Top 10 best electric cars 2021
Electric cars just keep improving, with longer ranges and shorter charging times. Here are the best electric cars on sale now
Electric cars are still considered as a relatively new concept, but they’ve actually been around since the 19th century. Buyers fell out of love with them in favour of petrol and diesel cars, though, and the term ‘electric vehicle’ brought only images of golf buggies and milk floats to mind.
There is an increasing number of electric cars entering the market every year, leading to more and more new car buyers swapping petrol and diesel pumps for a plug. They range in size, too, with electric power now available in mainstream superminis to family-sized SUVs and performance saloons. You can buy popular models like the Vauxhall Corsa and Peugeot 208 in electric form, as well as luxury and performance models like the Jaguar I-Pace and Porsche Taycan which would've been unthinkable only a few years ago. In this list, we’ve ranked the best electric cars you can buy today.
These days, most electric cars are capable of travelling more than 100 miles on a single charge – more than 300 miles in some cases – and their recharging time has tumbled. Batteries have also become smaller and lighter, benefitting the packaging, efficiency and handling of these vehicles. The Government expects half of all new cars sold in 2027 to be battery-powered, and the number of charging points is increasing. From 2030 onwards, new car buyers will only be able to choose between an electric, hydrogen or plug-in hybrid car.
Electric cars produce none of the harmful exhaust emissions of their petrol and diesel-powered counterparts and they offer much lower running costs too, but these aren’t the only advantages. The absence of a combustion engine can sometimes free up extra space inside and electric cars can accelerate quickly because of the way electric motors deliver their power. The Tesla Model S, for example, remains one of the fastest accelerating cars ever made.
However, electric cars don’t yet suit all lifestyles. They cost more to buy than conventional cars of the same type and you have to factor in the extra time to recharge their batteries versus refilling a car with petrol or diesel. There’s also the effort of finding a charger if you need one during a journey.
This situation is changing, however, with new charging stations continually emerging. The range of companies and schemes does seem confusing, but our guide to the best chargepoints should take the hassle out of charging during journeys.
Electric cars are getting more desirable very quickly. If you often drive long distances, take a look at our guide to the best hybrid cars, while our list of the best plug-in hybrids may also appeal to town drivers, otherwise keep reading for what we think are the 10 best electric cars on sale right now.
To read more about electric cars, why not read our picks for the top 10 electric SUVs on sale today.
Hyundai’s history with electric cars goes all the way back to 1991 with the electric version of the Sonata saloon. It’s obvious the company has used its 30 years of experience when it comes to the Ioniq 5; it’s one of the best EVs on sale today. A striking mix between retro and futuristic, this new electric Hyundai won’t fail to stand out in the supermarket car park.
Boasting a maximum 298-mile range and with the capability for super fast 350kW charging, the Ioniq 5 is quick to disperse any niggling range anxiety. Even entry-level models carry a respectable range of around 238 miles, as well as plenty of tech and interior space for passengers. Also, like other Hyundais, the Ioniq 5 comes with a five-year, unlimited-mile warranty for peace of mind? The Ioniq 5 truly sets an electric-car benchmark.
If there’s a brand that reassures buyers they’re in safe hands during their transition to electric motoring, it’s VW. The ID.3 replaces the e-Golf, and VW says its new car is as important as the Beetle and Golf. It plans to sell 100,000 annually by 2022 and the ID.3 will act as the springboard for a whole range of electric ID models. The ID.3 looks like a futuristic Volkswagen Golf but it’s been laid out to offer a similar amount of interior space to a Volkswagen Passat.
Range varies from 205 to 342 miles, depending on the battery size you spec, and the ID.3 feels quick enough to keep pace with a Golf GTI. Inside, material quality seems to have been compromised and some controls might not be where you’d expect them to be, but it’s certainly a futuristic design. We think the ID.3 will prove popular, especially with buyers who can’t quite stretch to the Tesla Model 3.
The Jaguar I-Pace is the best fully electric SUV to drive on the market and it's only really its relatively high price that prevents the car from hitting the top spot in our list. The first electric Jag' is fast in a straight-line, completing 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds, but it's the handling that really impresses; the I-Pace has a sense of poise and control in corners that is virtually unprecedented in an electric car.
Marry this to good looks, a smart, luxurious interior, a decent dose of practicality, low running costs, and a decent real-world range of around 240 miles or more, and you have an excellent luxury electric SUV.
We’re seriously impressed with the Kia e-Niro because it’s one of the most complete electric cars we’ve driven so far. Its impressive range is merely one reason to like it; it’s also half the price of the posher cars on this list. Under the stricter WLTP test cycle, the e-Niro managed 282 miles between charges, and you should be able to get close to this figure in mixed driving.
The car’s based on one of the Niro hybrid’s top trim levels, so it’s well equipped. Add in a big boot and a long warranty, and the e-Niro is a striking prospect. If you’re looking to embrace the electric revolution, Kia’s first EV is likely to be the one that tempts you away from petrol and diesel power.
