► We list our best small electric cars
► Fun, stylish and more affordable
► Find out which we would choose
Some of the best electric cars on sale are now small electric cars – particularly city-scything hatchbacks with more affordable pricing. This is good news for consumers as they make electric vehicle (EV) technology available to more people, and because EVs are also often at their most effective around town.
Shop small, and you’ll get all the benefits of an electric car while limiting the drawbacks. You get the same instant acceleration and quiet interior as a large EV, but because small EVs are designed to spend most of their time in a city (surrounded by charging points), range anxiety is less of a concern. You’ll also find they’re more efficient – so go further per charge – at lower speeds and in stop-start traffic.
The best small electric cars at a glance:
- Best all-round small electric car: Fiat 500 Electric – Find out more
- Best small electric car for feeling like you’re driving the future: Honda E – Find out more
- Best small electric car for driving range: Renault Zoe – Find out more
We appreciate that not everyone’s lifestyle will suit a small electric vehicle. Families, for example, will probably be better served by one of our best electric SUVs, as most of the cars here offer limited space for people and baggage. But if you’re shopping as a couple trapped inside an ultra-low emissions zone, you might find the cure to your commuter’s headache on this list. Scroll down for our pick of the best small electric cars on sale.
Best small electric cars
Fiat 500 Electric
Best all-round small electric car
Pros: stylish, proper EV driving experience, nicely put together
Cons: short range, Abarth version can’t quite deliver hot hatch thrills
The Fiat 500 Electric shares its retro-chic styling vibe with the old internal combustion engine (ICE) car, but it’s completely different under the skin. The small petrol engines have been banished, replaced by a battery pack and an electric motor driving the front wheels. The standard version comes in a cheaper 24kWh / 94bhp combo from £28,195 capable of a claimed 118 miles of driving range, or as a more powerful 42kWh / 116bhp variant with a claimed 203-mile driving range from £31,195. Meanwhile, the Abarth 500e is an amped-up 42kWh model with 152bhp, an annoying artificial sound generator and reduced 164-mile driving range, from £34,195.
Comparatively speaking, the Abarth is a bit of a bargain for the extra performance, but if you’re hoping for the first true electric hot hatch here, it doesn’t quite make the grade for us – the rear-wheel-drive Honda e is more entertaining, and the Mini Electric more… tasteful. Still, the standard version is a compact delight, with intuitive one-pedal driving capability and bags more style and panache than the Renault Zoe or Peugeot e-208. If we were shopping for a small electric car, we’d start here.
For a more in-depth look read our Fiat 500 Electric review
Best small electric car for style and practicality
Pros: Attractive inside and out, five-door access, on-paper driving range
Cons: Real-world driving range, lack-lustre driving experience
The Peugeot e-208 is powered by a 134bhp electric motor and a 50kWh battery pack. That’s enough oomph for a 0–62mph time of 8.1 seconds, half a second quicker than the fastest petrol 208, and a claimed driving range of 225 miles per charge. Although you should take that last with a sizable scoop of salt in our experience – you’d be doing well to get more than 150 miles out of one of these before needing a pitstop. A more powerful and efficient drivetrain is on the way in September 2023, borrowed from the bigger Peugeot e-308; until then, at least the e-208 offers 100kW DC fast charging to get you on your way again in reasonably good time. Prices start at an also reasonable £31,745.
For the urban warrior, the outright driving range is perhaps not as important as the e-208’s neat blend of style and practicality. A well-made, eye-catchingly attractive car, the e-208 avoids shouting about its eco-piety – almost the only difference between this and a petrol version is the green label on the EV number plate – while offering the convenience of five doors. This makes it much easier to get into the back seats compared with the three-door only 500 Electric, which the Peugeot also out-does for driving range. Surprisingly, the e-208’s basic pricing also undercuts its plainer Vauxhall Corsa Electric sister car, too.
