Best small electric cars

Urban, chic, and near-silent. The best small electric cars are ideal for city driving, and can go further than you think

Dominic Tobin
Oct 22, 2018

Electric power and small cars have always been a natural fit; their nippy acceleration is ideal in town, where shorter journeys mean that you shouldn't need to worry about recharging until you get home.

The only problem has been the high battery costs that have pushed up the cost of small electric cars to unaffordable levels. A reduction in the government grant towards the cost of a new car hasn't helped either.

But electric cars are becoming more affordable from new, as battery costs start to fall, as well as on the used market, where there is an increasing amont of choice with affordable finance payments. Prices start at £4,999 on BuyaCar, or from £103 per month with finance.

One of the most popular electric cars, the Renault Zoe, looks particularly cheap because batteries aren’t always included in the cost. This makes the car less expensive to buy, but you’ll then need to pay monthly to lease the batteries.

Best small electric cars 

1. Renault Zoe

Best small electric car for low purchase price

Latest Renault Zoe deals from £6,575
Finance from £126 per month

The best-selling electric car in Europe, Renault’s Zoe has been regularly updated since it first went on sale in 2012.

In 2017 the Renault Zoe Z.E.40 arrived, increasing the car’s real-world range between recharging from around 90 miles to 150. Since mid-2018, new cars have been available with a more powerful 110 horsepower car, making the Zoe faster to accelerate, particularly at motorway speeds.

Apart from the quietness and zippy acceleration, the Zoe drives like any decent small car. With the heavy batteries stored low down, it’s relatively nimble when changing lanes and cornering, and it does a good job of absorbing jolts over speed bumps and potholes.

Most Zoes are sold without their batteries (only cars badged ‘i’ have them included). You’ll need to lease the batteries for these cars, which will cost from £49 a month. The exact amount will depend on the number of miles that you drive.


2. BMW i3

Best small electric car for interior space

Latest BMW i3 deals from £14,500
Finance from £236 per month

Small it might be, but the BMW i3 has plenty of space for the family thanks to its roomy interior. The batteries are stored underneath the flat floor and the bonnet is short, as there's no engine underneath.

It's nippy, nimble and well-built. The i3 also offers lots of choice: used models built until mid-2016 have a real-world range of around 90 miles between charges and currently start at >a href="[0]=make:BMW&f[1]=model:I3&f[2]=vehicle_type:car&f[3]=year:%5B2017%20TO%202017%5D&sortby=price&order=asc">£20,449 from BuyaCar, with finance payments from £308 per month.

Since 2017, most BMW i3 models were updated versions called 94Ah, after their upgraded battery, which increases the real-world range to around 124 miles. The car is due another upgrade at the end of this year, which will increase its range further. At the same time, you'll no longer be able to order a new i3 with a small petrol engine, called a range-extender, which can recharge the battery on the move, increasing the car’s range by a further 90 miles.

Finally, there’s the new BMW i3s, a sportier version of the car, which has a little more power and slightly faster acceleration. It's more responsive when you want to change direction too.


3. Smart EQ ForTwo

Best small electric car for parking

Latest Smart EQ ForTwo deals Limited used stock
New car prices from £17,695 including government grant

Electric Smart cars were renamed EQ in early 2018; before then, they were known as Smart Electric Drive. Apart from the name, little has changed.

That’s not a bad thing, because the battery-powered versions are the best Smarts available. Unlike the petrol-powered cars, these are quick to accelerate and considerably quieter. The car is best in cities, where its quick steering and tight turning circle help you to glide through traffic and into small parking spaces.

The car’s real-world range in the city is somewhere between 60 and 80 miles, but on faster roads, that’ll drop considerably as the little motor is forced to work overtime. Despite its small two-seat layout, the little Smart is fairly practical; by ditching a passenger and folding down their seat, you can slide a big suitcase, or even a set of drawers in.


4. VW e-up!

Best small electric car for nippiness

Latest VW e-up! deals Limited used stock
New car prices from £22,140 including government grant

Fitting batteries and an electric motor to the up! has had quite an impact on this little Volkswagen’s price. The expensive conversion means that it’s almost the same price as a much larger Nissan Leaf, and considerably more than the Smart ForTwo. It’s had a considerable impact on sales, in the sense that very few people buy one.

If you do see one of the used models for a reasonable discount, it’s worth a look because it’s an excellent car. The electric motor provides faster acceleration than the petrol-powered up! and the low-mounted batteries barely affect the car’s manoeuvrability and agility in corners.

Unlike many cars that have been converted to electric power, boot space in the e-up! has not been affected, so you’ll still have 251 litres, which is plenty for a weekly shop.


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