the Zoe is still manoeuvrable and easy to park in a tight space, although it’s noticeably less sporty to drive than the likes of the Mini Electric. This isn't a negative trait, though, as the Zoe is pleasantly comfortable and relaxed to drive.

Like the BMW i3 the Zoe has also been around for a while, meaning there are lots of bargains to be had on the used market. 2015 editions of the Zoe can be secured for as little as £7,000, or barely £125 per month through BuyaCar, and while it was slower and delivered less range back then, a second-hand Zoe still represents amazing value compared to newer versions of other models.

2013 RENAULT ZOE BUYERS’ GUIDE

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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