Best small electric cars to buy in 2024

Ginny Buckley

25 Jan 2024

Mobile phones used to be ruinously expensive and came with a briefcase-sized battery. Considerable development has made them far more affordable and practical, and similar innovation is bringing about a revolution in small electric vehicles.

Electrifying a small car makes perfect sense because an EV’s instant power delivery makes nipping into a gap in the traffic a breeze. Plus, not producing any nasty exhaust emissions in heavily built-up areas means we can breathe more easily.

Also, because small cars aren’t expected to be mile-munchers, they can have smaller and, therefore, cheaper battery packs. And a smaller pack will take less time to charge, so they won’t need the expensive componentry required for ultra-rapid charging speeds, further increasing their affordability.

With that in mind, we’ve picked the 10 best choices currently on the market today, ranking them from 10 down to the best option available.

10. MINI Electric

Our pick: Cooper SE

Price: From £34,500

Range: 248 miles

We were big fans of the old MINI Electric and we’ve got high hopes for the incoming next generation based on our early chance to drive it.

Although the looks are a little divisive, the new car takes everything else that was great about the outgoing model and improves it. Expect sharp handling, lively response and a premium feeling and more high-tech interior. 

In terms of drive, entry-level Cooper E models have a 40kWh battery giving around 180 miles of range -  that’s a useful 50-mile improvement over the previous model. Power comes from the same 182bhp electric motor. 

However, the Cooper SE not only brings more power - 222bhp - but also gets a bigger battery. That 54kWh unit allows the new Mini to cover nearly 250 miles on a single charge. Both versions will be able to be charged at up to 80kW.

The Mini isn’t the most practical of cars thanks to its tight interior and small boot but as far as premium compact cars go, it’s a great choice, so get your order in now.

9. Kia Soul EV

Our pick: 39kWh Urban

Price: £32,875

Range: 171 miles

Kia is on a roll with electric cars, and this, the Kia Soul, is the brand’s cheapest EV available in the UK.

We’ve chosen the entry-level Urban model with the smallest 39kWh battery pack. Despite being the least expensive, you still get plenty of standard safety and technology features, such as adaptive cruise control and a reversing camera. 

We’re not too fussed about the smaller battery because our experience of Kia EVs is that they’re generally very efficient, so it’ll have no trouble meeting most people's weekly demands. It may not be as fun to drive as a Mini or Honda e, but the Soul is far more practical than either and comes with one of the longest warranties around, making it a great all-rounder for the money.

8. Renault Zoe

Our pick: Techno  

Price: £31,195

Range: 239 miles

The Renault Zoe has been around for ages, but low pricing helps keep it competitive with fellow EV rivals.

The Zoe has a big battery pack for the money, and you should get 200 miles of range between charges. The latest models also come with the 'Boost' charge as standard, meaning they'll recharge at up to 50kW. 

Aside from that, the Zoe is a practical EV that’s easy to drive and, for the most part, comfortable. A poor EuroNCAP result lets it down, so if you’re after an EV with a better safety score, take a look at the other choices on this list.

If you still fancy a Zoe, just be aware that it won't be on sale for much longer, as the all-new Renault 5 is due to replace it.

7. Peugeot e-208

Our pick: E-Style

Price: £32,650

Range: 218 miles

The e-208 has been one of our favourite small cars for a while and updates in 2023 have done nothing to diminish that.. 

You can now have the e-208 with the “old” 136bhp motor and 50kWh (47kWh usable) battery or a new 154bhp and 51kWh (48kWh usable) battery. We’d stick with the less powerful version - badged E-Style rather than GT - as an extra £3,500 is a lot for 30 miles additional range. 

Away from the new powertrain, the e-208’s bold looks and interior design and plush material choices remain, which is good since the e-208 has a premium feel few rivals at this price can match. It’s also nicely refined at motorway speeds and provides a decent drive with plenty of grip.

6. BYD Dolphin​

​Our pick: Comfort  

Price: £30,195

Range: 265 miles

BYD’s naming convention might be laughable but you shouldn’t dismiss the Dolphin just because you’re going to sound daft telling people what you drive. Behind the silly name, the Dolphin is a strong option thanks to its impressive battery and motor setup, generous equipment levels and surprising roominess. 

Externally, it isn’t as stylish as some of the cars on our list. In fact, you might call it dull. Inside it’s another story, with a wild combination of textures, patterns and shapes that almost feel like they’ve been carried over from a concept car. For all it looks bizarre, it’s well put together and the Seal offers decent space for four passengers despite its relatively small footprint. 