For a more in-depth look read our Peugeot e-208 review
Vauxhall Corsa Electric
Best small electric car for keeping things conventional
Pros: Like an e-208 with a sensible dashboard, Long Range model available, popular
Cons: Frumpy, dull
The Peugeot e-208 is all very well, with its fancy French exterior design and premium interior. But not everyone gets along with the i-Cockpit driving position, which features a tiny steering wheel and high-set instruments. If you like everything else about the Peugeot but are already a member of the Luke Wilkinson anti-i-Cockpit club, we’d direct your attention to the Vauxhall Corsa Electric. Which is essentially the same technology in plainer dress, happy to provide a much more conventional steering wheel and gauge cluster combination. Don’t laugh – for some people, this is important.
Used to be the Vauxhall was cheaper than the e-208, too. But that situation has reversed, as the least expensive Corsa Electric is now £32,095. However, Vauxhall has stolen a march on its Stellantis stablemate, as it’s already able to offer a Corsa Electric Long Range model with 154bhp motor and 245-mile claimed driving range from £35,125. Trouble is, compared with all the other cars on this list, try as it might, the Corsa is just a bit dull, isn’t it? Even the facelift can’t save the frumpy proportions, we’ve never found it exciting to drive, and the only rival with a less invigorating interior is the Renault Zoe. The Corsa was the UK’s second-bestselling car in 2022, which just goes to show you can’t trust the British public with anything.
For a more in-depth look read our Vauxhall Corsa Electric review
Best small electric car for feeling like you’re driving the future
Pros: Amazing interior, rear-wheel drive – and just look at that little face
Cons: Driving range is almost unacceptable for the price
The Honda E is an interesting conundrum. There’s no doubt that its small footprint, cute face, tech-heavy cabin and engaging handling – it’s the only car here that’s rear-wheel drive – make it rather appealing from an enthusiast’s perspective. But it also has a tiny 35.5kWh battery pack, which, despite Honda’s claims of up to 137 miles per charge, will struggle to achieve 100 miles of driving range in the real world. Expect even less if you regularly take advantage of the motor’s performance; rated at 152bhp, this is one of the more powerful options on this list, and it is oh-so-tempting to get stuck in. Shame it still takes 8.3sec to go 0-62mph, though.
However, the real fun sponge here is the price. Given the pitiful driving range, charging £37,395 for the entry-level model is a bit of a poke in the eye – so if you’re wondering why you hardly ever see them on the road, that’s probably why. But if you’re comfortable with the cost, there’s nothing else quite like it – the interior, in particular, beats every available alternate with its dashboard-spanning screens, three-pin plug and optional digital mirrors. Not even Mini is audacious enough to make a virtual fish tank part of the infotainment system. Driver one of these, and you’ll get the nod of respect from us every time.
For a more in-depth look read our Honda E review
Best for almost as good as an ordinary MINI. But it’s an important almost
Pros: Still fun to drive, pretty sprightly, reasonable value
Cons: Cramped inside, short driving range
According to people who know, the MINI Electric wasn’t even in the product plan when this F56-generation car was launched in 2014. But here we are. Things can move very fast in the automotive world when they need to. What’s more, the electric integration is done well enough that you’d probably never know unless we told you. Perhaps the biggest indicator of compromise by necessity is the driving range; there’s only room on board for 32.6kWh of battery, which means an official max distance of 144 miles per charge. In the real world, it means you’ll struggle to top 100, especially if you keep your foot in to enjoy the 181bhp the motor offers. 0-62mph takes a swift 7.3 seconds, making the basic £31,000 asking price seem pretty reasonable.
It’s intended to be the electric equivalent of a Cooper S, so has a stiff ride in exchange for keen cornering. But the weight balance has shifted slightly, and the suspension is higher, so you’ll still feel there’s something missing if you’re keen yourself. A Honda e is more fun. As the three-door MINI has never been a particularly practical choice, if you’re looking for that, try the Zoe or the Corsa Electric, while those simply after a fashionable set of zero emissions wheels will get better value from a 500 Electric and be able to go further between sockets.
