Pressure is growing on UK motorists to ditch their petrol and diesel-powered vehicles and switch to pure-electric cars, but which are the best electric cars available to buy now on the UK car market?
The number of electric car sales on the UK’s roads continues to grow, as more new electric cars are launched and used prices start to drop. The selection of new electric cars facing consumers will continue as more manufacturers get on board with the technology in preparation for increasing emission regulation and upcoming bans on petrol and diesel cars.
At the same time, the electric car-charging infrastructure in the UK is improving, making electric cars more viable for more people. The wider availability of fast and rapid chargers at homes and workplaces, as well as in public spaces, means it’s easier than ever to make the swap into a BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) and enjoy its lower running costs with relatively little inconvenience. Even if you can’t manage with a pure EV, today’s plug-in hybrids offer a good halfway house.
Although some customers might still be a little hesitant about making the switch to electric power, one key advantage is that there is a greater selection than ever before. There are small, city car-sized EVs such as the Fiat 500, while Skoda‘s capable Enyaq offers SUV practicality, and models from Porsche and Tesla offer plenty of prestige and pace. Also wading into the mix is the brilliant, yet controversial Ford Mustang-badged Mach-E SUV and of course, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 took our Car of the Year award for 2021.
There are other benefits to pure-electric motoring besides the environmental credentials – you’ll be exempt from London’s congestion charge zone and from paying road tax. Electric cars still remain more expensive than their combustion engined counterparts to buy, even with the government’s plug-in car grant, but running costs have been shown to be as much as 60% less for electric cars.
Here we reveal our pick of the current EV options, and give you some top tips that will help you decide whether an electric car is right for you.
- Hyundai Ioniq 5
- Kia EV6
- Skoda Enyaq
- Fiat 500
- BMW i4
- BMW iX
- Ford Mustang Mach-E
- Porsche Taycan
- Tesla Model 3
- Tesla Model Y
Best electric cars to buy 2022
1. Hyundai Ioniq 5
The Ioniq 5 has its sights firmly set on premium rivals such as the Audi Q4 e-tron, Volkswagen ID.4 and Tesla Model Y. Make no mistake, the Ioniq 5 is impressive across the board, showcasing next-gen electric car tech along with capable performance and charging ability normally reserved for high-end models like the Porsche Taycan and Audi e-tron GT.
Two battery options are available with three power outputs: the entry 58kWh battery is paired with a single 168bhp motor driving the rear wheels, delivering a 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds and a range of 238 miles. The 214bhp mid-spec version offers the best range, with a 73kWh battery increasing the total distance able to be covered on a single charge to 280 miles. The top-spec variant uses the same 73kWh battery, but adds a second motor at the front, giving a combined total of 301bhp and 605Nm of torque. Overall range falls slightly to 267 miles, although performance is much improved with 0-62 taking 5.2 seconds.
Starting at just under £37,000, the Ioniq 5 features a superb infotainment system and generous standard kit, while the available space has to be seen to be believed. It’s comfortable, too, so you’ll relish the chance of racking up the miles. We certainly did, which is why we named the Hyundai Ioniq 5 our Car of the Year for 2021.
2. Kia EV6
The Kia EV6 is the sister vehicle to the Hyundai Ioniq 5, so it’s a great pick if you love that model’s technology, but aren’t quite as sold on its retro-futuristic looks. The EV6 is arguably the more conventional of the two, and it’s a bit lower and more sporting. This is reflected in its handling, with slightly firmer suspension offering sharper responses.
It’s offered in Long Range RWD, Long Range AWD and a high-performance GT version, and the entry-level version is our favourite. It not only offers the best range figure of up to 328 miles from its 77.4kWh battery, but we also found its 7.2-second 0-62mph time to be quick enough.
With all-wheel drive, the next step up is undeniably faster, lopping two seconds off its benchmark sprint time. But it also has a slightly shorter range, costs considerably more and doesn’t feel entirely comfortable to drive quickly.
Every version features impressive ultra-rapid charging at up to 250kW, so if you can find a fast enough public charger, a top up from 10 to 80% is possible in less than 20 minutes. Its interior is no less desirable, thanks to a dashboard dominated by a pair of curved 12.3-inch screens for the instruments and infotainment setup.
3. Skoda Enyaq
The Enyaq is an all-electric family car that is typically Skoda: that is to say it’s practical, well-equipped, comfortable and decent to drive. With top-spec models able to cover over 300 miles from a full charge, it soothes any range anxiety and just gets on with being an excellent family car – that just happens to run on battery power.
