Best electric cars 2020
Electric cars are becoming more and more popular with each passing month, with sales rising steadily in Britain despite the government-funded discount falling from £4,500 to £3,500 late in 2018. And as many people are discovering, technology has moved on since the days of the electric milk float: the best electric cars make a compelling case against established petrol and diesel-engined rivals thanks to their zero emissions and much lower running costs.
Lots of electric cars are really rather fast too! Everything from small city cars to large electric SUVs are capable of delivering a strong surge of power, providing immediate (and almost silent!) acceleration unlike anything seen in the world of cars before. Which isn't bad considering most electric vehicles cost just a handful of pounds to charge.
To demonstrate just how much choice there is in the electric-car market already, we've put together the following list of the best electric cars of 2020. Some were launched in 2019 and others have been around for ages, but all of them are very special indeed. So, in no particular order...
With 282 miles of range and a starting price of £32,995, it's no wonder the Kia e-Niro was crowned the DrivingElectric Car of the Year for 2019. This compact SUV is comfortable, practical and great value for money, making it one of the best all-round packages on the electric car market today.
Featuring a 64kWh battery and a 201bhp electric motor, the e-Niro is well equipped inside with an eight-inch touchscreen, sat nav, heated leather seats, adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera and many other things besides. Its 451-litre boot is an ideal size for families, and Kia's seven-year/100,000-mile warranty is included, too.
A full charge at home could cost you just £8, and possibly less if you plug it in overnight when electricity tariffs are lower. And for those occasions when you need to top up in a hurry, the e-Niro is ready for the arrival of 100kW public chargers, which will refill the battery in under an hour. Towards the end of 2019, Kia announced it would boost supply of the e-Niro in the UK in order to meet high demand and combat long lead times. So expect to see more of them on the roads as 2020 unfolds.
Jaguar has always been first for many technical innovations. As far back as the introduction of disc brakes in the 1950s, Jaguar lead the pack, and it’s doing the same in the modern era with the I-Pace. This all-electric SUV is incredibly impressive. It combines a 90kWh battery with an all-wheel-drive electric motor setup that delivers 395bhp. Even though this zero-emissions EV is quite heavy, it’s still incredibly rapid, doing 0-62mph in just 4.5 seconds.
A claimed range of 292 miles on a full charge is also impressive, and we found in that 230 miles is easily achievable in the real world. On top of this, there are no compromises when it comes to packaging. It’s roomy inside and the 638-litre boot gives plenty of luggage space. Jaguar has also future-proofed the I-Pace with 100kW charging capability.
And in spite of the switch to electric propulsion, the I-Pace is still laced with Jaguar’s DNA, so it steers brilliantly, rides smoothly and offers agile handling balanced with refinement. The I-Pace is an award winner, too: we named it 'Best Large Electric Car' at the DrivingElectric Awards 2019 and it was also crowned 2019 World Car of the Year at the New York Motor Show.
Skoda Citigoᵉ iV
Launched towards the end of 2019, the Skoda Citigoᵉ iV shares a platform with the Volkswagen e-up! and SEAT Mii electric city cars, each of which deliver just over 160 miles of range from a 37kWh battery.
Charging at home should mean a full battery will cost just over £5, with a 7.4kW wallbox delivering said full charge in five hours and 30 minutes according to Skoda. Fast charging of up to 50kW is an option on SE-spec cars and standard on the SE L, taking 48 minutes to complete a 10-80% top-up.
What makes the Citigoᵉ iV particularly impressive, however, is that it's the cheapest electric car you can buy today. Experts believe that electric cars will achieve price parity with petrols and diesels within the next five years, and the arrival of this budget Skoda is an important step to making electric cars as affordable as internal-combustion-engined ones.
The Nissan Leaf is available in two forms: one version has a 40kWh battery that gives an official range of 168 miles, while the latest, top-spec Leaf e+ (video above) features a larger, 62kWh battery returning up to 239 miles of range. From our tests, 150 miles is a safe bet on the standard car, while 210 miles is a realistic target in the e+ model. Both will be more than enough for most people, especially given the Leaf’s affordability compared to more premium electric machines.
You’ll be able to recharge that battery to 80% in 40 minutes from a rapid charger, in 7.5 hours from a home wallbox and in 21 hours from a three-pin socket, so the Leaf is relatively practical in this respect. A roomy interior and 435-litre boot support this, as well as some of the advanced semi-autonomous Pro Pilot driving technology on offer on higher trim levels.
