Last updated on October 25th, 2021 at 07:33 pm
Every month seems to be better than the last one for electric vehicle sales. In Europe, EVs are now outselling diesels. In the UK, pure battery EVs were 15.2% of the market in September, and continuing to grow in share. Despite the chip shortage, new electric vehicle models continue to arrive, and the flow of launches shows no sign of abating. Since the last WhichEV Awards, we have had some very significant new EV releases. Affordability has improved, helped as much as hindered by the government’s reduction in the plug-in car grant, and the choice expanded enormously. There are now more EVs in more categories than ever before, although some of the best options remain unchanged from 2020. Read on to find the best EVs of 2021.
Best Saloon: Tesla Model 3 Long Range
September 2021 didn’t just see a relative upswing in EV sales while other fuel types foundered, it was also the month when the Tesla Model 3 became the bestselling car, beating all ICE contenders. This will have been assisted by Tesla’s focus on quarter-end sales, with September being the last month in Q3. But that still doesn’t diminish the fact that the Model 3 has become a hugely popular car after just two years on the UK market.
It’s not hard to see why, and of the three models available – the Standard Range Plus, the Long Range and the Performance – the Long Range is the sweet spot for most buyers. Like all Teslas, it’s unbelievably quick, hitting 60mph in 4.2 seconds – and you can pay an extra £1,500 to drop that down to 3.7 seconds. That’s enough to humiliate BMW M-cars. But alongside its rapid pace is a superb 360-mile WLTP range, one of the longest of any cars currently on the market.
The interior might be spartan by German automaker standards, but the equipment level is good, with autosteering adaptive cruise as standard and a heat pump to keep more of that range in cold weather. Interior space is generous for a saloon car, and boot capacity very good, helped by a small frunk. Being a Tesla, this car has the company’s superb Supercharger network to rely on, which makes long-distance travel a breeze compared to other brands. The Tesla Model 3 Long Range isn’t cheap at £48,490, and it will have some competition when the BMW i4 finally arrives, but for now it remains the obvious choice if you’re after a premium electric executive saloon.
Read our full review of the Tesla Model 3.
Honourable Mention: Polestar 2
Since our original review of the Polestar 2, the range has expanded with single-motor options, but the saloon category otherwise remains one that hasn’t had as many new releases as others (SUVs, for example). So the Polestar 2 is still the only direct competitor to the Tesla Model 3. The original Polestar 2, which is a very clear alternative to the Model 3 Long Range, hasn’t changed and is still behind on both performance and range, as we explained in our direct head-to-head. However, dynamically this car is excellent, and it has a couple of benefits over the Tesla. First, it’s a hatchback with a kick-release boot door, and second, the towing bar option is better implemented. We found the LCD interface a little confusing in places, but overall, the Polestar 2 is a great car and worth considering if you’ve got something against Tesla.
Read our full review of the Polestar 2.
Best Value EV: MG5 EV Long Range
MG keeps lowering the price bar for electric driving. First there was the ZS EV, then the original MG5 EV. Now MG has further improved the MG5’s value by adding a Long Range version with a bigger battery and improved safety assistance features. The new MG5 EV Long Range now offers a 61.1kWh battery that delivers 250 miles of range. Yet the starting price is still a very reasonable £26,495 for the Excite version, with £28,995 for the Exclusive (both including the £2,500 government plug-in grant).
The MG5 is still unique in that it is an estate car. The only other electric estate car on the market is the Taycan Cross Turismo, although that’s more of a “shooting brake” (darling). Aside from going a further distance on a single charge, the MG5 EV Long Range adds MG Pro Pilot, which finally brings its safety tech up with what many other brands already offer, including Active Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist, and even automatic high beams. MG Pilot also includes adaptive cruise control, which is an incredible inclusion in a car costing under £30k.
The MG5 still looks a bit dated, and the media control system a tad sluggish, but with a huge boot and decent space for rear-seat passengers, it’s immensely practical. It’s fast, too, hitting 60mph in 7.3 seconds. This is the best value EV on the market by a considerable margin, and MG has a refreshed ZS with more range arriving soon too, further cementing the brand as the UK’s EV value leader.
