Hard to think that Renault’s electric runabout has been around for well over 15 years, if you count the original Zoe City Car concept. It’s undergone a fair number of changes over the years and yet it still manages to keep up with the ever changing – and ever expanding – EV market.
The Zoe proved that you didn’t need to spend Tesla money, or buy a Reeva G-Wiz, to live the affordable EV life. It launched with a 22kWh lithium-ion battery pack that, admittedly, offered a relatively underwhelming 130 miles of range under the, er, optimistic NEDC standards. This was later updated in 2016 to a 41kWh pack with a far more respectable range of 250 miles. These are now available for under £15,000 and are arguably the sweet spot if you’re hunting for a cheap-yet-dependable EV.
For £14,200, you can grab this 41kWh Zoe Dynamic Nav, which comes loaded with kit such as a 7.0-inch touchscreen, sat nav and climate control (just be careful how you use it). Bear in mind it’s a battery lease vehicle, meaning you’ll have to pay a monthly fee (starting from £49pm) to use the thing, but in the grand scheme of things it’ll work out cheaper for most over those where the battery was bought outright. It’s a similar story with the Nissan Leaf, which can be had for comparable money to the Zoe, but you’ll be looking at one of the older models with a smaller range. For cheap EV ownership, nothing beats a Zoe.
When the Volkswagen ID.3 came out a couple of years ago it ultimately took its place as the electric Golf and, with it, the e-Golf was resigned to the history books. Let’s be honest though, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for the ID.3 courtesy of a spate of software issues - but that does mean the really rather brilliant Mk7 e-Golf is a tempting alternative as a used buy.
For starters, the e-Golf gets all the benefits of an EV, yet wraps it up in a familiar package – you know, one that doesn’t scream eco-warrior. It’s powered by a front-mounted motor that sends 144hp electrified horses to the front wheels. True, it’s not all that quick, with a claimed 0-62mph of 9.6 seconds, but the torquey character of an electric motor means the e-Golf feels much punchier than the numbers suggest. Couple that with the top-drawer build quality of the old Mk7, and you’ve got a practical EV for the price of, well, a used Golf.
While launch cars only mustered a lowly 120 miles on electric power under NEDC, the car we have here is one of the later updated models. Range jumps to 186 miles courtesy of a larger 35.8kWh battery, and it even has some extra goodies such as the Discover Pro sat nav system. All for £19,750. A Hyundai Ioniq (not the 5) and current gen Nissan Leaf fall under our budget, too, but neither can match the ‘premiumness’ or rock-solid feel behind the wheel of the e-Golf.
There’s something special about a car that starts life as a radical concept before making its way into showrooms largely unchanged. Take the BMW i3. It looked like nothing else when it first appeared in 2013 and, even to this day, it’s difficult to pass one without looking. It’s mega to drive as well (assuming you're sticking to urban roads) even on those super-skinny, eco-friendly tyres - proving that not all EVs are dull, joy-sucking appliances.
The i3 came in many flavours. Early cars were offered in both fully electric and range-extender form, the latter coming with a small combustion engine to top up the battery while on the go. But we’re only interested in EVs for this list and with a generous £25,000 to play with we can pick up the warmed-up i3S. Not only were these given a slight power bump to 184hp, but the suspension was also revised for a stiffer ride and the 0-62 time dropped to 6.9 seconds. If you think about it, the i3S was arguably the first electric hot hatchback. Sort of.
While the likes of the Cupra Born have caught up on that front, you won’t find one anywhere near the £24,200 for this i3S. It comes with the mid-spec 33.3kWh battery, which is good for an NEDC-rated range of 174 miles on a single charge, plus you can use the My BMW app to check on your charging progress when at home. Or, you know, just see if it’s doing okay…
Admittedly, bunging some S badges on the Mini Electric looked a bit like a marketing gimmick when it was first announced, but, while it’s a fair bit heavier than a non-electric three-door model (as most EVs are anyway), it’s about as close as you can get to experiencing the sporty character of the Cooper S without consuming insanely expensive dinosaur juice.