The infotainment is an improvement on the old Leaf's, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on offer, but it’s still not the best around. while performance is average, too. The 0-62mph sprint takes 7.9 seconds, but the instant hit of power from the 148bhp electric motor means acceleration will feel good around town.
The ePedal function – which allows single-pedal driving using just the accelerator – takes some getting used to, but once you crack it, slowing down without the brake will feel very natural. There’s enough regenerative braking to bring the car to a complete stop, too, which is a nice touch.
Tesla Model S
US firm Tesla pioneered the premium electric car with the Model S saloon. It has been facelifted since launch, with improvements made so it's now even easier to live with. The Long Range version is our pick from the electric executive saloon range, with 510bhp from a pair of electric motors (one driving the front wheels and one driving the rears) and a 0-62mph time of 4.1 seconds.
It feels that fast, but there are even more potent versions on sale. The Performance is the fastest, with 'Ludicrous Mode' included as standard for a hypercar-rivalling 0-62mph time of 2.4 seconds. Officially, the Long Range returns over 300 miles on a single charge, and after testing the car we can confirm that 280 miles is possible in the real world.
That extends to the charging, too, as with Tesla Supercharger network (120kW supply) you can top up the Long Range's battery to 80% in just 40 minutes. There’s relatively strong coverage across the UK as well, with nearly 300 stations located throughout the country.
There’s technology inside to match what's under the Tesla’s body, as the 17-inch infotainment screen is brilliant. You can split the screen in half to divide up the display, showing sat nav or media info. Everything is controlled through the screen and it’s a nice piece of technology. Interior quality could be better, but with no transmission tunnel, there’s plenty of room. The Tesla also isn’t the best car to drive, as while it’s fast, the suspension is on the firm side and the steering light and slightly at odds with the dulled agility due to the Tesla’s weight. But this is still a great premium electric car.
The Peugeot 208 is a household name, so that fact that there's now an electric version – the Peugeot e-208 – is good news for those hoping that electric cars will hit the mainstream in the next couple of years. The e-208 contains a 50kWh battery that gives a range of 211 miles, as well as CCS (and by extension, Type 2) charging is available at up to 100kW. At this speed, the e-208 will gain 100 miles of range in around 20 minutes, while a 7.4kW home charger will complete a full top-up in under eight hours.
Happily, there's some great technology to be found inside, and passenger space is good for a car of this size. It even handles well, although some may be disappointed with the firmness of the ride. All in all, this is a great little car, and its stylish design is certain to turn heads.
The i3 was BMW’s first electric car, and it brought a premium edge to the compact end of the market. Electric cars are about efficiency and environmental performance, and the i3 reflects this by using reclaimed materials inside. There’s lots of space in the front and you sit higher up than in most rivals, so it almost feels like a small SUV. However, it doesn’t handle like one, as the body is very stiff so the steering is precise
That’s because the i3 is made from carbon-fibre, a light and stiff material that also keeps weight down – the enemy of range in an electric car. With a 42.2kWh lithium-ion battery, the official range stands at 193 miles, although you can expect around 160 miles in real-world driving. This is from the standard model, while the sportier, more powerful i3s that joined the range in 2018 boasts a 180bhp electric motor, meaning 0-62mph takes 6.9 seconds.
It’s best around town, though, even if this does highlight any i3 variant’s firmer suspension setup. Rear-hinged back doors are a nice touch and keep the car compact without compromising access to the back. It’s not the largest in the rear, and nor is the 260-litre boot, but even six years after launch, the i3 is still one of the best small electric cars on sale. BMW has promised more updates in the future, although we know now it won't be replaced.
The Porsche Taycan is a big deal in the performance-car market, as many people believe electric cars can't be as exciting as the petrol-powered supercars we're used to seeing. However, the Taycan shows that anything is possible, and that electric cars can still have the character to thrill driving enthusiasts.
Three versions of the Taycan are available: the entry-level 4S, the mid-range Turbo and the top-of-the-range Turbo S. Prices start from just over £83,000, topping out at more than £138,000 for the ultra-fast Turbo S model. This promises a whopping 750bhp, with a 0-62mph figure of 2.8 seconds – quick enough to compete with most supercars. Top speed is 161mph; more than enough for those eyeing up the fast lane on Germany's autobahns.
The cheapest 4S actually achieves the longest range in the line-up, with cars boasting the 93kWh battery option (there's a 73kWh unit, too) capable of up to 288 miles on a charge. For most, this will be the sweet-spot in the line-up, with 0-62mph in four seconds more than fast enough for everyday driving and grand touring.
