The Root

The official blog of Carrot Insurance

23 June 2016

A look at the smaller electric cars out there


Not that long ago, hybrid and electric cars tended to look like either fish or alien spacecraft, meaning a serious ‘thumbs down’ in the beauty stakes. Things have moved on rapidly and positively in the last few years and a huge range of electric cars have sprung up. Very few people can afford something as tasty as a Tesla Model S or a Mercedes SLS Electric Drive, but for younger or newly-qualified drivers, or Better Driver customers keen to go green and who have access to a little more dough, here’s the pick of what’s out there in terms of smaller electric cars that are still very cool.

Kia Soul EV

Smaller electric cars - Kia Soul EV

 

Looking pretty much the same as the standard car except for the front grille making way for a gummy-looking flap that covers the charging socket, loads of people love the Soul’s chunky, shamelessly boxy and bold styling. Inside, it’s modern but thankfully nothing like anything out of Star Trek, simply boasting an 8-inch touchscreen, reversing camera, heated front seats and tinted windows. A great upshot of Kia cars is that they come with a huge 7-year warranty.

  • Powered by: 100% electric
  • Range: 132 miles
  • CO2 emissions: zero
  • Road tax band: A
  • Charging time at home using normal socket: 11-14 hours
  • Charging time with fast public facility or wall box at home: 4-5 hours
  • Charging using public rapid charger: 33 minutes (80%)
  • Approximate electricity cost of a full charge at home: £2.80
  • Price of car (after government grant knocks £4,500 off): £24,195

Volkswagen e-up!

Smaller electric cars - Volkswagen VW e-up

 

Whether the German car firm’s bosses knew that e-up! sounds rather like a traditional Yorkshire greeting is anyone’s guess but VW’s small, fully electric car has gained quite a loyal following. Basically the same car as the SEAT Mii and SKODA Citigo in terms of body style, the e-up! has cutesy and functional styling, set apart by arched LED lights. A hatchback with five doors, seating for four people and standard-fit heated front seats and a heated windscreen, it’s relatively practical for such a small car.

  • Powered by: 100% electric
  • Range: 93 miles
  • CO2 emissions: zero
  • Road tax band: A
  • Charging time at home using normal socket: 10-12 hours
  • Charging time at home with a wall box: 6-8 hours
  • Charging using public rapid charger: 30 minutes (80%)
  • Approximate electricity cost of a full charge at home: less than £3
  • Price of car (after government grant knocks £4,500 off): from £25,105

BMW i3 (standard, not the Range Extender version)

Smaller electric cars - BMW i3

Driving one of these is sure to get you noticed thanks to its futuristic styling combining straight lines and curves, a mix of colours, unusual doors and plenty of windows, turbine alloys and a blue glow around the trademark BMW kidney grille. The concept car theme continues inside with a dashboard that wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi film, and the absence of door pillars and internal tunnels results in a real sense of space.

  • Powered by: 100% electric
  • Range: 125 miles
  • CO2 emissions: zero
  • Road tax band: A
  • Charging time at home using normal socket: 80% top-up in under 10 hours
  • Charging time at home with a wall box: under 4 hours
  • Charging using public rapid chargers: 80% in less than 3 hours (AC) or just 40 minutes (DC)
  • Approximate electricity cost of a full charge at home: less than £3
  • Price of car (after government grant knocks £4,500 off): from £27,830

Renault ZOE

Smaller electric cars - Renault ZOE

 

Styled a bit like a baby Clio with a lovely curvy shape, the clues that give away the ZOE’s greenness include the blue tint to the Renault logo on her nose, blue-tinted headlights and transparent rear lights that glow blue until the brakes are pressed. Like most other cars these days, especially eco-conscious ones, ZOE features a large display in the centre of the dash and the wind turbine-inspired interior has seat headrests embossed with Renault’s Z.E (zero emissions) logo. It’s got a reversing camera and audio is served up by a ‘3d sound by Arkamys’ system.