Read our full review of the original MG5 EV Long Range.
Honourable Mention: Renault Zoe, Fiat New 500
More EVs are starting to appear at the affordable end of the market, but one has been there for a while – the Renault Zoe. This car has gradually improved since its launch at the end of 2012, moving from a 22kWh to a 40kWh and now a 52kWh battery. This has raised the range to a very usable 245 miles. Prices start at a £27,595, although we’d recommend one of the higher trims and the DC fast charging option. The Zoe is a perfect city car, now with much stronger ability to tackle longer journeys.
But even more keenly priced is the latest incarnation of the Fiat 500, which is now an all-electric car. The cheapest 500 is an incredible £20,495, although this only has a 24kWh battery delivering 115 miles of range. The 42kWh version still starts at a very reasonable £23,995, though, and offers 199 miles. The 500 is a great urban and commuting option for a very keen cost.
Best Hatchback EV: VW ID.3
The Volkswagen ID.3 showed a lot of promise when it first arrived, and now the range has expanded to encompass four different motor and battery combinations. The original Pro Performance combined a 58kWh battery with 204PS motor, but now the Pro also combines this battery with a 145PS motor, and the Pro S combines the 204PS motor with a 77kWh battery. Finally, the Pure Performance offers a 45kWh battery with 150PS motor. These provide WLTP range from 216 to 340 miles.
Thanks to Volkswagen’s MEB pure BEV platform, the ID.3 offers more interior and boot space than a fossil fuel car of similar proportions. Rear seat passengers have more legroom than a Golf, and there’s 100 litres more boot capacity with rear seats up or down. Performance is decent, too, with the fastest current versions taking just 7.3 seconds to hit 62mph. There’s a hot dual-motor GTX version on the horizon as well. This is still unlikely to deliver Tesla-beating performance but should give a Golf R something to think about.
The ID.3 has been selling like hotcakes, topping the European EV sales chart in August and surpassing even Tesla’s Model 3. Volkswagen intended the ID.3 to be the next in its line of people’s cars, and the pricing is definitely a step in that direction, with costs starting at £27,135 including the plug-in grant, and five trim levels, although they are not all available with every battery and motor combination. The ID.3 covers every family hatchback scenario from city commuter to countryside tourer.
Read our full review of the VW ID.3.
Honourable Mention: Mini Electric, Hyundai Kona Electric
When the UK government reduced the plug-in grant to cars below £35,000 and dropped the amount to £2,500, Hyundai promptly realigned its trims for the Kona Electric. It’s now possible to get the Premium version with a 64kWh battery for £32,550 including the grant, making this the cheapest electric car in the UK to offer a 300-mile WLTP range. The fully loaded Ultimate trim is a lot more expensive, but the Premium is still packed with features like extra safety tech, heated seats, front parking sensors and wireless phone charging. It’s really a great electric hatchback for the money.
The Mini Electric is a different beast. Its 32.6kWh battery only provides up to 145 miles of range. But prices start at a reasonable £26,000 and the driving experience is excellent. The Mini is fast, hitting 60mph in 7.3 seconds, and the handling is go-kart-like. Boot space is modest and there’s not much room in the rear seats, but his is one of the most fun EVs on the market.
Best Crossover EV: Kia e-Niro 2 Long Range 64kWh
Just as Hyundai dropped the price of the Premium 64kWh Kona Electric to maintain the government plug-in grant, Kia has moved its 64kWh e-Niro battery down to its “2” trim level, meaning that you can get a version of the e-Niro offering 282 miles of range for £32,495. This is the lowest trim, but whereas the Kona is more of a hatchback, the e-Niro is a larger, more flexible vehicle with more space for rear occupants and a bigger boot. The 201bhp motor also gives a e-Niro an unexpected turn of speed, hitting 60mph in 7.5 seconds.
That boot is sizeable for what is still a reasonably compact crossover SUV, offering 451 litres with the rear seats up and 1,405 litres with them down. Despite the 2 being entry-level, it still comes with rear parking sensors and reversing camera, cruise control, lane keep assist, and lane follow. Although you get a lot more with the 3 and 4+, these don’t qualify for the UK government grant so don’t provide such high value as the 2 64kWh (aka “Long Range”). The warranty is typically superb, as we expect from Korean cars – seven years or 100,000 miles. Overall, it’s an incredibly practical family package.
