The UK government's changing financial incentives, which are intended to drive the adoption of electric cars, might well have made pricing up your next electric car a confusing task over the last twelve months. The plug-in car grant was cut from £3000 to £2500 in March 2021, with qualifying cars needing to cost £35,000 or less; and then cut again, in December 2021, down to just £1500 on cars priced at £32,000 or less. Finally, in June 2022 it axed the financial contributions completely, meaning any discouting is no down to you and the manufacturer having a bit of a haggle. This contrasts sharply with continental Europe, where countries such as France, Italy and Germany are still offering buyer incentives worth up to €12,000.
Needless to say, it is now more important than ever that makers of mid-sized, affordably-priced electric vehicles hit a pretty keen entry-level price point if they want to remain competitive for buyers on a budget. The equipment levels of such entry-level models from all kinds of brands had alreadt been reappraised of late, and their prices realigned, so expect more of the same in the second half of 2022.
The good news is that there are plenty of usable, five-seat, five-door, all-electric hatchbacks that shouldn't break the bank, incentives added or otherwise. But which should you pick for an easy transition into electric car ownership? Even in this segment, there’s plenty of choice: front-driven hatchbacks play off against compact crossover SUVs, compact saloons and even the odd estate car. There are rear-wheel drive options here too, as well as cars with a dose of driver appeal; although with some of them, that only comes at a price.
Even if you need an EV with a real-world range above 250 miles, with room for several adult passengers and a usable boot, you can now find it here. If you know where to shop, you can actually find most of that for less than £35,000 in 2022. Read on to learn exactly where.
Meanwhile, if it's a smaller and cheaper supermini EV you're after, or a larger, more versatile and more luxurious family EV, our related top tens should summarise our current class favourites.
Best mid-sized electric cars 2021
1. VW ID 3
The Volkswagen ID 3 has kicked off its makers post-Dieselgate rehabilitation very well. This Golf-sized hatchback became the first to use the group’s dedicated MEB platform, an entirely fresh rear-engined architecture, when it hit the market in 2020. That gave the ID 3 a relatively long wheelbase, boosting cabin space, and a rear-mounted drive motor with up to 201bhp and 229lb ft.
It launched with two battery sizes: the 58kWh pack lends a WLTP range of 261 miles, while the larger, pricier 77kWh battery ups that to 340 miles. Since then, VW has also added an entry-level ‘Pure Performance’ version with a 45kWh battery, which is rated for 218 miles and costs less than £30,000 - which is why you can even consider this car a more practical rival to an electric supermini, if that’s where your particular interest lies.
The ID 3 excels in terms of manoeuvrability and low-speed response and, although heavy by compact car standards and sitting on wheels as big as 20in in diameter, it would seem to hit the company’s high standards for ride sophistication, too. Handling is surprisingly agile, balanced and nimble, despite a fair bit of body roll.
The car is let down a little by its interior, which doesn’t have the same feeling of quality we expect from VW, and its touchscreen infotainment system suffer with some of the same usability woes as many other current Volkswagen Group products. But the cabin is certainly roomy and pleasant enough, and the driving experience gratifyingly simple and effective.
2. Renault Megane E-TECH
Renault was something of an EV pioneer with its Zoe supermini, which made its debut the best part of a decade ago. But tiny Twizy and forgettable Fluence aside, the French firm hasn’t made much of its head start and has been overtaken by many in the race to electrify their ranges.
As a result, the all-new Megane E-TECH has arrived in the nick of time, and the good news is that it’s been worth the wait. As the name suggests, the newcomer is Renault’s all-eletric take on the family hatch. It’s certainly a good-looking one, the angular Megane looking far sharper and more purposeful than its ICE-powered namesake. Underpinning the car is Renault’s new CMF-EV architecture, which claims to be one of the lightest and strongest in the class (an equivalent VW ID3 is around 300kg heavier), while for now there’s a single 60 kWh battery option that promises 292 miles between charges.
The Megane drives well too, its 215bhp motor delivering real verve and its chassis serving up the sort of fine balance of agility and supple ride that used to be a French car speciality. It’s no hot hatch, but there’s genuine pleasure to be had from punting the Renault through a series of corners, yet it's cosseting and calm when you just want to take it easy.
Better still, it does all the family car things well, with just about enough space for five and a generous 440-litre boot. The interior looks good too, and is reasonably well-finished, if not quite up to premium standards. Factor in prices that start at £35,995 for the well-equipped entry-leve Equilibre and the Megane E-Tech deserves a place near the top of your EV shopping list.
