Electric vehicles have a reputation for being expensive, but the cheapest electric cars are more affordable than you might think
Last Updated: 29 Oct 2019
There’s no getting away from the fact that most electric cars cost more than equivalent petrol and diesel models.
Depending on the type of vehicle, the difference in price between an electric car and an internal-combustion-engined one can be several thousand pounds, even after the government’s Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) has been applied.
The day that electric cars cost the same as petrols and diesels is expected to arrive in the next two to five years, but for now, buyers have to make peace with the fact that access to an electric vehicle’s low running costs requires a steep initial outlay.
Having said that, buying an electric car needn’t break the bank if you know where to look. There are several battery-powered cars out there with competitive price tags, providing an entirely affordable route into the world of cars.
To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of the top cheap electric cars on sale today. Not all of them will suit your needs – ranges and charge times vary from model to model – but there’ll almost certainly be something that ticks all the right boxes.
And remember, once you’ve met the asking price, the total cost of ownership could still be significantly lower than that of a petrol or diesel model, with electricity bills amounting to around three pence per mile on an average household tariff. For those charging overnight – when electricity is cheapest – that figure could be even lower!
Scroll down to read our list of the cheapest electric cars, starting with…
Honda e – £26,660
With 136 miles of range from a 35.5kWh battery, the Honda e doesn’t look like it has much to offer on paper. However, Honda is targeting the premium market with the e, hence the swanky, screen-based interior and funky exterior design.
It’s also great to drive: the relatively small battery has allowed Honda to keep the weight down, improving performance and driver enjoyment. It has a turning circle of less than nine metres, making it ideal for life in the city. Read more about the Honda e.
Vauxhall Corsa-e – £26,490
The Vauxhall Corsa-e is the British brand’s first electric car, and it offers 205 miles of range from a 50kWh battery. That’s a reasonable return on paper, and 0-31mph in 3.1 seconds should mean it’s a pretty nippy runabout, ideal for those who do most of their driving around town.
The maximum charging speed is 100kW, which means a 0-80% charge should take around half an hour. So if you do need to go further afield occasionally (and your route has a charging station along the way) then this is feasible, too. Read more about the Vauxhall Corsa-e.
MG ZS EV – £25,495 (£21,995)
You could argue that the MG ZS EV should be further down this list, given that the company has promised to match the Government’s £3,500 discount for the first 3,000 buyers of the new ZS EV. However, that offer won’t last forever, so we’re sticking with the standard on-the-road-price here.
Chinese-owned MG’s ZS EV boasts 163 miles of range from a 44.5kWh battery, while a 50kW charger should give the battery a 0-80% top-up in some 40 minutes. It looks like a steal even at its ‘normal’ price, but there are a number of small flaws that could prove frustrating in the long term. Read our full review to find out more.
Peugeot e-208 – £25,050
The Peugeot e-208 is based on the same platform as the Vauxhall Corsa-e, as both firms are part of the PSA Group. This means the e-208 gets the same 50kWh battery as the Corsa-e, although its official range is slightly higher, at 211 miles.
Arguably, both the exterior and interior design of the e-208 surpasses that of the Corsa-e, begging the question of why the latter is more expensive. We’ve yet to work that one out, but one thing we can say is that – among many positive traits – the Peugeot’s ride is slightly too firm for our liking. Read our full review.
MINI Electric – £24,300
We’ve yet to get behind the wheel of the production version of the MINI Electric, but the prototype model we tested in March 2019 seemed promising. Like the Honda e, the MINI Electric is targeted at city-dwelling buyers, with around 120 miles of real-world range available from a 29kWh battery.
At 1,360kg, the MINI Electric will be around 130kg heavier than the petrol version of the hatchback, with the ride height raised slightly to protect the battery, located in the vacated transmission tunnel. It still feels agile though, which is a very promising sign. Read our prototype review.
Smart EQ ForFour – £21,690
The Smart EQ ForFour is powered by an 80bhp motor, delivering a leisurely 0-62mph figure of 12.4 seconds. Meanwhile, the battery measures 17.6kWh, and the official range isn’t great: 68 miles from a full charge. This is poor by early electric-car standards, never mind modern ones.
Still, if you’re only ever going to drive to the shops and back – or perhaps tackle the school run each morning and afternoon – then the Smart EQ ForFour will still serve those purposes well. Just don’t expect it to do much else. Read our full review.
Smart EQ ForTwo – £21,195
Smart also offers the EQ ForTwo: a two-seater version of the ForFour above. With no back seats to weigh it down, range improves slightly, although 70 miles from a single charge remains nothing to write home about.
There’s also a Cabrio version, that combines city-focused driving dynamics with open-air thrills. In a warmer climate, this might be one to consider. But in Britain? Forget it. Read our full review.
SEAT Mii electric – £19,300
The SEAT Mii electric went on sale towards the end of 2019, and with a 36.8kWh battery offering 161 miles of range, it makes the pricier models from Smart look redundant. Features like LED headlights, cruise control and rear parking sensors are all standard, as are lane-keeping assistance and traffic-sign recognition systems.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the new Skoda Citigoᵉ iV and a second-generation Volkswagen e-up! – the car on which the Mii and Citigo are based – are due on sale soon. They too should be priced in the region of £20,000, giving more choice to those in the market for a small electric city car. Read more about the SEAT Mii electric.
Renault ZOE – £18,670
If you’re after a capable and cheap electric car, the Renault ZOE is about as good as it gets. Updated for 2020, the latest model uses a 52kWh battery and comes with an official range of 245 miles. 50kW CCS fast charging has also been added, making quick top-ups at public stations more feasible, too.
Renault is one of the few companies that continues to offer battery leasing: on top of the £18,670 asking price, you’ll pay a monthly fee for the battery, with figures starting from around £50. If you’re buying on finance, this might be cheaper in the long run than purchasing the car outright. It’s worth doing the sums first to work out which is best for you. Read our full review.
Uniti One – £15,100
Uniti is a Swedish startup that has set up shop in the UK: it’ll build its first electric car – the Uniti One – on these shores, with the company taking orders exclusively online ahead of the first customer deliveries in 2020.
The One will take a minimalist approach, with a 67bhp electric motor giving the car a 0-62mph time of 9.9 seconds and a top speed of just 75mph. Two battery sizes will be offered: 12 and 24kWh, delivering 93 and 186 miles of range respectively, or so the company claims. Quite how they’re able to do this for just £15,100 remains to be seen, but if the firm can deliver on its promises, the One might make a great deal of sense for a lot of potential electric-car buyers out there. Read more about the Uniti One.
Renault Twizy – £6,690
Okay, so we’re stretching our definition of ‘car’ here, as the Renault Twizy is technically a quadricycle, but given how much cheaper it is than the very cheapest, fully fledged electric cars, you’d be mad not to consider it.
Just £6,990 buys you 11bhp, a top speed of 50mph and a real-world range of around 50 miles. It doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t, but for short-distance city commutes, it could be all the ‘car’ you ever need.
Like the ZOE above, the purchase price doesn’t include the cost of leasing the battery: depending on how much you drive and how long a contract you opt for, this will set you back at least £45 per month. Read our full review.
CHEAPEST ELECTRIC CARS