Skoda has come up with an innovative way of helping you to personalise your new Enyaq; instead of standard trim levels it offers five individual ‘Design Selections’ – Loft, Lodge, Lounge, Suite and ECO Suite. Each provides a distinct design approach, with different materials used to create a certain style.
Standard kit is generous with 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display, climate control, cruise control and rear parking sensors all featuring on the base model. Unfortunately, the Enyaq no longer qualifies for the government’s plug-in car grant, which is capped at £32,000 – the Enyaq starts from just under £35,000.
4. Fiat 500
The Fiat 500 nails its city car brief perfectly; it’s competitively priced, offering low running costs and plenty of Italian flair. Although the third generation car is a little bigger than its combustion-engined predecessor, the 500 EV is still at home darting through urban traffic, while you shouldn’t have any trouble parking as even the entry-level models come with rear parking sensors as standard.
Two battery options are available: a 42kWh ‘Long Range’ version and a 24kWh ‘City Range’ variant. The City Range offers up to 115 miles of range from a single charge, although the bigger battery gives you a more practical 199 miles before needing to recharge.
Inside, the cabin is suitably stylish, while you’ll benefit from a host of on-board tech. Base cars offer a 7-inch infotainment screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, while moving up through mid- and top-spec models brings a rear-view camera and a 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen.
5. BMW i4
The BMW i4 demonstrates the brand’s commitment to both an electrified future and its rich heritage for delivering cars that are great to drive. Arguably, the best part about the i4 is the way it handles – despite weighing in at over two tonnes, it feels brilliant through the corners with precise steering feels and impressive agility. In fact, near silent progress aside, you’d struggle to tell the difference between it and a fossil-fuelled 4 Series Gran Coupe.
The standard eDrive40 i4 produces 335bhp and 430Nm of torque, which should be plenty for everyday driving. Yet there’s also a 536bhp i4 M50 version, which is the first electric car to be produced by BMW’s performance-focused M Division. The 335bhp model is offered in both Sport and M Sport trim levels, both of which come with a healthy amount of kit. M Sport models get mostly cosmetic upgrades for an extra £1,500. Optional kit is rather expensive, however, and the i4 doesn’t offer quite as much value for money as its rivals.
6. BMW iX
BMW has delivered some fine electrified models over the years, with the revolutionary i8 sports car and more mainstream i3 supermini standing out as superb examples of the German manufacturer’s engineering skill.
There are three versions currently available: the first is the 332bhp xDrive40 with a 71kW battery that’s good for a range of up to 257 miles, while the other two versions are the 516bhp xDrive50 and the upcoming 611bhp M60. These more powerful variants up the battery size to 105kW and will achieve a claimed maximum of 380 and 357 miles respectively.
All versions of the BMW iX feature a four-wheel drive, dual-motor setup and, although this contributes to a rather hefty kerbweight of over 2,400kg, the iX handles surprisingly well and grips reassuringly through corners. The ride is incredibly refined, too, with the suspension doing an excellent job of absorbing the vibrations and bumps of even the most pothole-riddled roads.
Make your way inside and you’ll be greeted by a plush, distinctively-styled cabin filled with high-quality materials. Not only does it look and feel good, it performs well, too, with a dual-screen infotainment setup featuring the latest version of BMW’s iDrive.
7. Ford Mustang Mach-E
The Mustang Mach-E is Ford‘s first all-electric SUV, and is one of the most important cars for the blue oval in a generation. Starting from around £43,000, the Mach-E is a practical and well-priced EV that offers great handling and a generous list of standard kit.
It doesn’t compromise on pace, either, with the fastest 346bhp all-wheel-drive version capable of 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds. The model range consists of 68kWh ‘Standard Range’ battery variants with either rear- or four-wheel-drive. The former offers up to 273 miles of range and the latter 243 miles.
Move up to the 88kWh ‘Extended Range’ cars and you’ll benefit from more miles on a single charge – a claimed 379 miles for the RWD model and 335 miles for the AWD First Edition SUV.
The Mustang Mach-E is nothing like its iconic sports car namesake, but it’s a well-crafted electric SUV that still offers a breadth of skills. And, if you’re after more pace, the 480bhp Mach-E GT performance model is even faster, and boasts ‘MagneRide’ adaptive suspension.
8. Porsche Taycan
The new Porsche Taycan is a brilliant car to drive, remaining true to its maker’s heritage and leaving you in no doubt that this is a ‘proper’ Porsche sports saloon.
