Top 10 best small electric cars 2022
We run down the very best affordable electric city cars, superminis and family hatchbacks on sale today
If an electric car ought to excel anywhere, it’s in the supermini segment. Typically used for short hops, commuting or as a second car, these compact runarounds aren't as reliant on a long legged range as larger models, while the combination of dinky dimensions, silent running and zero emissions at the tailpipe makes them ideal for zipping about the urban jungle.
A small platform does means less space for batteries, but with their lower kerbweights and less powerful motors many of these small EVs can travel further on a single charge than you'd think. What's more, a smaller batery also means a lower asking price, which is especially important following the the Government's scrapping of its Plug-in Car Grant. That said, these machines are still more costly to buy than their ICE alternatives, but even with the increased cost of energy you should soon recover the extra outlay thanks to reduced running costs, especially if you charge at home. So here are our favourite small EVs.
*Best small electric cars 2022*
-1. Peugeot e-208-
As a traditional combustion-engined supermini, the Peugeot 208 is only a little above average. However, in all-electric guise it’s one of the most appealing small cars there is, thanks to its mix of usable range, performance, value, practicality, style, perceived quality and driver appeal. Essentially, it deserves to figure highly if you’re shopping for your first electric car this year.
Unlike more low-rent-feeling EVs, the car’s materially rich interior distinguishes it just as clearly as the stylish bodywork. Practicality is on a par with the Renault Zoe and better than in a Mini Electric. Refinement beats both of those key rivals too, and performance is fairly strong. Certainly, you get an adequate dose of that electric-motor-enabled ‘zip’.
The car also rides with a suppleness missing from some smaller EVs, which often struggle to contain their body mass on the road, while in its higher-speed body movements it doesn't feel as heavy as key rivals. The steering is striking for its directness, although body control deteriorates a little bit if you drive more enthusiastically. Even so, it’s the roundedness of the e-208’s driving experience that really impresses. It's claimed range of 225 miles isn't to be sniffed at either.
*Save money on new e-208 deals from What Car?*
-2. Fiat 500 Electric-
Fiat’s model range is now slightly confusing, because the old car lives on as the Fiat 500 Hybrid (despite only being a mild hybrid). The one you want, however, is the new electric 500. It might look familiar, but it’s only when you see them side by side that you realise the new electric 500 is completely new.
Fiat has done a marvellous job at retaining the modern-day 500’s cute retro looks, while making it into a car for the modern age. As it was developed as a purely electric car from the outset, it has a fairly sizeable (for a small car) 42kWh battery and a theoretical WLTP-lab-test range of 199miles, even if that translates into more like 140 miles in real-world use. There is a cheaper ‘Fiat 500 Action’ model with a 24kWh pack, but the financial savings aren’t great enough to offset the much shorter range.
The electric Fiat drives substantially better than any other 500 as well, with its 117bhp motor making it surprisingly zippy and fun for a city car. Yes the steering is quite light, but there’s plenty of grip and an absence of body roll - and while it’s not exactly at home on the motorway, it copes remarkably well.
The interior is also a massive improvement over previous 500s too. It’s still quite plasticky, but it looks great, the seats are comfortable and the infotainment is logical and responsive. There's even a convertible model with a roll back canvas roof. It’s still not great for tall drivers, though, and it goes without saying that you shouldn’t plan on carrying adults in the rear very often.
Prices start at just over £20,000, but we’d suggest splashing another couple of grand if you can on the larger battery models. That’s a fair chunk of change for such a tiny tot, but very decent value for a fashionable, fun and thoroughly usable EV.
*Save money on new Fiat 500 deals from What Car? *
-3. Vauxhall Corsa-e-
Vauxhall's sibling to the Peugeot e-208 doesn't quite have the style or claimed WLTP range of its French relation (althought at 222 miles it's not very far behind), or its imaginatively configured interior.
But don't let that fool you into believing this Vauxhall isn't worth a test drive. It might be a little plainer than the Peugeot but it still looks handsome enough. The car's driving experience combines genuine 180-mile everyday battery range with keen and competent handling and a comfortable ride, while 100kW DC rapid charging compatibility as standard should also be a selling point. Vauxhall also has purchase incentives for a free home charger installation and access to a special home energy tariff.