The steering is great, and, as the batteries are stored nice and low, it only ever begins to feel heavy when you’re really going for it. On that note, the Mini Electric has 181hp on tap that makes it a blast on the morning commute. The range is 145 miles, courtesy of a 28.9kWh battery, which it can be topped up to 80 per cent charged in a very specific 36 minutes – if you find a fast charger.
Even the cheaper Mini Electrics were brimming with kit. We found a Level 2 model for £29,980, which comes loaded with an 8.8-inch sat nav system, digital cockpit, rear-parking camera and some driver assistance features like traffic-sign recognition. The Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa-e also fall within our budget, and while they’re good cars in their own right, they won’t be nearly as fun – nor as plush – as the punchy Mini Electric.
Remember how cool the Honda Urban EV concept looked when it appeared at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show? A boxy, retro-looking supermini inspired by the original Honda Civic that made even the most diehard petrolhead think: “maybe EVs aren’t so bad”. Things were toned down a little when it hit production as the Honda e; nevertheless, like some of the other cars featured on this list, the little Honda never fails to put a smile on the old boat race when one silently passes by.
Moreover the car focuses less on headline numbers and more on, well, just looking a feeling damn cool. The interior screams ‘hipster cafe’, mixing wood elements with the same trendy fabrics you find on Google smart speakers. And yet, it’s seriously hi-tech. The door mirrors are cameras to reduce drag and wind noise, and the rear-view mirror is a screen that relays a live image from behind the car. Is it overkill? Perhaps. But an hour behind the wheel will get you acquainted with the Honda e’s many, many quirks.
Values are holding strong, even after a couple of years on sale. So we’ve gone for a nearly-new example with just 500 miles on the clock for £34,995. Let’s be real: this is Fiat 500e territory and, on paper at least, that puts up a strong fight. But the Honda e is more interesting on the inside and arguably the better car to drive. Seriously, all the ingredients are there for a future EV hot hatch. Honde e Type R, anyone?
We’re going to ask you to put any personal thoughts or feelings about Elon Musk to one side for this one. It isn't unusual for super-driven geniuses to be divisive, but Mr Tesla has it down to a fine art. Nevertheless, his car company has built up the sort of dedicated following which has most established manufacturers trailing in its wake. They even build at least one extremely good electric car: the Model 3.
It’s quite possibly one of the few cars that, for the most part, lived up to the immense hype. The Model 3 was considerably cheaper than the older Model S with more up-to-date technology, better build quality (eventually) and, ultimately, it was more fun behind the wheel. The car’s quick steering offers an element of joy in the corners and the throttle response makes it quicker than a fair chunk of petrol-powered performance saloons. All you have to do is get accustomed to controlling, well, everything from the centre infotainment system.
There are plenty of Standard Range models to choose form within our budget, but the car we’ve managed to find is one of the newer Standard Range Plus cars. These are rear-wheel drive with a single motor developing 283hp motor and a longer range of 278 WTLP-rated miles – 41 miles more than the original Standard Range. You also benefit from over-the-air software updates and of course you can access Tesla Superchargers, which aren’t rubbish like a lot of other public chargers. Even if you’re worried about becoming a member of the Tesla clan - and honestly that shouldn't stop you - there’s no denying the Model 3 is a hell of a lot of EV for the money.
A bit like the i3, we couldn’t believe that Hyundai was brave enough to put the Ioniq 5 into production relatively unchanged from the 45 concept. If anything, it looked even better. Ultra-sharp lines combined with those pixel-style lights, which Hyundai recently continued with the insane N Vision 74 concept. Taken together it really sets the Ioniq 5 apart from, well, pretty much anything on four wheels - and it might just turn out to be a future classic.
Underneath the skin it shares the same platform as the Kia EV6, which itself is a corker of an electric vehicle. Both offer similar mileage and are built on 800V architecture, meaning you can make use of (very rare) 350kW rapid chargers for 60 miles of range in just five minutes. What tips us towards the Ioniq 5 is just how outlandishly futuristic it feels on the inside. It’s also a little more practical than the EV6 and, crucially, it’s working out a little cheaper on the used market at the time of writing.