Read our full review of the Kia e-Niro.
Honourable Mention: Citroen e-C4
Stellantis may only have one main drivetrain for the majority of its brands, but there is considerable difference between the cars it puts this into. The Ciroen e-C4 is one of our favourites, with a very usable balance of features and price. The 50kWh battery and 136bhp motor deliver up to 217 miles of range and 0-62mph in a reasonable if not rapid 9 seconds. The e-C4 also has Citroen’s Progressive hydraulically cushioned suspension, which gives it one of the best ride qualities in its class. Citroen also dropped the prices of key trims in e-C4 range when the UK government reduced the plug-in grant, so all models can now benefit. The top Shine Plus is £32,495 including the grant, and the entry-level Sense Plus £30,395.
Read our full review of the Citroen e-C4.
Best Mainstream SUV EV: Skoda Enyaq iV 60
The Volkswagen MEB platform has already spawned three SUVs from the group’s brands. The ID.4 (see below) was the first to arrive, but the more price-conscious Skoda brand has delivered the best deal. The Enyaq iV 60 is particularly well specified for the UK market, with the base 60 sneaking in under £35,000, so the starting price is £31,995. The other Enyaq iV models are too expensive for this.
The 60 comes with a 58kWh battery and 177hp motor, delivering a very reasonable 256 miles of WLTP range and 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds. With rear-wheel-drive, the Enyaq iV 60 drives well for such a large car – and it is big. The rear passenger space is generous, but the boot space is incredible, starting at 585 litres with the rear seats up, and a huge 1,710 litres with them down.
There is a downside with the Enyaq. The options list is long and can add considerably to the price of the car. Many of these are essential, such as the ability to charge above 50kW DC and the parking camera. The trims are also all option packs, though, so you can add these to the 60 without losing the plug-in grant. If you’re careful with how you specify the options, the Skoda Enyaq iV 60 can make a great-value mainstream electric SUV with a huge amount of practicality.
Read our full review of the Skoda Enyaq iV 60.
Honourable Mention: Volkswagen ID.4
We couldn’t recommend the Skoda Enyaq iV without also mentioning the original Volkswagen Group MEB SUV – the ID.4. Although the platform is the same, the car has a very different appearance. Skoda has gone with a design that looks like a Skoda, but VW has made the ID.4 much more futuristic, and the interior is also more minimalist. The Skoda edges it on value, but the ID.4 has almost as much boot space and similar interior room for passengers. It’s a bit more expensive for similar specification, but if you prefer the mother Volkswagen brand, the ID.4 is a great mainstream electric SUV choice too.
Read our full review of the Volkswagen ID.4
Best Premium SUV EV: Ford Mustang Mach-E
Some consider the Ford Mustang Mach-E to be a travesty. After all, Mustangs are supposed to be low-slung sportscars, not SUVs. Even though Ford has borrowed the front and rear styling cues from the current Mustang petrol car, it can’t hide the fact that this is not the same genre of vehicle. But it is one of the most exhilarating electric SUV drives out there.
The sensible choice is the RWD Extended Range, which still offers 294PS and 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds but has a Tesla-challenging 379 miles of range. The AWD models are really quick, though, with the Extended Range version hitting 62mph in just 5.1 seconds, which is going to give quite a few petrol Mustangs a run for their money. The AWD Extended Range still boasts a very commendable WLTP range of 335 miles.
This is a practical SUV, too. The rear doorway is a little narrow but there is plenty of room in the rear, further enhanced by the panoramic sunroof that comes as standard with the Extended Range cars. Boot space is decent at 402 litres with the rear seats up, and 1,420 with them down – similar to a mid-sized estate car. There’s a huge central 15.5in LCD panel as well offering a plethora of functions for the car and media. You can also configure a fake engine noise, just to remind yourself what a classic Mustang was supposed to sound like. Overall, with prices ranging from £41,330 to £57,030, this is a premium electric SUV that ticks all the boxes without breaking the bank.