The Taycan delivers sports car-like handling, with ferocious acceleration and great agility – yet still offers four seats and a usable range. It’s not often that a car comes along that feels truly revolutionary, but that is exactly what the Porsche Taycan is – and it shows how much fun a plug-in future can be.
Despite being a hefty 2.2-tonnes in weight, it hides its bulk well, and is able to weave neatly through tight corners and demolish fast, sweeping bends. The Taycan’s raw pace is, frankly, ridiculous; in ‘standard’ 523bhp 4S guise it manages the 0-62mph benchmark in 4.0s, although if you upgrade to the 750bhp Turbo S version, it’s a staggeringly quick 2.8s.
Don’t forget, though, the Taycan should also be pretty easy to live with as a daily driver. Refinement is top notch and, while ride comfort is firm, the air suspension does its job of dealing with the broken, uneven tarmac of UK roads.
The Taycan clearly defines how Porsche sees its own future in the changeover from using fossil fuels to electric power. It’s an accomplished first step, splendidly executed and one that should ease the minds of the driving enthusiast.
9. Tesla Model 3
The Model 3 was the electric car many had been waiting for. It’s a compact executive saloon rivalling the likes of the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series – a market with broad mainstream appeal – and it’s also one of the most convincing electric cars that money can buy.
It combines minimalist style, space-age technology, grin-inducing performance, cutting-edge charging tech – supported by the expansive and dedicated Tesla Supercharger network – and, most importantly, a long driving range. The entry-level Standard Range Plus model claims up to 267 miles on a single charge, but it doesn’t sacrifice performance to achieve this. The electric motor drives the rear wheels and powers the car from 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds, while top speed is 140mph.
The interior is nothing like what you’ll find in any BMW or Audi. The minimalist approach might not be to everyone’s taste but you can’t deny the wow factor.
Spend a bit more, and the four-wheel-drive Long Range version has two electric motors and a larger battery for a range of 360 miles, with 0-60mph dropping to 4.2 seconds. Then there’s the Model 3 Performance, which scorches from 0-60mph in 3.1 seconds, but is still capable of 352 miles on a full battery.
10. Tesla Model Y
The Model Y is Tesla’s second SUV, and it has been designed to be more manageable and less flashy than the larger Model X. It wouldn’t be unfair to think of the Model Y as a larger version of the Model 3, both cars share similar styling and are even claimed to share 95% of the same technology. This is far from a bad thing.
Both the performance and long-range variants of Model Y are four-wheel drive, this means that traction is plentiful, resulting in impressive acceleration 0-60mph times of 4.5 seconds for the Long Range and 3.5 for the Performance.
Although these figures are impressive, this small SUV performs well as a family-lugger, too. Space is more than enough for all five passengers, and with 854-litres of luggage space in the back plus 117-litres up front, the weekly shopping trip should be an absolute breeze.
Inside the Model Y is the usual minimalist interior, dominated by a horizontal 15.4-inch touchscreen that acts as the dashboard, infotainment and vehicle management systems, all of which perform very well.
When it comes to battery range, the Model Y falls behind the Model 3 but still offers plenty in either Performance or Long Range form, at 298 and 315 miles respectively.
How to choose an electric car: top tips
1. Decide whether an electric car will suit your lifestyle
Electric cars are not for everybody. Although the public charging infrastructure in the UK is improving quickly, regular long trips in an electric car can still prove problematic. The perfect usage pattern for an EV involves charging at home overnight when electricity tariffs are lower and not needing to top up the battery again during the day.
Ideally, you’ll need somewhere to charge at home, but you could get around this if there are EV charging points at work or plenty of public charging points nearby. If you do less than 200 or so miles a week, you could get away without having a home or work charger at all; just visit a public one every few days to top up.
If your average daily mileage exceeds the range of your electric car, we’d advise you to think twice, but the occasional longer trip should be perfectly manageable. As the technology improves and the average range of electric cars grows, more and more people will find that they could live quite happily with an electric car.
2. Don’t be put off by high electric car prices, running costs are the key
The list prices of electric cars can look expensive compared to equivalent petrol or diesel models, even when the Government’s plug-in car grant has been applied, but looks are very likely to be deceiving. List prices are just one part of the cost of vehicle ownership and the overall cost becomes much more palatable when you factor-in the relatively low running costs of EVs – often around 60% of those of a similar petrol model depending on usage patterns.