The Renault ZOE is one of the best electric cars on sale right now, thanks to a facelift in 2019 that gave it more range, more power and faster charging than the previous version. Today, the ZOE contains a 52kWh battery that returns up to 245 miles of range, while there's a choice of electric motors generating 107 or 134bhp; acceleration times equate to 11.4 and 9.6 seconds respectively.
This might not sound very quick, but both variants will complete 0-30mph in less than four seconds, making them nippy in town and city environments. As standard, the ZOE will accept a maximum charge of up to 22kW via a Type 2 charging socket, but buyers have the option of adding a CCS port for fast-charging of up to 50kW.
Plug into a home wallbox delivering 7kW of power, and the ZOE will be fully charged from flat in under nine hours, while a 50kW fast-charger – increasingly common at forecourts and motorway service stations – will see a 20-80% in less than an hour. At just over £25,000, this car is also incredible value for money compared to rivals like the Peugeot e-208, Vauxhall Corsa-e and Honda e.
Hyundai Kona Electric
Electric cars and SUVs are two growing trends, so for manufacturers like Hyundai it makes sense to combine the two in one appealing car: in this case, the Kona Electric.
It’s a small SUV that uses a 64kWh battery to return a range of around 280 miles on a full charge. That's more than enough capacity to avoid range anxiety in most situations, but don’t expect to see these figures if you exploit the Kona’s full performance: 201bhp motor helps the Hyundai accelerate from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds.
That results in a terrific turn of speed around town, with an instant hit of power when you push the accelerator. This applies on the motorway, too. Elsewhere, the interior is roomy, the infotainment is strong, there's a 332-litre boot, and the ride is fluid and forgiving enough to make the car easy to live with.
Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Yet another electric car from Hyundai in this list proves how the brand is forging ahead. The Ioniq comes in three forms – there are hybrid and plug-in hybrid models to rival the Toyota Prius, but Hyundai went one better than its Japanese rival by adding this all-electric version to the range. It’s older than the Kona Electric, but a facelift in 2019 has given it a new lease of life: a 134bhp motor has made it faster than before, while a new 38kWh battery has upped the official range to a very useful 193 mies.
That's a remarkable return when you think about it: on paper that amounts to over five miles per kilowatt-hour efficiency, and our first drive of the Ioniq Electric showed this is achievable in warm conditions. Even in cold weather – which affect the range of electric cars – the plucky Ioniq still managed four miles per kWh, which is pretty impressive.
A 50kW fast-charger will replenish a flat battery to 80% in less than an hour, with a full charge at home on a 7kW wallbox completed in just over six hours. Meanwhile, the boot is a decent size, the infotainment is excellent and there's a generous amount of kit for the sub-£30,000 starting price. What's not to like?
Kia Soul EV
If you're not struck by the Kia e-Niro above, then you might be interested in its funkier sibling: the Kia Soul EV. It uses the same 64kWh battery as the e-Niro, so the range of around 280 miles is similar, although it's a little bit slower to 62mph from a standing start.
The boot is also a little bit smaller, with the Soul EV offering 315 litres to the e-Niro's 451. However, the boxy shape means there's a bit more headroom in the back for rear passengers, while rear legroom is good, too.
In addition to the generous amount of standard kit – which includes a 10.25-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, advanced 3D navigation and a new 'UVO Connect' app – the Soul EV is great to drive. It feels slick and natural around town, while the four driving modes allow you to alter the throttle response in order to maximise range.
Tesla Model 3
This list wouldn't be complete without Tesla's most recent creation: the Model 3. New to the UK market in 2019, it's available in three guises: Standard Range Plus, Long Range and Performance. The Standard Range Plus is the entry-level car, returning 254 miles of range from a single charge as well as a 0-60mph figure of 5.3 seconds. Then there's the Long Range: as the name suggests, it has the longest official range of all at 348 miles and it's slightly faster off the line than the Standard Range Plus.
The Model 3 Performance is the most impressive of the lot: its range is slightly down on that achieved by the Long Range, but what it loses in range it makes up for in acceleration. 0-62mph is achieved in a mind-boggling 3.2 seconds (remember this is an executive vehicle, not a supercar), with a top speed of 162mph.
Unlike Tesla's other cars, the Model 3 comes with a CCS charging port to open it up to third-party charging networks beyond the Supercharger network, which means the scope for rapid charging is increased. It's not perfect by any means – the bootlid isn't thought out very well and some of the interior materials fall short of what you might expect – but a car with this performance at such a relatively affordable price is a great achievement all the same.