Best electric family cars

You can take the whole family with you in these electric family cars

Murray Scullion
Mar 15, 2018

Interest in electric cars is at an all time high. They’ve been crowned as the saviours of the earth by many enthusiasts, celebs like Leonardo Di Caprio are constantly being papped in them, and in 2018, they make more sense than ever.

Recent tax changes are making it more expensive to own diesel cars, plus there’s a growing trend away from reliance on fossil fuels.

And you might think that electric cars are aimed directly at young, single people. You know, the type of person that you might see eating something avocado based. But that simply isn’t the case.

Electric cars are becoming alarmingly sensible purchases for everyone. Distance between charges ranges from around 100 miles to 300 miles, meaning as long as you can plug it in at night, or at work (for free in some cases) you won’t have any range anxiety. Not only that, but they’re no different to drive than their petrol or diesel counterparts.

They’re spacious too - all of the cars on this list have five doors, big(ish) boots, and can fit fully grown adults for prolonged periods of time.

Plus, being an early adopter would get the neighbours’ curtains twitching.

BMW i3

Our pick BMW i3 (2014, 15,000 miles)
Typical price £16,400 Representative finance £269 per month

BMW’s i3 came onto the scene in 2014 and looked massively futuristic. Four years down the line, and it still looks like nothing else on the road today. It’s not all style without substance either. There’s enough room inside for at least four, and it has a surprising turn of pace.

We won’t bore you with an explanation, but from 0-40 mph it’s quicker than a lot of very expensive sports cars. In fact, from 50mph to 75mph it’s only 0.6seconds slower than a £60,000 sportscar from the same manufacturer, the BMW M4. This means it’s great at getting off the lights, accelerating on to a motorway, and nipping around busy and congested areas.

There’s no engine under the bonnet, which means there’s more room inside too. The car’s batteries are kept underneath the flat floor, and the rear doors open ‘suicide’ style, which means they are rear hinged and open the opposite way from the front doors. This makes getting inside easier - assuming that you’re not parked in a tight space.

Pre-2017 cars have a range of around 90 miles and start at under £17,000. BMW i3s made after 2017 are known as 94ah models - these have a range of around 124 miles.

The i3 was also offered with a range extender too - these models have a small petrol engine that can recharge the battery, increasing the overall range to around 200 miles.

Tesla Model S

Our pick Tesla Model S (2015, 35,700 miles)
Typical price £51,900 Representative finance £803 per month

Tesla’s co-founder, Elon Musk, is constantly in the news for his exploits. Many people see him as a bond-villain like character, but trust us, he can make a great car. After all, Tesla really nudged electric cars from mildly interesting to desirable when it launched its Roadster in 2008.

The company's best known car is the Model S though. Specific model names and prices have changed throughout the years, but the one you’ll be looking out for is the P90D. Prices start from around £500 a month, and for that you get a massive (19in) central screen to control everything, a 90kWh battery capable of around 240 miles between charges, and autonomous capabilities. You can’t hand over control of the car entirely, and you do need to be alert at all times. But it can change lanes on the motorway for you, which is helpful.

The five-door hatchback shape is remarkably conventional for such an unconventional car, which lends itself to family-life really rather well. The all-electric power takes up less room than a conventional petrol or diesel powered car, which means there’s more space in side. There’s also a big boot, which can house two extra seats, making it a seven seater. The rear seats are only suitable for children, but the same can be said for most people carriers.

Nissan Leaf

Our pick Nissan Leaf Acenta (2014, 12,000 miles)
Typical price £9,499 Representative finance £162 per month

If the Tesla above is as desirable as a free month-long holiday to the Seychelles, the Nissan, on the face of it at least, is more like a business trip to Scunthorpe.

However, dig a little deeper and you’ll find a very practical car with a loyal following. The Leaf is probably the most ‘normal’ electric car on the list too. So much so, that local councils across the UK were some of the early adopters of the car. In fact, you’ve probably seen one silently ferrying around council workers between meetings.