The Ioniq 5 is available with two battery options, and we’ve managed to nab the all-wheel drive long-range option with 268 miles of driving range under WLTP. It’s an entry-level Premium spec, but the only real benefit of looking at one of the higher trim lines is if you fancy a better sound system or full leather seats. But the Premium is the one to go for purely because it has 19-inch wheels and rides far better because of it. Besides, who’s going to notice the smaller rims when they've got all the other creases to look at...
There are a lot of cars on this list that’ll turn heads, but the XC40 P8 Rechange probably isn’t one of them. Well, not until you absolutely annihilate someone in a Cupra Leon at a cheeky traffic-light sprint. Underneath the XC40 P8 Recharge’s pedestrian exterior is a dual-motor set-up – one on each axle – that together develop a hilariously un-Volvo 402hp.
That’s all wrapped up in a package that’s not only good for shipping the family off for a week away in Cornwall, but with a battery range of 260 miles (that’s WLTP rated) you won’t be stopping all that often either – even if you’re coming from Scotland. Best of all, it supports charging speeds of up to 150kW (providing you can find a public charging point that fast) that’ll fill up 80 per cent of the battery in just 40 minutes.
Given that the P8 Recharge hasn’t been around all that long there are slim pickings online. However, the one we’ve chosen is the fully-loaded First Edition for £54,950 – around £5,000 off the original asking price with only 7,000 miles on the clock. Granted, you can get a Tesla Model Y Long Range – with a better range and performance – for similar money, and it's definitely worth checking out the Polestar 2 which shares a great deal with the XC40, but ultimately neither are as well suited to UK roads as the Volvo. Besides, it’s worth it just to see the look on people’s faces when you overtake them in a large-ish Volvo in complete silence.
Just think about all the new premium electric SUVs that have launched over the past couple of years. The Audi e-tron, BMW iX and Ford Mustang Mach-E are just a few of the boatload of premium electric crossovers the industry has churned out of late. Yet here we are talking about a car that’s been on sale for the best part of five years – the Jaguar I-Pace.
So what makes the I-Pace so special, then? It comes down to two areas. Firstly, it was futureproofed from the start with an initial range of 292 miles under WLTP and support for 100kW rapid charging. Secondly, it drives as a proper Jaguar should, swatting away its hefty kerb weight with the agility and comfort that few rivals can match. And it’s all packed into a design that mixes the key Jag styling cues with a silhouette that’s distinctly 'electric'.
You can get plenty of I-Paces for well under our budget, but we’ve aimed for one of the newer models. Our 2021 example benefits from a mid-life update that includes the newer and improved PiviPro infotainment software and three-phase charging courtesy of an onboard 11kW charger. Plus, for £72,844, we’re getting a top-spec HSE Black model for a decent discount over the cost of a brand-new example. It may have been around for some time, but the I-Pace proves time and time again that it’s one of the very best premium SUVs. Well, the electric ones.
There’s always panic among car fans when Porsche announces it’s going in a new direction. Would the Boxster cannibalise sales of the 911? Will the Cayenne devalue the brand? And, more recently, how can the Taycan feel like a Porsche when it’s electric? But as so often is the case, Porsche knocks it out of the park – and the Taycan is no exception.
The steering feels just as brilliant as we’ve come to expect from Porsche, the performance is barmy – no matter which motor option you go for – and the handling and balance are sublime. It’s also one of only a handful of cars to support 350kW charging, given that it’s built on 800v architecture, while the cabin is the perfect blend of hi-tech gadgetry and understated luxury. The Tesla Model S may have a better range and access to the full Tesla charging network, but the Taycan knocks it out the park on build quality and driver engagement.
Perhaps you prefer the look of the Audi e-tron GT? It’s built on the same underpinnings as the Taycan, and looks a million bucks - but, truthfully, the Taycan is a superior car to drive and can be had for similar money on the used market. Heck, you can even buy it with a bit more practicality with the Cross Turismo estate. We’ve found a Taycan 4S with the Performance Battery option, unlocking 288 miles of WLTP range, for £96,990. For usability, performance and driving experience worthy of the Porsche name, there’s no other EV that can claim parity. It really is one of the best electric cars on sale today.
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