For a more in-depth look read our MINI Electric review
Best small electric car for driving range
Pros: 239-mile official driving range, spacious inside, great value
Cons: Hammered by Euro NCAP, slow to charge
The Renault Zoe is unquestionably an electric car pioneer. At this point, it is deep into its second generation when many manufacturers still haven’t gotten around to building their first. In fundamental terms, as a mode of transport, it’s been getting better with every update Renault has treated it to. Purpose-built for volts, the Zoe has a 134bhp electric motor punches more eagerly than you might expect – around town especially, we’ve always found it usefully nippy – the £29,995 entry price is very much on point, and the 239-mile WLTP driving range is way better than any other small electric car’s efforts. Even adjusted for real-world conditions, this is the one to buy if range anxiety is dragging you down.
However, there’s a problem. And it’s not just the pathetic 50kW DC fast charging time (90 extra miles in 30 minutes? Ugh). Rather, the Zoe’s safety equipment hasn’t kept pace with Euro NCAP’s demands, and when the safety body crash-tested the most recent Zoe in 2021, it awarded Renault zero stars. Ouch. So although it’s more practical than the MINI Electric and 500 Electric, is way cheaper than the Honda e, has a nicer interior than the Corsa Electric and goes way further per charge than any of them, it’s a tough EV for us to recommend. Even though its realistically still much safer than any number of not-that-old-bangers that are cluttering up the UK’s roads.
For a more in-depth look read our Renault Zoe review
Small Electric Car Buyer’s Guide
The pros and cons of small electric cars
Small electric cars have three main benefits. They’re little (which means they’re easy to park and manoeuvre in tight city streets), they’re amongst the cheapest electric cars on sale, and they allow free passage into emissions-controlled areas. As an added benefit, they’re much quieter than small petrol cars, which should make your commute a little more relaxing.
Bear in mind that you’ll need to make a couple of sacrifices with a small electric car, though. Because of their petite size, most only have dinky battery packs with limited maximum driving ranges. This isn’t such a problem if you’re just pottering around town, averaging around 30 miles a day, but it’ll seriously impede your mobility if you regularly need to drive long distances.
Then there’s the issue of price. Small EVs are cheap where electric cars are concerned, but they’re still much more expensive than their petrol-powered counterparts. Consider the Vauxhall Corsa. The most basic petrol model is around £10,000 cheaper than the most basic electric model. That means, for the price of one Corsa Electric, you could have a petrol-powered Corsa and about seven years’ worth of fuel.
Charging is fraught with problems, too. The UK’s EV charging infrastructure can’t currently deal with the number of electric cars on the road – and the laws of supply and demand have driven up the cost of public charging. That means if you can only charge your small electric car at a public charger, you could end up paying more in electricity than you would in petrol.
The only reliable method of reducing your running costs with an EV is if you have an off-street parking space on which you can install your own charging point. And that’s a financial impossibility for the average motorist living in the middle of a crowded city like London or Manchester.
Are small electric cars reliable?
While EV technology is relatively new, there are fewer moving parts involved, and electric vehicles are generally reliable. However, like all electronic devices, things can go wrong, and batteries do hold gradually less charge over time, reducing the distance it will travel. Our experience – and the data – suggests this is very much a problem for many years in the future, though, so if you’re buying new or nearly new, reliability shouldn’t be a major concern.
What is the smallest electric car?
All of the cars in our list are the same size as conventional superminis, so compact and city-friendly but not something you’d consider genuinely tiny. For that, you need to look further afield at the quadricycle sector. Historically, this includes EVs such as the G-Wiz and Renault Twizy, while the current market is served by the Citroen Ami.
Are small electric cars good for city journeys and short trips?
This is exactly what they’re good for. The torquey response of electric motors make them excellent for nipping about in city traffic, where the stop-start driving experience will help keep the battery pack topped up, too. Typically, small EVs have small batteries, so they also have shorter driving ranges, making them better suited to short trips by default.
That’s not to say you can’t do longer journeys in them, most have more than adequate performance for that. You’ll just need to plan to stop to charge more frequently than in bigger, longer-range EVs.
CJ Hubbard is a former CAR associate editor and now runs parent-company Bauer’s digital automotive content hub. In a ‘professional’ writing career that began back in 2006, he’s driven everything from tiny electric cars to articulated trucks, and is as happy discussing the importance of bump stops in suspension tuning as he is explaining the latest tech innovations.
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