Best electric city cars
The city is where the greatest benefits of electric-car technology will be felt, and the following small cars were designed to thrive in the hustle and bustle of urban streets.
With peppy electric motors, great visibility and compact dimensions, they're a hoot to drive, whether for a short commute or a trip to the shops.
And as the starting point into electric-car ownership, an electric city car is likely to be the first choice for many buyers.
So without further ado, these are our favourite city cars for the job of urban driving.
The BMW i3 is an electric-car trailblazer, having been on sale for several years. It’s also the third best-selling electric car in the world. While BMW initially offered the i3 as either a fully electric model or a range extender (with a petrol motorbike engine as a backup), it has since dropped the latter option.
Part of the i3’s appeal is its bespoke, futuristic design and five-door hatchback practicality. Power comes from a 168bhp electric motor driving the rear wheels (there’s also a performance S model with 180bhp). BMW claims a driving range of 193 miles from the car's 42.2kWh battery. Read our BMW i3 review.
Fiat 500 electric
The new Fiat 500 will be electric-only when it's unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in 2020. Fiat bosses describe it as an "urban Tesla" and it’s expected to be more premium – and expensive – than the current Fiat 500. The current-generation 500 will continue to be sold alongside the electric 500.
Fiat is also planning an electric Panda, but it isn’t clear if the two cars will share the same platform. No details of either car’s powertrain have been revealed yet, but if the Fiat Centoventi concept’s modular battery system goes into production, we could see a range of 300 miles or more. Read more about the Fiat 500 electric.
Small, premium and perfectly formed, the Honda e is a pure electric rival to the BMW i3 and MINI Electric and will go on sale next year. The hefty price tag is testament to its upmarket positioning. Prices start from £26,660 after the government grant for the entry-level 134bhp car. The faster Honda e Advance, with 152bhp, starts at £28,600.
With a 35.5kWh battery, the entry-level e has a range of 136 miles, while it's 125 miles for the Advance. Compatibility with Type 2 and CCS chargers means fast charging is possible. The car can charge at rates up to 100kW, with an 80% charge taking around 30 minutes. A full charge from a 7kW home wallbox takes five hours. Read more about the Honda e.
The MINI Electric will go on sale in early 2020. It’s based on the BMW i3 platform and is available as a three-door only. The MINI Electric has a 29kWh battery which powers a 181bhp electric motor, giving a real-world range of 120 miles.
The car weighs 130kg more than the petrol MINI Cooper S due to the heavy battery pack. But as it’s located in the transmission tunnel, the electric MINI has the same amount of interior and boot space as the combustion-engined version. Read more about the MINI Electric.
The Renault ZOE has been around since 2012, but the initial model's range was poor; you’d be hard-pressed to get 100 miles before requiring another charge. With the competition heating up, Renault is back with a refreshed ZOE and a significant boost in battery capacity for 2020.
A new 52kWh battery pack takes range up to an official 245 miles, with 50kW fast charging allowing you to replenish the battery to 80% full in just 30 minutes. Two versions are available: the 107bhp R110 or the 134bhp R135. Renault has given the interior a facelift, too, complete with materials made from recycled seatbelts and plastic bottles. Read our Renault ZOE review.
SEAT Mii Electric
This is SEAT’s electric-only city car, set to go on sale in early 2020. It will cost from £19,300 (after the government grant has been applied), which makes it one of the cheapest electric cars on sale.
The Mii Electric has a 36.8kWh battery, giving a maximum driving range of 161 miles. Charging to 80% using a 40kW fast charger takes an hour. A 7.2kW home wallbox gives the same amount of charge in four hours. The electric motor produces 82bhp, giving a 0-31mph time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 81mph. Read more about the SEAT Mii Electric.
Skoda Citigoᵉ iV
The Skoda Citigoᵉ iV uses the same platform as the SEAT Mii Electric above, but it undercuts its sister car on price with a starting figure of £16,995. This cheaper variant makes do without the 40kW fast-charging (with which an 80% battery top-up is possible in an hour) found on the top-spec car, as well as a couple of other trinkets. But many drivers may find they can do without the extras.
Like the SEAT Mii Electric and Volkswagen e-up!, the Citigoᵉ iV uses a 36.8kWh battery that returns 161 miles between charges. An electric motor produces 82bhp, so it won’t be quick: 0-62mph takes 12.5 seconds. The top speed is 81mph. Read more about the Skoda Citigoᵉ iV.
Smart EQ ForTwo Coupe
The Smart EQ ForTwo Coupe is the perfect little urban runabout, with zesty performance and nimble handling making it fun and easy to drive in the city. But the EQ is hampered by its 70-mile range. While it’s fine for the majority of urban commutes, it’s not a car for tackling a longer journey.
Fast charging means you can charge the batteries to 80% in less than 40 minutes, while a home charge takes six hours. The EQ ForTwo replaced the Smart ForTwo ED and also comes as a convertible. Read more about the Smart EQ ForTwo Coupe.
This is the second generation of the Volkswagen e-up!, and not only is it cheaper than before, it has a bigger battery, too. We expect prices to start from around £20,000 (after the government ='s plug-in car grant) when it goes on sale in the UK in early 2020. Volkswagen says it can sell the car for less due to the economies of scale of producing high numbers of electric cars.
Volkswagen has also increased the battery capacity from 18.7 to 32.3kWh, which it claims increases the car's range from 99 to 161 miles. When plugged into a 40kW fast charger, the e-up! can be topped up to 80% capacity in an hour. The 82bhp electric motor is the same as before, but performance has been improved by half a second, with 0-62mph now taking 11.9 seconds. Read more about the new Volkswagen e-up!