  • Powered by: 100% electric
  • Range: 130 miles
  • CO2 emissions: zero
  • Road tax band: A
  • Charging time at home with a wall box: 3-4 hours
  • Charging using a standard public charger: 8-9 hours
  • Charging using a rapid public charger: 30 minutes (80%)
  • Approximate electricity cost of a full charge at home: less than £3
  • Price of car (after government PICG discounts £4,500): from £18,945

Nissan LEAF

Smaller electric cars - Nissan LEAF

 

From a firm at the forefront of electric vehicle development (they sell an electric van, too), the LEAF is the second-most popular ultra-low car on UK roads, selling four times as many as the BMW i3 or Renault ZOE. Available in loads of different colours, which isn’t the case with many rivals, the frog-faced LEAF looks just like a normal hatchback. It’s roomy enough for five on a medium journey and has a decent boot. The charging status lights are situated inside where the dashboard meets the windscreen, so can handily be seen from outside, and Tekna trim even has an optional solar-powered radio.

  • Powered by: 100% electric
  • Range: 124 miles (24kWh model) or 155 miles (30kWh model)
  • CO2 emissions: zero
  • Road tax band: A
  • Charging time at home plugged into the mains: 12-15 hours
  • Charging time at home using a wall box: 4-5 hours
  • Charging using a rapid public charger: 30 minutes (80%)
  • Approximate electricity cost of a full charge at home: less than £3
  • Price of car (after government PICG discounts £4,500): from £16,530 (24kWh Visia model + battery leasing as a separate cost)

Volkswagen e-Golf

Smaller electric cars - Volkswagen VW e-Golf

 

Many people still regard the VW Golf as one of the most desirable cars out there, as shown by its current position as Europe’s best-selling car. This modern classic, now in its seventh generation, is available as a fully-electric model. The gorgeous, curved lights at the front are unmissable, complemented by snazzy rear LEDs, and the 16-inch Tilleve alloys not only look funky but conserve energy, too. The e-Golf’s interior carries VW’s typical air of high quality, is spacious and home to plenty of useful and engaging gadgets.

  • Powered by: 100% electric
  • Range: 118 miles
  • CO2 emissions: zero
  • Road tax band: A
  • Charging time at home: around 8 hours
  • Charging using a rapid public charger: 35 minutes (80%)
  • Approximate electricity cost of a full charge at home: less than £3
  • Price of car (after government PICG discounts £4,500): from £27,150

Ford Focus Electric

Smaller electric cars - Ford Focus Electric

The UK’s third most popular car is also available in a version with electric running through its veins instead of petrol or diesel. The family favourite is packed with safety and entertainment technology but the word on the street (well, in car magazines) says that the sharp handling the Focus is famous for is sadly blunted on the electric model, because the batteries are heavy. Its boot space is less than in the petrol/diesel-powered versions, too.

  • Powered by: 100% electric
  • Range: around 100 miles
  • CO2 emissions: zero
  • Road tax band: A
  • Charging time at home: roughly 11 hours
  • Charging using a rapid public charger: 35 minutes (80%)
  • Approximate electricity cost of a full charge at home: less than £3
  • Price of car (after government PICG discounts £4,500): from £26,895

The beauty of all these cars is that they are currently exempt from the London Congestion Charge, making them even more ideal for people who live in and around London. Thanks to their quietness they are also more relaxing to drive, a welcome tonic to combat stressful modern life. Even these smaller electric cars aren’t exactly cheap, costing more than their petrol/diesel equivalents. It’s often hard to achieve the electric ranges quoted by the manufacturers because things like climate control and sat nav take power from the battery, and charging still takes way longer than a trip to the pump. Electric motoring is becoming more and more the norm, though, so prices will eventually come down further and ranges will keep increasing.

If you have a question about buying, leasing, charging or driving an electric car, get in touch with us on Twitter or Facebook.


Oliver Hammond

Written by Oliver Hammond

Oliver is an established freelance motoring writer, published journalist and automotive copywriter based in Manchester. He regularly reviews cars and covers events and launches as editor of petroleumvitae.com and his articles appear in various magazines each month. No relation to Richard from Top Gear, he’s got a weakness for luxo-barges, proper 4x4s and oddball cars.