Don't be exhausted parents - the best electric cars for kids and toddlers

Martin Gurdon


Electric cars are child friendly in some surprising ways - and not just that they should help to make the planet they inherit slightly greener.

Today’s cars have become mobile cinemas and games rooms, and many electric cars have hidden talents to keep kids happy and their parents sane. Add in the fact that many are more spacious too, and you can start to see why they can 

Take the Ford Mustang Mach-e. The car has a claimed 379-mile range, which ought to reduce ‘are we stopping again?’ complaints from the back during battery charging pauses. Ditto its 60 mile range after a ten minute fast charge. The car’s 15.5inch ‘portrait infotainment screen’ (as Ford insists on calling it) would certainly appeal to youthful passengers. The Mach-e also comes with a huge glass roof, making it the car du jour for visiting a safari park. The childish glee generated by a monkey planting its big red bottom on the car’s roof should not be underestimated. The Mach-e also has a 100 litres of additional storage space, and a Ford person suggested that this could be a repository for ‘stinky nappies.’

Ford Mustang mach e gt roof from above The Ford's glass roof - ideal for observing monkey's bottoms

Moving on, let us consider the plethora of games that Tesla offers. Its Tesla Arcade function is awash with beeping, flashing, shrieking entertainments with eye watering graphics, and the games themselves come under the heading of ‘too numerous to mention.’

Many feature an avatar of the Tesla the gamers are sitting in as part of the action, and the games can be linked with smart phones or be worked by gaming consoles. Some games are aimed at adult as well as their offspring. Tesla drivers suffering from arrested development can park up and play Beach Buggy Racing 2, using their steering wheels and brakes to control a computer generated Tesla as it thrashes through a primary coloured world.

The Model 3 has a conventional boot, which means it’s less practical overall for carrying child-related gubbins from giant multipacks of nappies to folding pushchairs. With 854 litres of space behind the rear seats, and 2,158 litres when they’re folded, this isn’t a problem with its sort of sports utility Model Y range mate. The rear passenger area is ballroom sized too, and posting a writhing toddler through one of the large rear side doors will be relatively painless unless a tiny fist connects with your head.

A 315 mile range is another plus, ditto Tesla’s Supercharger charging stations that will give you 162 miles of juice in fifteen minutes.

Finally, an honourable mention is needed for a Tesla comedy feature that will appeal to children of all ages. A built in fart noise.

Which brings us to a pressing question: Do goldfish break wind and if they do, does this produce bubbles in fish tanks? This is something Honda is unlikely to answer, but it might get close, because one of the functions of the full width, multi-screen digital dash of its electric baby five door, the e, is an aquarium mode with a selection of backgrounds and fish. The car’s cameras for door mirrors feature is likely to attract younger passengers, and it comes with a plethora of power sockets that make the car gaming-friendly.

The Honda e has enough gadgets to please big and little kids

The Honda’s 125-137 range inevitably means more ‘I’m bored’ charging stopovers, but at least with a 100kW fast charging point you’ll only wait half an hour to get 80% charge, and a little more hanging around if you plug into a 50kW unit.

Should you be the owner of a deflated bouncy castle in the middle of a power cut, then Kia’s EV6 five door is the ideal car for you. The EV6 has an external socket in which a three pin plug can be, well, plugged, and it will power anything from home cinema systems to bouncy castle compressors. Rear passengers get a three pin plug that allows laptop transformers to keep them juiced up ad infinitum. Incidentally, the back seat plug is something it shares with the older IONIQ 5.

Did we mention the Citroen e-C4’s I-Pad holder for front seat passengers with a cover that prevents its driver from looking at it? Well, now we have. Shine Plus versions have an extra sub-woofer speaker to really enhance ‘I Like To Move It, Move It’ as you play it for the 8,000th time. You can do this for up to 217 miles between charges, and perhaps have a thirty minute break at a 100kW fast charger, where the e-C4 will take on an 80% charge in that time. Audis seem to have options lists that are longer than a Dan Brown novel, and the electric e-tron versions are no exception. One ad on is ambient lighting with thirty colours giving some of the interior surfaces a lava lamp vibe, which some children will find quite hypnotic.

Citroen ec4 electric car interior ipad mount The Citroen e-C4 will helpfully hold your passenger's iPad

By the way, Mercedes electric EQ models have an even broader ambient lighting colour palette, with a choice of 64 hues. The cars are also fitted with the ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice actuated command centre, which can be turned off as a way of thwarting children asking the car annoying, repeated questions.

