Best small electric cars to buy in 2024 | CAR Magazine

Best small electric cars to buy in 2024

Published: 10 April 2024 Updated: 10 April 2024

► 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 if you want SUV-inspired styling: Jeep Avenger – find out more
  • Best small electric car for driving fun: Mini Electric – 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

Fiat 500e dynamic exterior

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. Still, the standard version is a compact delight, with intuitive one-pedal driving capability and bags more style and panache than the Vauxhall Corsa Electric. 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

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Peugeot e-208

Best small electric car for style and practicality

Peugeot e-208 exterior

Pros: Attractive inside and out, five-door access, decent electric range
Cons: lack-lustre driving experience, expensive in high specs

Peugeot has recently refreshed its e-208, with this electric supermini getting a more stylish look, additional technology and also a new longer-range derivative. Only available on the top-spec GT model, it gets a more powerful 154bhp motor and 51kWh battery pack that Peugeot claims allows for 248 miles from a charge. This model sits alongside the existing 50kWh and 134bhp version with its official 218 miles. Prices for the e-208 start from £31,600 as it’s available in cheaper trims, with the larger battery model only available from a steep £36,250.

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.

For a more in-depth look read our Peugeot e-208 review

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Vauxhall Corsa Electric

Best small electric car for keeping things conventional

Vauxhall Corsa Electric exterior

Pros: Like an e-208 with a sensible dashboard, Long Range model available, popular
Cons: Dull, depreciation

The Peugeot e-208 is all very well, with its fancy French exterior design and premium interior. But not everyone gets along with its 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 anti-i-Cockpit club, we’d direct your attention to the Vauxhall Corsa Electric. Which is essentially the same technology in plainer (or duller, if we’re being harsh) dress.

The Corsa Electric has historically been hit by a steep upfront cost and terrible depreciation, the worst of both worlds. However, keen to shift more models, Vauxhall is now introducing a new version called the ‘Yes Edition’ which drops the price by more than £6,000 and means it now starts from £26,895. Terrible name, but brilliant value for money. Like the e-208, there’s a 134bhp/50kWh model or a 154bhp/51kWh, with the latter offering up to 246 miles. Top-spec models are ludicrously expensive however – costing close to £40,000. For a Corsa.

For a more in-depth look read our Vauxhall Corsa Electric review

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Jeep Avenger

Best small electric car if you want something resembling an SUV

Jeep Avenger exterior yellow

Pros: Fun styling, easy to drive, good around the city
Cons: Limited rear-seat space, interior feels a bit cheap

‘That’s not a small car, that’s a Jeep’, you might be thinking. But you’d be wrong, as the firm’s new electric crossover is one of the most deceivingly dinky cars on sale. At just 4.1m-long, it’s hardly any bigger than the Corsa, yet still looks like a proper Jeep with its chunky stance and proper seven-slot grille. Its compressed proportions and great visibility make it surprisingly excellent to use around the city, with the raised seating position appealing to those who love SUVs, but in a pint-sized package.

As the Avenger falls from the Stellantis tree, it gets the same 154bhp electric motor and 51kWh battery as both the Corsa Electric and e-208, allowing for fairly sedate performance and a claimed range of up to 248 miles. While the Avenger is a great small EV, it’s not the perfect package. Rear-seat space is no more generous than plenty of superminis, and the interior quality feels quite cheap in places. Prices kick off from £34,800.

For a more in-depth look read our Jeep Avenger review

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MINI Electric

Best small electric car for a fun driving experience

Mini Electric

Pros: Still fun to drive, pretty sprightly, reasonable value
Cons: Short driving range, new model incoming

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. 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.

But a new Mini Electric is already on its way to dealers, boasting a longer range, new interior and more performance, all of which should stand in very good favour. It could be worth waiting for this new model to arrive, or alternatively use it to get a great deal on the outgoing car.

For a more in-depth look read our MINI Electric review

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Small Electric Car Buyer’s Guide

The pros and cons of small electric cars

Small electric cars have three main benefits. 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 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 Peugeot 208. The cheapest petrol automatic model is around £8,000 cheaper than the most basic electric model.

Charging is fraught with problems, too. 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 difficulty 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.

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By Ted Welford

Senior staff writer at CAR and our sister website Parkers. Loves a car auction. Enjoys making things shiny