Vauxhall's large UK dealer network and the brand's desire to offer some decent discounts has also helped make this one of the UK's best-selling EVs, converting people who hadn’t previously considered electric motoring. It's certainly good enough to leave the right kind of impression.
*Save money on new Corsa-e deals from What Car?*
-4. Mini Electric-
The Mini Electric brings all of the fun factor you expect of the brand to the compact EV segment – albeit packaged with a few equally typical usability restrictions.
Based exclusively on the three-door Mini bodyshell, the Mini Electric adopts the powertrain from the now defunct BMW i3S, giving it a very healthy 181bhp and 199lb ft of torque. Performance is notably stronger than many of the cars you might compare it with in this list, while handling is grippy, darty and agile in the enduring dynamic traditions of the Mini brand. We like it a lot.
Range is the catch. Mini claims 143 miles, but in reality, depending on how and where you drive it, you’re more likely to get between 100 and 120 miles. And that’s in a car with a pretty small boot, whose back seats are tricky to access and of little use for anyone but younger kids in any case. Then there's the fact that, with prices starting at a little under £30,000, this isn't the most cost effective compact EV option.
Yes the Mini is still one of the more enjoyable small EVs, but the short range is no longer good enough to be at the top of this list.
*Save money on new Mini Electric deals from What Car?*
-5. Honda E-
Honda has taken a left-field approach with its first all-electric car, the Honda E supermini - which is unusually compact for an electric car, and innovative in several ways.
A rear-mounted motor promises packaging efficiency (although the car itself fails to follow through with it), while all-independent suspension heralds the ride and handling sophistication of a bigger car, the Honda delivering real sophistication for something so small.
The E is available in 134bhp and 152bhp forms, but neither has quite the battery capacity of rivals: 35.5kWh ‘gross’ is all you get here, which makes for a claimed WLTP range of 136 miles maximum (with the car rolling on 16in wheels). In testing, we struggled to get much more than 100 from our 17in rim equipped test car.
To drive, the E feels plush, composed and easy to operate, with medium-paced steering but a tight turning circle, and moderate but responsive performance. It doesn’t excite and doesn't offer the last word in background body control, but it's a relaxing zero-emissions city car and its alternative styling is exceptionally endearing. It's helped here by genuine one-pedal driving, which once mastered delivers greater driver engagement and enhanced efficiency.
*Save money on new Honda E deals from What Car?*
-6. Mazda MX-30-
Mazda has never been afraid to do things its own way, and the approach its has taken with its first all-electric car is no different.
The MX-30 is therefore not quite what you’d expect, but it's an appealing proposition all the same. Toy-car looks are wrapped around an unusually small battery pack – just 35.5kWh, giving an official range of 124 miles – because Mazda believes owners simply won’t need any more, and increasing the size of the battery would mean unnecessary cost and weight.
The car is reasonably spacious within, has an SUV-lite body that is very much on trend, and is trimmed in interesting materials that give the cabin a singularly cosy and likeable atmosphere. It also includes distinctive but slighty impractical suicide rear doors - a nod to the brand's old rotary-powered RX-8 coupe.
Dynamically, the MX-30 also stands out - though only when you’re travelling with a bit of pace on an interesting road. With 143bhp and 199lb ft, the electric motor is never going to blow your socks off in a straight line, but the weighting of the MX-30's steering and the supple manner in which the suspension transfers weight while cornering are genuinely reminiscent of the MX-5 sports car. Around town, however, it can feel a little plain.
Charging at up to 50kW is possible, and if the limited range works for you, there is plenty to like about the unusual Mazda MX-30. It could be an effective second car.
*Save money on new MX-30 deals from What Car?*
-7. Renault Zoe-
The Renault Zoe was never the most exciting EV, but the current generation was a significant step up compared to the original. With its 52kWh battery, it can cover up to 239 miles of lab-test range on a charge, and that’s rather embarrassing for some of the more expensive options on this list. Even if it’s more like 190 miles in the real world, that’s still very strong going. It can be charged at 50kW, which is no longer anything to write home about, but it’s better than the AC-charge-only provision of earlier versions.
A recently revised range has seen the introduction of the new Techno and Iconic models, with the former hitting price lists at £29,995. For that cash, you get the powerful R135 model and loads of standard equipment, so even without that Government's discontinued PiCG incentive it still represents decent value for money against its competitors, especially now that you no longer need to lease the battery from Renault. For a couple of grand more, the Iconic adds some extra driver aids and luxuries such as a heated steering wheel, but in term of performance, range and driving dynamics there's nothing between to the two.