A new version hit the ground running in 2017 - and it’s definitely better looking than the previous model. Plus it has a real world range of around 150 miles, takes 7.5 hours to charge from empty using a 7.5kW home charger or 40 minutes from 0-80% using a 50kW fast charger. Prices for these start at around £22,000.

Original Leafs can be had for around £9,500, with finance working out at around £162. These have a range more like 100 miles and do without the innovative e-Pedal, which uses regenerative braking to recharge the batteries. Even so, that’s one heck of a saving.

VW E-Golf

Typical price (new) £28,230

When most people think of Volkswagens, they think of the Golf. Understated, reliable, and a best-seller all around the world. This e-Golf looks to replicate its understated image for the electric car.

And it works beautifully. It really is hard to tell the difference between an e-Golf and a regular petrol or diesel powered version on the outside. Hint: different wheels and badging are the main giveaways.

Not only does it look much like a Golf, but it feels like one on the inside too. There’s still seating for five, still plenty of headroom, and the interior is still solidly put together. It drives like a Golf too - except that it’s a bit nippier than some Golfs getting off the line. And it’s still solid and composed while cornering too.

It easily cruises at motorway speeds, however, as with every electric car, high-speeds can have an adverse effect on battery life. Volkswagen claims that the e-Golf’s range is around 186 miles, but we’ve found it more to be around 125. Still not bad at all if you have a regular charging source, or only do small miles.

Renault Zoe

Our pick Renault Zoe Dynamique Nav (2015, 5,000 miles)
Typical price £7,140 Representative finance £136 per month

We’re not just playing up to the fact it’s the only French car on the list, but the Zoe is probably the chicest car here. Seriously, if you’ve been to London lately you’ll have noticed them loitering with intent in some of the more fashionable areas. Especially in Azure Blue, which it looks fantastic in.

The newest Zoes also come in a fantastic purple called, dark metallic Aconite. Speaking of new Zoes, a new, more powerful Zoe was released this year. There are two batteries to choose from - one with a real world range of around 100 miles, and another with a real world range of around 180 miles. Prices for these cars work out at around £18,995 before Government discounts and grants.

However, there are plenty of bargains out there for the previous generation Zoe. This also has two battery options offering similar mileage to the new cars. You’ll probably have to lease the battery separately, too. They can typically be snapped up for around £7,140 or £136 a month.

Its stylish looks are teamed with practicality too. Its boot can hold 338 litres - some 38 litres more than a Renault Clio. Room up front is good, but the batteries are stored beneath the rear passenger seats, meaning they sit slightly higher up, and therefore have less headroom.

Hyundai Ioniq

Our pick Hyundai Ioniq (2016, 8,000 miles)
Typical price £20,490 Representative finance £377 per month

The Ioniq comes in two flavours, hybrid, and fully electric. The latter is more expensive, but is cheaper to run because it doesn’t rely on petrol. The electric-only version has a real world-range of around 130 miles, which puts it up there with the Nissan Leaf mentioned above.

It's more expensive than the Leaf. But it feels more expensive too. On the outside, the Ioniq is much more conventional in the way it looks, and the inside has a higher level of standard equipment. Expect to find sat-nav, parking sensors, plus a reversing camera.

Other tech includes autonomous braking, adaptive cruise control (automatically adjusts speed on motorway) and blind spot detection.

The whole family can come along too - there’s room for five and the boot is decently sized. In fact, the Ioniq has a larger boot than a Toyota Prius. It even comes with a spare tyre, something lacking in most new cars today.

Best of all, as with all Hyundais, it comes with a five-year warranty. Hyundai have also committed to making at least 20 green cars in the near future, which shows they’re backing this technology and the Ioniq won’t just be a one hit wonder.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive 

Typical price (new) £27,216

Another entry from a premium German brand. But Mercedes-Benz  and BMW have gone electric with via two very different gameplans.