Read our full review of the Ford Mustang Mach-E.
Honourable Mention: Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin AWD, Audi Q4 e-tron 50
The premium electric SUV space is becoming increasingly crowded. This was one of the first categories to be addressed by the mainstream car manufacturers, including the Jaguar I-pace, Audi e-tron, and Mercedes-Benz EQC. While these are cars with some worthy features, the more recently released Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin AWD and Audi Q4 e-tron 50 take the genre forward for a more competitive price.
The Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin AWD, despite looking like an unassuming Volvo small SUV, has an incredible turn of speed, thanks to the 408hp twin motor system it shares with the Polestar 2. It can reach 60mph in just 4.7 seconds. But in less frenetic situations, its practicality also pays dividends. This is a comfortable, well equipped small SUV with a sizeable 578 litres of boot space with rear seats up, and 1,328 litres with them down. The only caveat is the 260-mile range, which is now a little meagre in this class.
Speaking of range, this is an area where the Audi Q4 e-tron has plenty to boast about. The basic 35 only offers 208 miles, but the 40 provides 316 miles and the 50 we have chosen to honourably mention offers 299 miles. The latter is our pick in this category because its dual-motor system provides a 0-62mph sprint of 6.2 seconds. That’s not as quick as the Volvo, but the boot is larger at 520 litres (1,490 litres with the seats down) and the rear passenger space more generous too. You can also specify some great features like a HUD and Volkswagen Group’s brilliant Matrix LED headlights. This will push the cost up, but the result will be a premium SUV with a luxurious Audi interior but plenty of practicality.
Best Luxury EV: Tesla Model S Plaid
The Tesla Model S Plaid hasn’t arrived in the UK yet, but you can order it now, for delivery late 2022. Normally, we wouldn’t recommend waiting that long, but the Plaid is worth holding on for. The Model S is arguably the car that changed the conversation about EVs from being around saving the planet to how electric cars could actually be better in every way to ICE.
The Plaid takes that up a level. With an unfeasible 1,020hp, this car can sprint to 60mph in under 2 seconds, and for a time was the fastest-accelerating production car on the road, until its record was beaten by the Rimac Nevera. But while the latter is an electric hypercar costing millions, the Plaid is £118,980 (admittedly still a lot) and when not burning down the dragstrip, functions as a four-door executive saloon with comfortable room for up to five occupants and a surprisingly large amount of boot space.
Add in Tesla’s class-leading self-driving tech and an infotainment system that allows occupants to watch Netflix (while not driving) with a separate screen for rear passengers, and the overall package is a car that is both unbelievably quick and incredibly functional. The Plaid still offers 396 miles of WLTP range and will benefit from Tesla’s incredible Supercharger network. This car will get you long distances, in comfort, at incredible speed (laws permitting). It’s an amazing achievement for electric vehicles.
Read our latest news stories about the Tesla Model S Plaid.
Best Performance EV: Tesla Model 3 Performance
There is still no mainstream pure electric sportscar yet, although there are now plenty of classic car electric conversions that would fit into this category. For the second year running, if you want the closest experience to a BMW M3, Audi RS4 or Alfa Romeo Giulia Qaudrifoglio in electric form, the Tesla Model 3 Performance is pretty much your only choice, although the Polestar 2 comes close and the Porsche Taycan (see below) delivers sporty dynamics in a bigger vehicle.
If you add the Acceleration Boost to the Tesla Model 3 Long Range, you get a very quick car. But the Performance is faster still and has other benefits over the Long Range. It hits 60mph in an unfeasible 3.1 seconds, yet manages 352 miles of WLTP range if driven more economically. The Performance also comes with lowered, stiffened suspension, performance brakes, and a carbon fibre spoiler. It has a higher 162mph top speed (the Long Range “only” manages 145mph) and the 20in Uberturbine wheels are only available on this model too.
