► The best small electric cars of 2021
► Our guide to the UK's top compact EVs
► Plus our buying advice
The first wave of electric cars tended to be larger SUVs like the Mercedes EQC and the Audi e-Tron, but now consumers can also choose from a growing range of smaller, compact electric cars.
In some ways, this is the sector that makes the most sense for electric powertrains: smaller cars need smaller batteries and electric motors to get around, so price, mass and energy consumption all fall.
Further electric car reading:
The only dawback? You'll have to get used to the fact that smaller cells mean less energy capacity - so the confidence-inspiring long range you'll get on most electric SUVs is conspicuous by its absence. Read on for our guide to the best small EVs of 2021.
The best small electric cars in 2021
A fully electric Mini wasn't even in the product plan when the F56 generation debuted in 2014, but here we are. If you want a Mini and want to go electric, this is a Mini to look at, sit in and (mostly) drive. The brand's brief of delivering a three-door car that is largely indistinguishable from its combustion-engined compatriots has been delivered in full.
However, if you simply want a small electric car, the Mini Electric is beset on all sides with fiercely competitive rivals and is a touch less convincing because of it. If you look elsewhere, you can get the same range for less, more range for a similar price or a far more interesting car. Who'd have thought a Mini would be outdone in the character stakes?
Read our review of the Mini Electric here
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The Mercedes EQA is the second EV from Stuttgart, and aims to offer a cheaper way into the brand’s quickly expanding EQ range. Priced at £40,000, the EQA undercuts a lot of the competition. It lacks the flair and focus of its electric rivals, but it undercuts them anyway; its £40,000 price tag is significantly cheaper than the compared to the iX3’s £60k asking price, or Volvo XC40 Recharge’s £53k one. Add in a competitive range, and it gets easier and easier to ignore the Mercedes’ dull looks.
Read our review of the Mercedes EQA
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What an interesting little conundrum the Honda e is. Its dinky size, cute face and properly cool interior are the biggest draws in its charm arsenal, so much so that some might overlook the low-ish available range and the price higher than other city EVs (it starts at £26,660 in the UK). It accelerates well enough and betrays its EV brethren by having, in some bases, better control feel, which is impressive when compared to some electric car rivals. We like it. A lot.
Read our Honda e review
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Until autumn 2018, you could pick your BMW i3 in pure electric or plug-in range-extender forms – but the get-you-out-of-jail petrol engine onboard is being dumped for 2019. The i3 EV is the simplest of all, and mixes clever F1-spec carbonfibre construction with futuristic styling to make a great city car.
With the tightest turning circle you've ever driven, this tiny BMW is extremely agile around town and there’s plenty of room in both rows of seats for bodies, although a small boot is a blot on the copy book. It feels every inch a small BMW to drive, with agile handling and that Germanic precision to the controls that impart a true premium feel. You'll have to dig deep though; a new one starts at £36,025.
Read our BMW i3 long-term test review
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The Renault Zoe is one of our favourite small electric cars and is fair value at around £26,195, once you’ve factored in the Government's Plug-in Car Grant.
This is a bespoke EV and now in its second generation. The latest update includes a battery pack with a 245-mile capable range under the official WLTP cycle. Latest tech from the most recent Clio has found its way inside, and the previous generation is cracking value secondhand.
Read our Renault Zoe review
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Smart EQ Fortwo and Forfour
If ever a regular combustion engine car was ready for electrification, it was the Smart Fortwo. This diminutive two-seater has been streaking around our city streets for two decades now and Daimler has seen sense and equipped it with an electric motor and battery for zero emissions and whisper-quiet urban transport.
Smart has been developing its EQ models – originally called Electric Drive – for many years now and it’s managed to get the cost of EQ Fortwo down to around £17k after the Government grant. It drives much like a regular Fortwo and we found performance around town to be more than ample; only out on M-ways and faster roads did we feel it felt out of its depth. A cabriolet and four-seat Forfour version are also offered, widening the appeal of the compact city car further. It costs £17,350,
Read our Smart EQ Fortwo review
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'A Smeg fridge on wheels', we opined when we first drove the electric Up city car in 2017. Despite having a name that'd make a Yorkshireman grimace, the e-Up is a typically polished Germanic affair with all the usual Volkswagen quality and attention to detail.
Its £20,135 price tag (after the Government grant) balances will with its claimed 162-mile range (which is a much easier pill to swallow than the 99-mile claim of the pre-updated car). It's simple, no-nonsense and zero-emission transport; it won't set your soul alight but if you're looking for an easy-going electric city car, it should be on your shortlist.
Read our VW e-Up review
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