3. Kia Niro EV
Unsurprisingly, Kia hasn’t messed too significantly with a winning formula for the all-new electric Niro. Its predecessor was something of a sales hit, mixing practicality and a decent value price with a respectable range that wouldn’t have you breaking out in a sweat on longer journeys. Only some frumy looks and slightly skittish driving dynamics really let it down, so these are the areas the new Korean machine has seen the most work.
Now called the Niro EV (the old car was the e-Niro), the newcomer certainly looks distinctive, with its aggressively angled LED running lights and optional colour-coded C-Pillar treatment. You’d struggle to call the pseudo-SUV handsome, but it stands out where its predecessor blended-in, so that’s probably job done. Inside, there’s a touch more space for people and luggage, while the dashboard is more slickly styled and there's a larger and more intuitive touch screen infotainment system with all the connectivity you’ll ever need.
Under the skin there’s the same 64.8kWh battery as before, which gives an ever-so-slightly longer range of 285 miles. The 201bhp front-mounted motor is also carried over, although its response has been tuned to be less aggressive, meaning much of the previous machine’s traction control-testimg scrabble has been eliminated. In all other respects the Kia is calm and capable on the road, handling accurately and with decent composure, but never getting close to engaging or entertaining. Still, the refinement is good and, firm low speed ride aside, it’s a comfortable and easy-going way to get around.
There’s lots here appeals if you want a spacious, rangey and refined family EV, and buyers of the old car are likey to be forming an orderly queue outside Kia dealers. However, bear in mind that in top level 4 guise the EV is barely any less than the brand’s faster, sleeker and longer range EV6.
4. Peugeot e-2008
Handsome, decently roomy and -rangey, pleasant to drive and competitively priced, the Peugeot e-2008 covers a lot of important bases as an affordable EV. It doesn’t stand out from its competitors in any one area: a 64kWh Kia e-Niro is more spacious and longer-legged although slightly pricier, while different rivals offer stronger performance or clearer design appeal. But the e-2008 gets strong enough scores across the board to make it a commendable all-rounder.
The car’s front-mounted, 134bhp electric drive motor and its 50kWh drive battery are shared with those of the Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa-e. They make for fairly average performance (although drivability is good), and real-world range of between 150- and 170 miles, depending on your route and driving style. That’s broadly competitive for a five-seater crossover hatchback available for less than £33,500 - but it clearly won’t easily meet your every motoring need.
For that money, however, the e-2008’s interior has a surprisingly inviting ambience as well as decent outright space, and it rides and handles with more than a lingering flavour of gallic sophistication. This car is easy to overlook in some ways, but it certainly deserves your attention. As these words were written, it wasn't quite cheap enough to qualify for a PiCG buyer's incentive.
5. Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf, in first-generation form, set the mould for the affordable electric car more than a decade ago – and in second-generation form, it’s still in among the list of contenders seeking to follow in its tread marks.
Battery capacity has been boosted so that, in standard guise, the Nissan has a WLTP-certified range of 168 miles: not a lot by today’s standards, but still broadly competitive and no doubt enough for some. However, this rises to more than 200- in the case of the range-topping 64kWh e+ version.
The Leaf’s also got significantly more power and torque than its direct predecessor; it performs fairly keenly, feels like a more rounded car to drive generally, and has plenty of daily-use practicality for a small family. Its interior is starting to look and feel pretty dated, though.
A value proposition that’s also improved, and is now on a par with that of a mid-market, conventionally fuelled family hatchback, cements the car’s position. That said, to match a traditional ICE hatch for price and kit you'll be looking at a smaller-batteried form and lower-level model trim Nissan.
6. Vauxhall Mokka-e
Britain’s everyman car brand Vauxhall is out to reinvent itself with the Mokka-e. This fashionable, good-looking compact crossover shares its platform and running gear with the Peugeot e-2008 and DS3 Crossback E-Tense, and although it’s slightly less practical than the aforementioned Peugeot, it’s broad-bonnetted styling is even more impactful.
Vauxhall’s 50kWh drive battery grants a real-world range of about 160 miles, and recharging the battery while out-and-about can be done at up to 100kW, for an 80 per cent charge in around half an hour.
The Mokka’s cabin is less spacious than some in this chart, but it’ll still accommodate adults in the second row. Boot space is reduced to a little over 300 litres in the Mokka-e; another practicality showing that leaves the car with plenty of prove elsewhere.
The Mokka-e’s performance is fairly strong, and its ride and handling disguise its raised ride height pretty well. The driving experience isn’t likely to be the reason you buy this car, though; if you like the way it looks, it’s probably just about practical, usable and credible enough to drive to reward your interest.
7. Tesla Model 3
The biggest name in electric cars has its sights set on becoming a real global heavyweight with the Model 3, and spreading its wings to lower price points and greater annual production volumes than it has ever reached before.