As a general rule, charging an electric car is far cheaper than fueling a petrol or diesel one – even if you use more expensive public charging points.
The free VED (road tax), the company car tax advantages and the lower maintenance costs that result from an EV’s fewer moving parts, and the lower cost of running an electric car will also help offset the higher upfront price.
3. Don’t worry about electric car practicality
There was a time when the majority of electric cars were conventional models with the internal combustion engine powertrain swapped out for an electric motor and batteries. This led to all sorts of compromises in terms of interior and boot space. But today, electric cars tend to be built on purpose-designed platforms that are created either purely for electric vehicles or to accommodate various kinds of propulsion systems. The end result is that electric cars deliver boot and passenger space equivalent to petrol and diesel rivals.
4. Enjoy the electric car driving experience
Electric cars tend to be heavier than petrol and diesel models, which means they can feel less nimble on twisty roads, but there are a whole host of benefits to the way they drive that many people will find preferable.
For a start you get near-silent cruising with next-to-no sound from the electric motors. In traffic, the car slows itself when you lift off the throttle, so it’s possible to drive around town using just one pedal, hardly ever touching the brake. It all makes for a very relaxed experience, yet the instant torque provided by the electric motor means that even everyday EVs have the potential to leave a hot hatch standing when pulling away from the traffic lights and in some cases, supercars too.
In some ways, owning an EV means you have to change the way you think about driving. You automatically adopt a gentler, more relaxed style that maximises your range and often means you reach your destination feeling more refreshed than you would do otherwise.
Buying an electric car: frequently asked questions
Are electric cars environmentally friendly?
Electric cars have zero exhaust emissions so they don’t cause the localised NOx and particulate emissions that have a damaging effect on air quality in urban areas. However, the overall environmental credentials of an electric car depend greatly on the source of the electricity used to charge it. As the energy mix of the National Grid moves towards renewable sources like solar, wind and tidal power and away from fossil fuels, electric cars get greener.
Which electric cars have the longest range?
With ever-improving battery technology, electric cars are increasing their ranges. The Kia e-Niro is one of the more affordable EVs and it has an official range of 282 miles, which should be enough for most drivers. At the other end of the scale, pricier models such as the Tesla Model S can offer more than 400 miles.
Are electric cars reliable?
Electric cars are still selling in relatively small numbers and we haven’t seen enough of them doing significant mileages to make a firm judgment on reliability. What we do know is that EVs have fewer moving parts than conventional cars and there’s little evidence from hybrid or electric cars that battery performance degrades substantially with use, although you are likely to see a gradual reduction in capacity.
How much do electric cars cost to tax?
Pure-electric cars are free to tax. This still means you need to go through the process of taxing your electric vehicle although you won’t be required to pay anything. All other cars, including plug-in hybrids, pay at least £145 in road tax.
The UK electric car market: history and future
Electric cars have been around for well over a century but it’s only recently that they’ve started to gain a market foothold. In the early noughties, the Reva G-Wiz led the electric car craze, although that model was hardly a car at all, as it was classed as a quadricycle. It used basic lead-acid batteries, similar to the electric milk floats that once frequented British streets in the early hours, and was slow, cramped and not very safe. It wasn’t until the original Nissan Leaf came along that the process of electric car development went into overdrive.
As a five-door, five-seat hatchback, the Leaf offered the practicality of a conventional family car, and became the best-selling EV, albeit with sales figures significantly lower than its petrol and diesel counterparts. Initially the Leaf’s range was 80 miles at best, but constant development and improvement have seen that range increase, while the arrival of the Leaf Mk2 in 2018 saw the car gain a range closer to a conventional petrol car.
Seeing the success of the Leaf, rival car makers got in on the act and introduced their own EVs. Hyundai, Kia, Peugeot, Citroen, Renault, Ford and Volkswagen have all joined the electric revolution, along with newcomer Polestar, while BMW has created its own ‘i’ EV sub-brand. US firm Tesla has its own huge following with its range of all-electric cars, while prestige makers Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar are producing their own luxury EVs, and various companies are building low volume all-electric hypercars.
Looking into the future, you can only see the electric car market expanding, and fast. With comprehensive manufacturer buy-in fuelled by tightening emissions regulations from governments, electric car technology is improving fast – along with the infrastructure that makes running one easier. You might not be considering an electric car now but it’s a safe bet that you will be in the future.
A good stepping stone to full-EV ownership is a plug-in hybrid model – check out the best plug-in hybrid cars here…