Our favourite electric car drives of 2023: 10 EV experiences we’ll never forget
Join the DrivingElectric team as we reminisce about our favourite electric car experiences of the past year
It’s fair to say that 2023 has been a fantastic year for electric cars; according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers, EV sales now make up 20% of UK new car sales, while nearly every major manufacturer now offers at least one zero emissions model, with plenty more on the horizon.
We’ve driven everything we can get our hands on, from electric hypercars with multi-million pound price tags, all the way to cheap and cheerful plug-in family runabouts. Our 2024 DrivingElectric Awards showcased the very best models on sale right now, however, we’ve also decided to get together as a team and compile a list of our favourite EV drives of the past year.
This isn’t necessarily a list of the best electric cars you can buy – we have a full top 10 list if you’re interested in that – but instead one that showcases the electric cars that truly stuck out to us in one way or another. This not only includes the latest and greatest, but also used EVs, as well as pre-production prototypes.
Now that’s all out of the way, we here at DrivingElectric would like to wish you a very Happy New Year and hope you enjoy our list of our favourite EV drives of 2023 almost as much as we enjoyed being behind the wheel…
Paul Adam – Citroen Ami Buggy
It didn’t take me long to warm to the Ami Buggy’s quirky character and unique abilities. In fact, if the Citroen PR budget had extended to a few days in the South of France I’m not sure they would have seen me again.
However, buzzing around the UK south coast in the dinky quadricycle was still a lot of fun, and the pared back nature of the Buggy made it even more special. Safety bars instead of actual doors, zip-through plastic ‘windows’ and a chunky wipe-clean interior suited its nature perfectly.
It’s great as a seaside toy, darting down the lanes and side streets, while the Ami Buggy’s 28mph top speed isn’t much of a hindrance on the typically busier roads heading in and out of town. With a very handy 7.2-metre turning circle (for comparison, London cabs offer a 8.5-metre radius) and a 46-mile range, it’s easy to see why Citroen sold out its 40-unit UK allocation in minutes, and why a further production run is apparently on the cards for 2024.
Pete Baiden – Hyundai Ioniq Electric
When it comes to electric cars, I’m always asked one question: what’s the range? It seems people get so hung up about just how far an EV will go on a charge, they forget all about efficiency. It’s easy to just put a huge battery in a car, but nobody really wants to charge up a 100kWh+ pack every day as it would cost a small fortune.
When it comes to efficiency, there’s one king: the Hyundai Ioniq Electric. It features a tiny (by current standards) 38kWh battery and has an official range of 193 miles. However, I owned one as a daily runabout and regularly managed to get over 200 miles on a charge. In fact, I had to really push it hard to drop below five miles per kWh, and even with regular motorway driving it still never dipped below 4.5 miles/kWh. Towards the end of 2023, I replaced it with an Ioniq 5 and I’m staggered at how much more efficient the old Ioniq was. Progress, huh?
So forget about a big heavy EV for your next purchase, go for the aerodynamic and (relatively) lightweight Ioniq Electric. It’s a great used buy.
Ryan Birch – Genesis GV60
Making a good first impression should be at the top of the list for every manufacturer. While many seem to fall at the first hurdle, Genesis appears to have knocked it out-of-the-park.
‘Desirable and quirky’. These were my first thoughts after stepping into the Genesis GV60. The glitzy crystal ball gear selector and facial recognition technology may seem a bit flash to begin with, but the premium-feeling switchgear, soft suspension and luxurious interior make the GV60 an enjoyable place to spend time and really give the likes of BMW and Mercedes a run for their money.
The overall efficiency and ultra-fast charging speeds are where the GV60 excels. It’ll easily swallow up everything from monotonous motorway miles, to a cross-country sprint and still deliver excellent economy and comfort; the entry-level Premium version I had the keys to returned an impressive four miles per kilowatt-hour.
In short, don’t be worried if you’ve never heard of the Genesis brand. It may still be new to the UK market but the GV60 shares parts with top-selling models from Hyundai and Kia, plus is backed by a generous warranty.
Alastair Crooks – Rimac Nevera
I was never particularly great at physics at school, so trying to explain the sheer velocity of the Rimac Nevera is a challenge. In a similar fashion to the Bugatti Veyron of the mid-2000s, the Rimac takes what we know (or in my case, what we don’t know) about the laws of physics and tosses them aside like yesterday’s newspaper.
A quad-motor setup with an electric motor for each wheel creates a total of 1,888bhp. On the move it seems to have no trouble transforming that almighty power into forward momentum – which is startling, to say the least. Out of decency you have to warn your passenger whenever you’re about to squeeze the accelerator, such is the ferocity of the powertrain. The car is a testament to the spirit of ‘we did it because we can’, which will live on into the electric age thanks to vehicles like the Nevera.
Steve Fowler – Fisker Ocean
I’ve known Henrik Fisker for years, ever since he was ‘merely’ a designer at BMW, and this is his second go at a car company bearing his name. The benefit of hindsight has been hugely valuable and the USP of Fisker Inc. is that it doesn’t build its cars – it leaves that to someone else, which is exactly what happens in the tech industry. For example, Fisker’s next model, the Pear, will be built by Foxconn, better known for making iPhones.