This car has transformed its maker into a company turning out nearing a million cars a year – and when it arrived in the UK market in 2019, it brought Tesla ownership to a whole new audience. The car was originally promised to become available at as little as £35,000 in entry-level ‘standard range’ trim, but right-hand drive versions of that derivative have yet to make it to Europe. In Britain, Model 3 prices still open a whisker below £50,000 - and so, while the car offers little greater practicality than an electric hatchback, it’s being made to look expensive compared to most of them.
The range-topping Model 3 Performance has two electric motors combining to the tune of 444bhp and a 0-62mph dash of just 3.4sec, and it responds to throttle inputs in a way that really challenges your fine motor control as well as your neck muscles.
Electric range should be better in other 75kWh versions of the Model 3, though: the Performance version delivers a real-world range closer to 200 miles than the claimed 305 in our testing experience. Opt for a Standard Range Plus, meanwhile, and some of the range-topping model’s pace is sacrificed, but plenty is left over. Real-world motorway range for that car is around 200 miles, although an entry-level Model 3 with a larger drive battery is coming in early 2022. In the Long Range version of the car, the WLTP range rises to 374 miles. And if your focus is on buying an EV with good public charging support, there is also Tesla's supercharger network to consider: a huge benefit, and great enabler of longer-distance EV use.
The Model 3's cabin is certainly of higher perceived quality than in Tesla’s earlier models, but the back row is a slightly tight squeeze for adult passengers and the boot isn’t as roomy or as accessible as a Model S’s. On-board refinement, meanwhile, is hamstrung by a particularly firm and slightly noisy ride.
8. Citroen e-C4
If you like the idea of EV ownership because it represents new and unconventional thinking, you’ll probably like the Citroen e-C4. It’s the quirkiest car in this chart thanks to its angular, free-form, Citroen-GS-tribute exterior styling and its pseudo crossover hatchback body, and it has a roomy interior packed with innovative features like a dash-mounted holder and stowage drawer for a tablet PC
This is another electric car based on Stellantis’ eCMP model platform, with a 134bhp electric motor and a 50kWh battery. Citroen claims up to 217 miles of WLTP range for the car - and it has a fairly aerodynamically efficient shape and a wheel design likewise configured for low-rolling resistance, so does slightly better on real-world range than most of its group siblings. Even so, expect 180 miles from it at a fairly gentle pace, and on a warm day.
The e-C4 is one of several EVs from the Stellantis Group of automotive brands (Vauxhall, Peugeot, Citroen, DS Automotive, Fiat, Abarth, Jeep & Alfa Romeo) that has already had it's price tweaked to reflect the scrapping of the PiCG, with now prices starting at £29,995.
9. Cupra Born
The VW Group's emergent performance brand Cupra has thought small with its first dedicated electric car, the Born. Instead of following sister brands Skoda and Audi and launching a crossover SUV related to the Enyaq iV and Q4 E-Tron, it has hitched its first EV to the smaller VW ID 3. So the Cupra Born is a hatchback rather than a full-sized family car, although it's a slightly pricey one, and has strakey styling, and sporting intentions that it struggles somewhat to deliver on.
On Spanish roads, the car failed to clearly differentiate its driving experience from that of the related VW ID 3. Although it has evident maturity and refinement, it's little more exciting or involving than its VW relation, and considerably less so than the likes of the Kia EV6. On UK roads, however, the Born makes a better first impression.
UK prices start at £34,715 for an entry-level machine powered by a 201bhp electric motor with a 58kWh battery that has a range of 259 miles. There's also a larger 77kWh battery option that's mated to 228bhp motor and claims 340 miles between stops at a plug socket. Prices for that combination start just noth of £40,000. Worth the premium over a VW ID 3? That really depends on your priorities, but if you fancy a bit more design flair and a smidgen (just a smidgen, mind) more sportiness behind the wheel, then maybe.
10. Hyundai Kona Electric
The Kona Electric was one of the first cars to bring respectable range and practicality to the EV market at a fairly affordable price. It now looks like a car with commendable range (if you opt for the 64kWh version) but, just as with the Kia e-Niro, bigger-batteried versions are now on the wrong side of the pricing threshold for qualification for the UK government’s plug-in car grant.
You’ll likely expect slightly greater interior space than the car will provide; it is a higher-riding crossover, but second-row occupant space is only average for the class, and will be a bit of a squeeze for taller passengers. The car’s quirky cabin styling may be some compensation, but only takes it so far.
The car’s performance is strong in upper trim levels, more ordinary if you have a 39kWh model, but it’s a little remote, soft and inspiring to drive, and suffers somewhat with limited front-drive traction in slippery conditions.