It also offers impressive power and range for the money. Currently, you can only specify the more expensive Comfort or Design models with their 201bhp and a 64kWh battery good for 265 miles. They would be our choice anyway, although we should see a 44.9kWh battery and choice of 93bhp or 178bhp motors at some point.

Priced from just over £30k and with plenty of technology as standard it’s also decent value among its rivals.

5. Citroën e-C4

Our pick: 100kW YOU!

Price: £32,195

Range: 220 miles

The Citroën e-C4 has long been an excellent value choice given its practicality, strong equipment level and compelling price, but recent revisions look to further its appeal with buyers.

We’ve found the standard 136bhp electric motor and 50kWh battery pack version to be more than up to the task, but now the range has been updated to include the more powerful 154bhp motor and larger 54kWh pack from the revised DS3 E-Tense. 

However, it’s only available on top-spec ë-Series trim, adding £4k to the price over our preferred YOU! model. Like the e-208, the performance benefit and additional 30 miles of range aren’t worth the price increase in our opinion . No, the e-C4 in its most affordable trim is the one for YOU!

4. Volkswagen ID.3

Our pick: 58KWh Pro

Price: £37,435 (+£1,050 heat pump)

Range: 269 miles

The early revisions to the Volkswagen ID.3 (brought forward a whole year to counter initial criticisms) have meant that this car can still mix it in an increasingly more competitive market.

It’s still a pricey pick, but the nicer materials used inside finally make the ID.3 seem worth the money compared with the acres of cheap-feeling hard plastic used before.

The ID.3 is an excellent pick for those who value comfort most with its slightly softer ride. Plus, anyone who regularly carries passengers will probably be interested to know that the ID.3 is more agreeable for those in the back: we found that the slightly sharper angle of the seat bench provided more thigh support for long trips than in the related Cupra Born.

3. Cupra Born

Our pick: 58kWh V2

Price: £38,395

Range: 258 miles

As our Volkswagen ID.3 description mentioned, the Cupra Born remains the better choice as far as we are concerned.

We find it nicer to drive thanks to sharper steering and firmer suspension, which all helps make it feel more responsive when turning into a bend, and more connected with the road when dealing with lumpy country B roads.

The Born also remains the better choice because it has a larger, more intuitive infotainment screen that we’ve found easier to get along with.

Entry-level V1 trim is fair value, but we’d recommend going for V2 to get added luxuries such as heated front seats and steering wheel, plus a handy head-up display - the latter is great for seeing the speed you’re going without adjusting your eyes from the road. There isn’t much need to go for the e-Boost model, because you won’t notice the extra power around town. After all, the standard car is quick enough.

2. Fiat 500e

Our pick: La Prima

Price: £34,195

Range: 186-199 miles

Not only is the dinky Fiat 500e among the best small electric cars you can buy, but it’s also the best car the brand makes right now.

It has the MINI Electric licked at any rate because, at least in the La Prima top spec, the 500e has a slightly larger 42kWh battery, so it’ll go farther on a charge. Furthermore, the 500e is the easier of the two to drive around town, thanks to the former being shorter and having lighter steering than the MINI, which helps when parking. We also feel the 500e has softer suspension and, therefore, has a more comfortable ride.

What’s more, the instant acceleration of the electric motor is a match made in heaven for a city dweller like the 500e, because it gives you such confidence that you’ll have enough power when merging into busy traffic. But it isn’t just that which we like about the 500e. Its classy interior looks the part and is filled with easter egg details that help lift this car above more humdrum EVs.

1: MG4

Our pick: 51kWh SE

Price: £26,995

Range: 218 miles

Given that the MG4 is one of the cheapest EVs around, it is remarkable that it covers as many bases as it does.

Firstly, you’ll be surprised at just how roomy it is inside. To be fair, it is a lot longer than a Fiat 500e, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s slightly bigger than the Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa Electric duo and it means the MG4 has space inside for four adults (five at a squeeze) with a reasonable boot as well.

We’re advocating the entry-level 51kWh SE model because it has a decent range and plenty of equipment for the money. It makes much more sense than the four-wheel drive, 429bhp, sub 4 sec 0-62mph XPower version. While the latter is undeniably amusing, the standard car is quick enough for most needs.

Keeping the price low helps to mitigate against some of the MG 4’s noticeable shortcomings, such as the very cheap feeling interior (we accidentally scratched the plastic on the doors just with our nails!). However, we can put up with that and the underwhelming heater because, for the money, nothing can touch the MG 4 in terms of range, performance, or practicality. And that’s before we get its quick rapid charging capability, which means the MG 4 can tackle a long trip occasionally without it becoming a real slog waiting for it to charge up.

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