It’s broadly pleasing to drive: very nippy, fairly quiet, and with a good ride around town. At higher speeds it can feel slightly unsettled and there’s a somewhat leaden feel to the controls. The interior and infotainment are substantially improved from the last generation.
However, crash test results published by safety body EuroNCAP at the end of 2021 awarded the latest version of the Zoe a zero-star rating, being critical in particular of its offset frontal and side impact protection. At one stage, the Zoe lead Europe's embryonic EV market; now, however, Renault's replacement for it - the much-anticipated new 5 - probably can't come quickly enough.
*Save money on new Zoe deals from What Car?*
Okay, so we know the MG5 isn’t small in the accepted sense, but when you consider its £30,995 starting price it undercuts some of the supermini entries here and has an EV range that will humble most, then its inclusion is justified and welcome. Even more so now that a facelift has helped shake off the car's rather dated image.
Essentially the MG is a compact estate car that offers a no nonsense entry to EV ownership that majors on practicality, value and low running costs. It's also lavishly equipped, with a slick touchscreen infotainment system, climate control and adaptive cruise. Then there are the refreshed looks, which take their cues from the brand's excellent new MG4 with a much sharper nose treatment that gives some actual kerb appeal - the old car looked as cutting edge as a dial-up modem. The interior has been updated too, and while it's still not the last word in quality it looks modern and works well enough.
It’s not particularly exciting to drive, its skinny tyres and soft suspension struggling meaning it's better suited to an easy-going gait than all-out back road attacks. That said, body movement is reasonably well controlled, the electronic stability control is well calibrated to keep things in check without becoming intrusive and the 154bhp electric motor serves up brisk acceleration.
Yet it’s the MG’s practical side that will endear it to budget conscious motorists. Its interior is roomy, while with the rear bench folded flat the boot has a generous 1456-litre capacity, which is almost enough to swallow the Smart ForTwo that sits below it in this list. Then there’s that 249-mile range, while 87kW charging means the battery can be replenished from 10-80% in a biscuit over 40 minutes.
*Save money on new MG5 deals from What Car?*
-9. Smart EQ Fortwo-
Mercedes' old fashion brand Smart has now become an electric mobility brand rather than a conventional car-seller, and leading the charge (sorry, couldn't resist) is the all-new #1, a family-sized hatchback developed in partnership with Chinese firm Geely. However, for now you can you can also still buy the diminutive Fortwo EV.
You'll need to be confident that all of electric motoring will be done in the city, though: as well as being a strict two-seater with a small boot, the car only has an 80-mile WLTP range, which turns into more like 65 miles if you venture out of town.
For a car costing not far shy of £25,000, a usable range like that is a bit of a joke. The car's styling and interior are at least characterful and different, and its performance is punchy enough to zip away from most traffic up to about 50mph, while the cabrio’s roll back canvas roof offers some wind-in-the-hair thrills. Bear in mind, however, that the car's ride can be pitchy and unsettled, while its slow-steering means the handling feels curiously cumbersome for something so small.
*Save money on new Smart EQ Fortwo deals from What Car?*
Until now Dacia has preferred to play it simple, avoiding any high tech bandwagons that are likely to steer it away from delivering what its increasing number of customers want, which is great value, no nonsense transport. However, the Romanian brand has finally accepted that the EV revolution is inevitable and has launched its first all-electric offering - the Spring. As you'd expect, the newcomer is a fairly simple machine that prioritises value-for-money over all else.
Intended as a cheap urban runaround (it's around 0.35 metres shorter than a Sandero), the Chinese-built machine features a very modest 44bhp motor and is limited to 62mph, while the 26.8kWh battery that claims 140 miles on a charge. Yet there's space for four and a surprisingly generous 300-litre boot, while even entry-level models get air-con, USB connection and Bluetooth capability. Already on sale in mainland Europe, the Spring is priced from just over £10,000.
Now, you might be ready spring into action and head down to your nearest Dacia dealer, the brand has revealed that with a waiting list of over six months and supply chain issues still causing hold-ups, it's unlikely UK deliveries will start before 2024.