The Ocean is designed at Fisker’s base in California and built by Magna in Austria – where they also work on projects for BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar and many others. It’s a car that really put a smile on my face; the Ocean is brilliantly designed inside and out, with some truly clever features like ‘California Mode’, which pushes back the full-length sunroof and opens all the windows – including those right at the back, as well as the one on the tailgate – for a real open-top feeling.
Driving it around Austria, it felt really well sorted and offered superb visibility and efficiency. That’s not to mention build quality which, for a car that starts at around £36,000, was very impressive. The future for Fisker looks very bright indeed.
Ellis Hyde – BMW i5 M60
The BMW i5 M60’s ability to create a sense of drama and occasion blew me away. I particularly enjoyed the i5’s ‘Expressive’ mode, which delivers a soundtrack created by Hans Zimmer that reminded me of the iconic THX studio ‘Deep Note’ (Google it if you don’t know what I'm on about).
Switching into Sport mode, I immediately felt the side bolsters on my seats begin to hug me and my seat belt tighten, as if the car was telling me “you ain’t ready for what’s about to happen”. It was right, because the i5 M60, and all its 601bhp, never failed to pin me to my seat when I hit the accelerator, while a new, even more epic sound played from the sensational Bowers and Wilkins speakers, and the numbers of the dashboard climbed faster than my eyes could widen.
Almost as baffling was how composed the i5 M60 was in the corners, despite the car weighing more than a Range Rover, and how refined and restrained it could be once I entered ‘Relax’ mode in an attempt to bring my heart rate to less concerning levels. What’s more, the interior is beautifully finished and the technology is excellent, which (almost) allows me to overlook the i5’s overly-bling illuminated grille.
Alex Ingram – Audi Q6 e-tron prototype
The next 12 months are going to be huge for Audi, and the Q6 e-tron is certain to be one of the key cars in the brand’s huge 2024 model offensive. A rival to the BMW iX3 and Tesla Model Y, the Q6 showcases Audi’s next generation of EV tech. The new PPE architecture, co-developed with Porsche will also form the basis of a wide range of future products not only for Audi, but the wider VW Group.
Audi invited me to drive a pre-production Q6; its closest details hidden from sight under fabric sheets across the interior and a lurid colour scheme on the exterior – the latter almost enough to distract me from the stunning North Atlantic backdrop of the Faroe Islands where the drive took place.
However, looking beyond the appearance, I found areas where the Q6 showed a huge amount of promise. The PPE underpinnings delivered an absolutely vast cabin, for starters, but the driving experience also impressed thanks to its relaxing road manners and superb calibration of the brake regeneration system. I’ll be keen to try it on UK roads, but based on my drive and the on-paper specs, it already looks like it’ll be a huge step forward compared to the Q4 and Q8 e-tron models.
Richard Ingram – Tesla Model 3
Few people could argue against the significance of Tesla’s facelifted Model 3. Already one of the biggest-selling electric cars on the planet, the updated car moved the game on when it launched earlier this year.
Not to all tastes, the minimalist cabin design takes some getting used to, but those with a penchant for the latest tech will be blown away by what the new Model 3 can do. To me, that’s merely an aside – the revised Tesla is more comfortable, more refined and better to drive than ever. Marry that with a class-leading sub-£40k starting price and it’s hands-down my EV drive of 2023.
Just think, if Tesla can replicate all of these changes on the more practical and family-friendly Model Y in time, there are going to be few reasons to buy anything else…
Tom Jervis – MG4 XPower
We’ve all seen videos of top-of-the-range Teslas smoking supercars in drag races, but not everyone has six figures to splash on their next EV. This is where the MG4 XPower comes in as it represents the cheapest route to a hefty shot of adrenaline, after the theme park vouchers you find on the front of cereal boxes.
Despite a handful of technical upgrades, the hot MG4 at first doesn’t feel all that different from the £27k base model. That is, until you squeeze the accelerator, after which you’ll unequivocally understand why the XPower demands a £10k premium over the standard MG4. Simply put, the MG4 XPower lives up to its name by offering instant and intoxicating point-and-squirt acceleration that’s leagues ahead of anything else at its price point.
The only issue? It may as well be powered by a pair of AAs as after a few spirited runs, you’ll soon find your range figure tumbling. Swap the current car’s 64kWh battery for the larger 77kWh unit found in the similarly priced Extended Range car and I think MG could be onto a winner.
Steve Walker – Nio ET5
Nio remains a relatively unknown brand in the UK, but that’s set to change in the coming months and years. The Chinese maker is due to arrive here in 2024 and the ET5 compact executive electric car is going to form a big part of its offering.
There’s a robot virtual assistant called Nomi that’s plonked in the middle of the dash that swivels its head to talk to you in an initially disconcerting fashion and you can swap the depleted battery for a fully charged one in under 5 minutes if you can find one of Nio’s battery swap stations. Beyond all the far-out features, however, the ET5 seems to have got the rest of the EV essentials pretty well buttoned-down.
You get the now firmly in-vogue minimalist cabin design - with a big, and somewhat complex, central touchscreen. It might be a tad soulless, but quality is well up to scratch and the range of features is vast. Straight out of the Tesla playbook, acceleration is very lively and cornering poise is a little less impressive. If Nio can get the price right, this car is undoubtedly going to be a serious contender for EV saloons and estates from the likes of Audi and BMW.
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