Still, Mercedes’ MBUX multimedia system has a ‘Geo quiz’ facility, which is in fact a ten question geography quiz. To our ears ‘MBUX’ sounds a bit like an animal (a form or roebuck perhaps?), so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that when asked to describe animal noises, MBUX will impersonate them. Fun or barking? You decide. Electric cars are generically quiet, aiding blissful child silence when they fall asleep, and Mercedes makes much play of its EQ models’ racket-cutting double glazed windows.

For the more easily pleased pre-teen, just getting in and out of a car has entertainment potential, particularly if that car is the slightly peculiar Mazda MX-30, which hasn’t got a b-pillar but does have a pair of small, rear hinged side doors. When both these and the front doors are opened, there’s a very big hole that makes herding minors onto the back seat a doddle, and since this looks a bit odd some children will find it fun.

Mazda CX30 interior The Mazda MX-30's doors make sense when you have toddlers

In Europe, the dinky Fiat 500 electric has the same system on one side, but it’s the wrong side for us in the UK which is why we can't get it yet. Getting out of the driver’s side, which usually means entry or exit onto the road rather than the pavement, would make this child unfriendly.

Volvo’s two electric offerings, the C40 and XC40 Recharge, have sensors that will apply the brakes if you’re about to reverse into something. This isn’t an obviously child friendly feature, but consider how you might feel if it prevented you from wrapping your back bumper round a lamp post in the middle of a parking/back seat tantrum manoeuvre. Volvo’s ‘infotainment’ system uses Google Assistant, and can be asked questions that will potentially engage young minds. Ask it what noise a lion makes and it will roar. We are unable to say if its animal noises are any more authentic than those offered by Mercedes.

The electric MINI is a child-centric car. Its cosy interior allows front seat dwelling parents to get closer to children in the back to express displeasure if they’re less than moppet like in the behaviour department.

The car also has a travel charging facility that will replenish the battery at a pre-determined time, defrost, heat or cool the car so it’s ready for the road whatever the weather, which for a harassed parent faced with the school run are stress-removing qualities. Other electric cars have a similar talent. More mundane practicalities can impact the child, and indeed family friendliness of a car, not least its ability to carry the paraphernalia associated with children, so having decent luggage and passenger space is certainly important. That’s one reason why we reviewed the boot space of some of the most popular EVs here.

We recommend reading the small print about cabin space in general for any electric car, because there are anomalies. For instance, the 77kWh VW ID.3 is only available with four seats as it’s too heavy to cope with five. Other versions have lighter battery packs and room for an extra human being.

Top trivia - the ID.3 (right) can only be a four seater if you want the bigger battery

One of the best electric family holdalls is the Skoda Enyaq five door, which has a shed like interior capable of holding 585 litres with the back seats up and 1,710 litres when they’re folded away. This is beaten by the Tesla Model Y, but comfortably ahead of the Volkswagen ID.4 (543 and 1,575 litres), which is the same car underneath a different body.

VW claims that a reasonably slim adult could sit in the centre portion of the rear seat with a pair of child seats on either side, which would either be fun or purgatory, depending on how you view these things. Features that might entertain the little dears include ID. Light, which is a pulsing light strip at the base of the windscreen that changes frequency when the car is ready to drive, when the navigation system thinks it should turn and when the battery starts pleading for a recharge.

When fitted with a panoramic glass roof with an electric roller blind, this can be operated by voice actuation, using a command along the lines of: “hello ID, show me the stars.” All very sweet, but it might lead to an adult phone call along the lines of: “hello social services, I’m being driven nuts by an electric roller blind opening and closing over and over again.”

ŠKODA, enyaq iv, enyaq, iv, family car, electric, boot, rear seats Skoda's Enyaq has plenty of space for toddlers, even if they grow into teenagers

Let us finish with some analogue in car entertainment inspired by a child, which can be described as ‘hunt the shark in a Vauxhall.’

Back in 2001 a designer was sketching a Vauxhall Corsa glovebox when his small son noticed some wave like rib shapes in the drawing and suggested putting a shark motif inside them. Dad duly obliged, and a tradition of hiding little sharks on obvious, and sometimes less obvious bits of Vauxhall interiors was born. It’s been continued in the electric Mokka and Corsa, but not the battery powered Combo-e Life van-derived people carrier, which is a Peugeot in disguise. We’re not going to speculate how many Combo-e driving parents might be tempted to ‘forget’ this and get their offspring to hunt the shark anyway.

Children may be disappointed to hear there's no shark in a Combo e-Life

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