While the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X paved the way for long-range, stylish electric cars, the Model 3 aims to provide this in a more mainstream package. Although it’s more expensive than initially expected, its £40,000 starting price makes it a strong rival to conventional powered models. With a 0-62mph time of just 3.2 seconds in Performance guise and a maximum range of around 360 miles in Long Range spec, it’s a completely different proposition to its rivals like the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Jaguar XE.
There are still some questions about supply, build quality and reliability but the performance, technology and luxurious interior will be enough to sway many customers. At the moment, the Model 3 is on its own in terms of pricing - it’s more expensive than most of the electric cars on this list but it undercuts the Jaguar, Audi e-tron and Tesla’s other models.
The Hyundai Kona is an SUV with attractive styling, but not much else to crow about in standard guise. Plump for electric power though, and suddenly this South Korean-built car becomes a lot more compelling. For starters, no EV rival gets close to the Kona’s fashionable looks at anything like the money. And it’s not just a looker on the outside; the interior has an appealingly high-quality design with a hi-tech feel.
Just as impressively, if you opt for the biggest 64kWh battery, Hyundai reckons you can eke out around 270 miles of driving on a full charge. That’s enough to make ‘range anxiety’ a thing of the past for most users, especially those who can plug in at home every night. If you want to dip into the Kona’s performance, a sub-eight-second 0-62mph time is on the cards, although inert handling means it never feels like a sports car. You’ll quickly dent the range, too, which already drops to around 200 miles with the cheaper 39kWh battery. Most EV drivers won’t care, enjoying the Kona’s smoothness, refinement and practicality instead. The Hyundai Kona Electric has proved so popular that Hyundai can’t keep up with current demand.
For drivers who want to make the switch to electric but who don’t want a Tesla, the Polestar 2 is a direct rival to the much-lauded Model 3. Billed as an electric fastback, the 2 features a distinctive, sleek hatchback design, a modern and techy interior, with several design cues pointing towards its Volvo origins. It was designed in Sweden and is built in China, and shares its platform with the Volvo XC40. Underneath the angular bodywork buyers can opt for a 64 or 78kWh battery. The range-topping version with the larger 78kWh battery powers two electric motors that send 403bhp to all four wheels. This setup means the Polestar 2 is quick, with 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds.
The car also offers a range of up to 300 miles, though around 280 miles is more realistic, which is competitive when compared to other rivals on this list. The ability to use 150kW rapid charging means longer journeys should be easy, and free of ‘range anxiety.’ The interior design is clean and ergonomic, with quality materials giving it a luxurious, modern feel. An 11-inch touchscreen dominates the dashboard and is the first infotainment to run a new dedicated Android operating system, which is also capable of recognising the owner's smartphone as a car key.
If you thought a brand built on fast and thrilling petrol sports cars couldn’t successfully switch to electric power, you’re mistaken. While it may not have an engine, the Porsche Taycan still feels like a Porsche - with up to 750bhp on tap, it has the straight-line performance to scare supercars (and the Tesla Model S, its closest rival for now). Porsche’s engineers have managed to make the Taycan feel very agile and sporty, which is no mean feat considering the car weighs more than two tonnes.
At cruising speed, up to 279 miles of range is promised, and the Taycan supports the very latest fast chargers; find a 270kW charger and it’ll top up to 80% battery capacity in just 23 minutes. It’s practical, too, with space for four adults and a 366-litre boot, although a Tesla Model S does have around twice as much storage space. The only real fly in the ointment is the price, as both Turbo and Turbo S models cost comfortably more than £100,000. A less expensive entry-level model is now available, with a price tag of around £70,000 - the same as an entry-level Porsche Panamera.
The Nissan Leaf is now in its second generation and it's more impressive than ever. This version features a more toned-down design than its predecessor, which looked to some people like it had dropped out of a sci-fi movie. It also has a longer range (now up to 239 miles) and better performance, but remains reasonably priced, putting electric motoring within reach of many. And an innovative 'e-Pedal' helps boost range and transforms the driving experience, almost eliminating the need to use the brakes in most normal driving.
Inside, the Leaf is like any other well equipped and spacious family hatchback, so it should appeal to a broad swathe of buyers who may not have considered 'going electric' before.
The Tesla Model S can probably take more credit for making electric cars an exciting prospect than any other vehicle. Although it’s not as futuristically styled as some, it’s still extremely attractive – even after a 2016 facelift that removed the faux front grille. The Model S is a premium-priced product that has gained a very favourable image and a loyal following, despite prices exceeding the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class, which match it for size and beat it for interior quality.
What they can’t do, though, is come anywhere near it on performance – the Performance version even has a ‘Ludicrous Mode’ allowing a 0-60mph sprint in 2.3 seconds, while even the entry-level version will do this in four seconds. Despite this hugely impressive performance, the Tesla’s maximum range is still right at the top of what’s currently achievable, offering between 285 and over 400 miles depending on which model you go for. You can also have your Model S with self-driving ‘Autopilot’ technology that allows the car to effectively drive itself under certain conditions.
Not sure whether hybrid or electric power is right for you? Check out our guide, Hybrid vs plug-in hybrid vs electric cars.