BMW has created a bespoke electric vehicle with its i3. Mercedes has taken an existing car, its B-Class, and electrified it. It’s the second 100 per cent electric car Mercedes has ever made, (the first was a bonkers Mercedes SLS AMG Electric Drive costing £333,000) and you probably haven’t seen a lot of them on the road.

That doesn’t mean it’s not good though. It’s much like a regular B-Class, except that it’s slightly quicker setting off from zero thanks to those electric batteries. It has different drive modes giving you more or less power - with more power you can go faster, and will less power you can go further. Maximum range is around 124 miles, so it can mix it with the rest of the list.

Smart ForFour

Our pick Smart ForFour Electric (2017, 1,500 miles)
Typical price £15,490 Representative finance £258 per month

The ForFour is the larger Smart car, so it does have five doors and seating for five. It is smaller than say, a Ford Focus, but it’s still great for families. Especially small ones.

And it’s even better for families if your family particularly likes standard equipment, which we’re sure they do. The Smart boasts LED daytime running lights, heated seats and a lovely two-piece panoramic roof. The kids will especially love that.

The Smart is better suited to town driving, and is genuinely nippy, 0-37mph flashes by in just 5.5 seconds. That’s great for dipping in and out of traffic or getting down to the shops.

As you’d imagine with such a small car, it excels at small-car stuff like parking, and its turning circle of 9.05metres is genuinely noteworthy.

Inside, everything is light and easy to use and quality is high. Its 7in dashboarded-mounted screen is slick and houses a simple to use sat-nav.

The only thing that lets the car down is its relative lack of range. Smart claims 96 miles, but real world figures suggest it’s more like 65. It’s hard to recommend the car if you ever travel far, but if you’d only use it for short to moderate journeys, it’s a really enjoyable, and more importantly, a fun little car.

Jaguar I-Pace

Typical price (new) est £59,000

Jaguar’s new iPace heralds a brave new era for the British brand. In fact, it’s such a new time that the verdict isn’t really out on the car yet. Our sister website, Auto Express, has had an, albeit, brief go in one, and the news is good.

They reckon it’s a proper competitor to Tesla in its innovation and range. It’s a crossover too - a bodystyle that will appeal to many car buyers in 2018. And it looks great, it has all kinds of sharp creases in the bodywork, and has a short bonnett because there’s no need to stick an engine at the front.

The batteries (432 of them) like many other electric cars, are kept in the floor of the car. This is good news for occupants as it means there’s plenty of space in the cabin. There’s acres of space in the rear too, as boot space is around 656 litres. That’s even more space than a Hyundai ix35, a conventional petrol powered SUV.

Power from those batteries equates to 90kWh, the same as the Tesla above. Jaguar claims that it has a range of around 298 miles. Although this hasn’t been real world tested, it’s certainly a big number, and would make long journeys in one much easier.

Nissan E-NV200

Our pick Nissan E-NV200 (2017, 15 miles)
Typical price £21,249 Representative finance £356 per month

And last but not least, the Nissan E-NV200. It’s definitely not the least - it’s the biggest car here! Although referring to it as a car might be a bit of a stretch. It’s actually based on a van.

That does mean that there’s room for seven fully sized seats, and it claims to be the only electric MPV out there.

Its 40kWh battery delivers a range of around 125 miles. That’s plenty of trips to school, work, football training, gymnastics, swimming, and possibly the pub, without needing to charge.

OK, so it’s not the most sophisticated vehicle on this list. The rear doors open sideways like a van, and the windows in the back only slide across (instead of rolling down) as well. The driving position can’t hide its van underpinnings - you sit high and very upright. All of the buttons on the centre-console and the sat-nav remain very car-like though.

Not the best car here, but to be fair, it’s not really a car. Plus if you need to transport six other people in near silence, only Tesla offers seven seats. And the Nissan is around £52,000 cheaper than a seven-seat Tesla Model X. Which is, erm, useful.

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