Fastest electric cars 2023
Plug and play: electric cars may not emit fumes but that doesn't mean they can't be fast. Here are the fastest EVs for under £40,000
There are many things to like about electric cars. They don't contribute to roadside emissions like petrol and diesel cars do, and they can help reduce drivers’ running costs thanks to the relative cheapness of electricity compared to fuel. They're also excitingly fast from a standing start; the feeling of an electric car accelerating from 0-30mph is beyond virtually anything you'd get from a standard petrol model.
As electric motors are able to deliver all their torque - or pulling power - from a standstill, they are seriously speedy when you put your foot down. Line up at a set of traffic lights and before you know it 30mph or even 60mph has breezed by in near-silence, and you've left whoever was next to you in your emission-free dust.
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. And if you want to learn more about the more sensible side of electric cars, we have more guides about the electric cars with the longest range per charge, the cheapest used electric cars, the best small electric cars and the best electric family cars.
Here, we’ve looked at new models priced at £40,000 or less, which typically translates to around £400-£500 per month when on PCP finance. Note that the plug-in car grant, now capped at £1,500, is only available on cars that cost less than £32,000; most of these cars cost significantly more than that. There is a wide selection of electric cars, which is increasing surprisingly quickly, as nearly every carmaker rushes to release their own plug-in cars.
Fastest electric cars for under £40,000
Our pick Tesla Model 3
0-60mph 5.8 seconds
Range 317 miles
Used deals from £21,489
Tesla’s cheapest model is in a world of its own. For the £40,000 mark, it’s by far and away the fastest, and most technologically advanced electric car on sale, and while its starting price has crept way beyond £40,000, used models can be found for less than this and will still be subject to the company's free over-the-air updates.
A 5.8-second 0-60mph time is sports car fast - matching the pricier Porsche Cayman - while a range of more than 300 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.
There have been several revisions to the company's entry-level single-motor rear-wheel drive Model 3. Most recently, it is available with an upgraded 60kWh LFP battery that, unlike most batteries, 'wants' to be charged to 100%, so regular full charges should not degrade it. Earlier 50kWh models are slightly quicker, but have less range.
Our pick BMW i3s
0-62mph in 6.9 seconds
Range 175 miles
Used deals from £9,700
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 i3s 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.
Our pick Nissan Leaf e+
0-62mph in 7.3 seconds
Range 239 miles
Used deals from £6,995
Opt for the top-spec version of the latest-generation Nissan Leaf and you get more than just a larger battery with a longer driving range per charge. You’ll enjoy impressive performance, with the ability to accelerate from 0-62mph in just 7.3 seconds, which is quite amazing for such a sensible and family-orientated car.
That’s quick for a five-seat family hatchback, and if we're honest, it's the sharp burst of speed from 0-30mph that will leave you with the most satisfaction. Acceleration dies off a bit as you pass 62mph, but the same can be said for most electric cars - and law-abiding drivers won't need much more than that anyway.
Aside from the speed, the Leaf is the most usable electric car of its size in a day-to-day capacity. That increased range, along with a spacious interior and large boot make this car one of the best all-rounders in its class.
Our pick Kia e-Niro 64kWh
0-62mph 7.5 seconds
Range 282 miles
Used deals from £15,400
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.
The e-Niro is a five-seat crossover with plenty of high-tech features. It shares much of its mechanical parts with the Hyundai Kona Electric, which is also a very capable electric crossover, and with five seats and a boot that’s larger than what you get in the Nissan Qashqai, it’s as practical as it is green.
Our pick Hyundai Kona Electric 64kWh
0-62mph 7.6 seconds
Range 279 miles
Used deals Limited stock
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.
Our pick Kia Soul EV 64kWh
0-62mph 7.9 seconds
Range 280 miles
Used deals from £6,395
The Soul has always been a likeable character, with more distinctive styling than its bland siblings. A new version was launched in 2019, again with electric power.
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.
Our pick Volkswagen ID.3 Pro Performance
0-62mph 7.3 seconds
Range 259 miles
Used deals from £7,995
The Golf-sized ID.3 uses a similar rear-wheel drive setup to the BMW i3s above, but a larger 58kWh battery for more than 250 miles of range (220 miles is a more realistic figure).
The Pro Performance name refers to the combination of this 58kWh battery and a 204hp electric motor, which is good for 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds. That's as quick as some small hot hatches, and it feels it thanks to the instant acceleration characteristic of electric cars.
The Pro Performance is the quickest in the range, but there are other ID.3 models with longer ranges and lower price tags. None are particularly slow, though the Pure models don't feel as punchy as the Pro models.
Our pick Renault Zoe R135 ZE50
0-62mph 9.5 seconds
Range 238 miles
Used deals from £6,500
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 Renault Clio or Ford Fiesta, and that makes it ideal for anyone after a smaller electric car.
And do you know what? It still feels athletic enough, especially over the initial dash from 0-30mph, which took 3.9 seconds in the older and slower ZE40 version. 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.
*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:
48 monthly payments of £192
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
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.