The most affordable electric cars 2021
Purchase price is often a stumbling block for would-be EV buyers. Thankfully, we’ve compiled a list of some of the cheapest, recommended models to make it easier.
Electric cars are really starting to take off in the UK. With environmental concerns becoming ever more pressing, social attitudes shifting and, most importantly, the announcement that after 2030 the sale of new petrol- and diesel-powered cars will be banned, drivers are coming round to the idea that their next car could be a battery-powered one.
But electric cars have historically been more expensive to buy than their petrol or diesel counterparts – and even with government grants, there’s still a cost penalty involved in opting for an EV. That’s where this guide steps in, listing the cheapest electric cars you can purchase today.
Advances in battery and electric motor technology mean that affordable electric cars are getting better all the time. Take a look at something like the first Nissan Leaf, which cost over £30,000 when new and would barely cover 100 miles on a charge.
Modern EVs cost less and go further than ever before – meaning that there’s now a huge selection of cheap electric cars that won’t break the bank, don’t need charging every five minutes and provide all the dynamic and environmental benefits of their more expensive counterparts.
Note: the cheapest doesn’t always mean the best – and not every car on this list will suit every need. You’ll also notice the absence of big hitters – amazing EVs such as the Tesla Model 3 simply cost too much to feature here. However, all the cars here are viable for everyday use, though, and after the Plug-in Car Grant prices start at less than £20,000.
What is the plug-in car grant?
The Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) was set up to help narrow the gap between electric cars and their petrol or diesel counterparts. It’s been reduced several times since its inception as prices have come closer to parity.
Nowadays, it gives motorists a £2,500 grant towards the purchase of a new, fully-electric car. The grant can only be applied to vehicles that cost less than £35,000 – everything on the following list qualifies.
Electric cars also help motorists save money in other ways. VED (road tax) is free for electric cars, as is the London Congestion Charge and entry into other future low-emissions zones. Recharging an electric car is significantly cheaper than filling up a petrol or diesel tank, too – especially if it’s done at home on low-cost, off-peak electricity.
The cheapest electric cars on sale today
All prices quoted here are before the Plug-in Car Grant is applied, and the stated range is the WLTP combined figure. You can find some great lease deals for these models on our sister site, Parkers.
Smart EQ Fortwo
Price: From £21,700
Range: 83 miles
The Smart Fortwo is the cheapest electric car on sale today. That is to say, it’s the cheapest model that can be reasonably classed as a car – if you really want to pinch the pennies, some vehicles classified as heavy quadricycles do undercut it – but we don’t recommend them.
With just two seats, the Fortwo obviously isn’t a family car, but its tiny size makes it incredibly practical to throw around tight city streets and it can park in the smallest of spaces. Its short range means it’s best to stay city-bound, and it isn’t compatible with the latest fast public chargers, either.
Smart EQ Forfour
Price: From £22,295
Range: 81 miles
The EQ Forfour is the bigger brother of the EQ Fortwo – as the name suggests, it offers an extra pair of seats as well as an extra pair of doors, making it significantly more useful than its sibling if you ever need to carry friends, children or larger items.
The additional size and weight works against it though, and the Forfour has even less range than the Fortwo, once again making it only truly suitable for those who very rarely venture out of the city. For our money, there are better electric cars for not much more cash. Such as…
Fiat 500 Electric
Price: From £22,995
Range: 115 miles/199 miles
Far more than just an electrified variant of the Fiat 500 we all know and love, the 500 Electric is all-new and much improved. Built from the ground up to be an electric car, it’s available with a choice of battery packs – the smaller of which will do 115 miles to a charge, the larger a very impressive 199 miles. It’s one of the best affordable electric cars to drive, thanks to supple suspension and quick steering.
It’s not just range and price to recommend the 500 on, either – it’s effortlessly stylish and its high-tech, high-quality interior is a lovely place to sit. With limited backseat room and boot space though, best saved for those who don’t need the last word in practicality.
The standard Volkswagen Up is a brilliant starter car for new drivers, and its electric e-Up sibling is just as good a choice for one’s first electric car. Earlier e-Up models had a range under 100 miles – this updated car will do 159 on a single charge, which should prove more than enough in a car this size.
It retains all the best features of the standard Up, too. Its upright, square body gives it amazing interior space for such a short car, and its suspension and steering make it really fun and satisfying to drive. And while the dashboard may not be quite as plush as in larger VWs, it’s still neatly designed and very well built.
Price: From £27,495
Range: 214 miles
The whole MG brand is built around value, so it’s not too much of a surprise that its electric estate car (the first released to the market in the UK) looks like a real steal when you consider what you get for your money.
Dowdy styling aside, the 5 has a practical interior with plenty of standard equipment and a long driving range of more than 200 miles. There ought to be no worries about longevity, either, with the whole car covered by a generous 7-year warranty – and the battery covered for an extra year on top of that.
Price: From £27,900
Range: 145 miles
A MINI appearing on this list ought to give the fashion-conscious cause to cheer. The MINI Electric hatchback isn’t blessed with the greatest range, but it’s loaded with character and has a really cool image.
It’s also great to drive – very quick, with the fun character we’ve come to love from MINI products. With cool yellow detailing and some optional (but very eye-catching) plug socket-style alloy wheels, the Electric can stand out from the crowd – or, with careful specification, can look barely any different to its petrol counterpart. You decide.
Price: From £28,495
Range: 163 miles
Like the MG 5 found further up this list, the MG ZS EV has a few strings to its bow that make it a very tempting choice if the head’s ruling the buying process, rather than the heart. That same seven-year warranty is a great selling point, as is the space on offer – this is a family-sized EV, with space for four and their luggage.
It’s not particularly long-range but it’s more than most entry-level EVs of this size, and performance is more than adequate, too. However, it does feel built down to a price – perhaps moreso than any other car on this list.
Price: From £28,550
Range: 217 miles
Peugeot’s mantra is to ‘choose your Peugeot, choose your powertrain’ – so its electric cars are all variants in a model range rather than being standalone cars. Luckily, the 208’s just as good with electric power as it is with petrol and diesel.
Externally it’s very stylish, while on the inside the 208 has a high-quality and unconventional interior. Shame it’s not particularly spacious – the boot’s only average in capacity and the rear seats are tight. Still, the 217-mile max range is excellent and means this isn’t an EV that’s just confined to the city.
The Renault Zoe was one of the first truly usable small electric cars – now in its second generation, it’s better than ever with a really impressive range and fast-charging capabilities for quick top-ups when on the road.
Its interior is similar to that of the Clio supermini, meaning it’s high-quality and spacious for such a small car. It’s also superbly easy to drive and small enough to make parking and city driving a doddle – it’s no wonder that its appeal remains undented and it’s selling better than ever.
Price: From £30,160
Range: 131 miles/137 miles
Honda’s first purpose-built EV is, hands down, one of the coolest cars on sale. Its anime design looks like nothing else on the road, while its interior is dominated by interesting material choices and five – count them – screens on the dashboard.
Clever features abound, including cameras instead of wing mirrors and a three-pin plug socket and HDMI input allowing you to use the dashboard displays to watch movies or play on a games console. In fact, it’d be one of our favourite EVs if only the range were a little better – its highest official figure of 137 miles is just a little too limited to be used as sole transport for most people.
Whether you’re paying a lot or a little for your electric car, getting a good price for your insurance needn’t be an issue. With mustard.co.uk, you can compare car insurance with some of the UK’s recommended brokers. Start your online quote today or give us a call on 0330 022 8814.
Prices correct as of May 2021.
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