Despite its “super saloon” capabilities, the Model 3 Performance is still an immensely practical car, just like other members of the Model 3 range. It can comfortably transport 4-5 adults and has plenty of boot space, which can be extended considerably with the rear seats down – although this is not a hatchback, unfortunately. There is some more space in the frunk, too. All of that in a car that will obliterate any petrol car on the road and takes A-road corners like it’s on rails, delivering plenty of driving thrills. No petrol car offers so much for just under £60k.
Read our full review of the Tesla Model 3.
Honourable Mention: Porsche Taycan Turbo S
We really hope Porsche does have an electric version of the Cayman in the works, as was rumoured a few years ago. Until then, however, we will need to make do with the Taycan. This is more of a direct competitor to the Tesla Model S than the Model 3 in size terms, but being a Porsche, it handles in a way that a car this big and heavy really shouldn’t. Every version of the Taycan is dynamically excellent, with the best ability to go round corners of any production EV south of the Rimac Nevera. The Turbo S is also unbelievably quick, with an official 0-62 mph of 2.8 seconds, although it has been clocked hitting 60mph in 2.4 seconds. Sure, the Tesla Model S Plaid is faster still, but the Taycan is a car that encourages you to drive dynamically due to the amount of confidence it gives you on the road. Official range is only 258 miles, but here again Porsche has been conservative, and some report managing over 300 miles on a regular basis. With 270kW charging available, which you will only find with IONITY chargers, long-distance travel is a reality. The Porsche Taycan Turbo S is a car that combines driving thrills with GT range capabilities. The only drawback is the £139,280 price.
Most Promising Newcomer: IONIQ 5
The IONIQ 5 has been one of the most eagerly anticipated electric cars ever. The IONIQ brand is the spun-off EV-only range from Korean Hyundai. We are due to review this vehicle after the publication of these awards, but we did get a chance to look around an early sample at the recent SMMT Test Day. The prospects look incredible. An 800V subsystem promises very rapid charging (80% in under 18 minutes with a 350kW charger), and the IONIQ 5 also boasts a unique “Vehicle to Load” (V2L) ability whereby it can provide a conventional 240V AC supply both for interior passengers and externally via a bidirectional charging port. This will allow you to use the car for powering external devices when camping, for example.
The IONIQ 5 has incredible regular car features, too. Depending on version, the range can be up to 300 miles, and the most powerful AWD model boasts 301hp and the ability to hit 62mph in 5.2 seconds. Thanks to a pure-BEV design, the IONIQ 5 also delivers incredible interior space with large SUV-like boot capacity in a crossover-sized vehicle – 531 litres with the seats up, and 1,591 with the seats down. There’s frunk under the bonnet, too. With prices starting at £36,995, the IONIQ 5 really puts Hyundai on the map as a leader in the electric vehicle space.
Read our preview of the IONIQ 5.
Honourable Mention: Kia EV6
Hyundai and Kia are part of the same group, and it’s no surprise that just as Kia has cars using the same electric drivetrains as the Hyundai Kona Electric, it also has a car based on the same platform as the IONIQ 5. For some the EV6 even looks better than the IONIQ 5, but the IONIQ has arrived first. The two car models are quite similar, although Kia is starting higher up the motor power option range with a £40,895 version, as all its cars will have the 77.4kWh battery and range up to 316 miles. Kia has also already announced a dual-motor GT version with 577hp and 0-62mph sprint in just 3.5 seconds. This version won’t arrive until 2022, but it could have some purchasers reconsidering their Tesla orders.
Read the pricing and model details of the Kia EV6.
EV Innovation Award: Citroen Ami
The Citroen Ami hasn’t officially launched in the UK yet. In fact, the company only just opened online reservations. But 12,000 people have already expressed an interest in this tiny city electric vehicle. In typical Citroen style, the Ami represents not just innovation within the genre of electric cars, but a rethinking of emobility in general. The car is cut down in every area possible, with plastic panels that are the same front and back and on either side, to reduce manufacturing complexity. These bolt onto a simple frame, and with just a 5.5kWh battery plus 8hp motor, the total weight is a mere 485kg. This provides a 46-mile range and top speed of 28mph, the latter ensuring that the Ami qualifies as a “quadricycle”, meaning that you don’t need a full license to drive one. In France, you can be as young as 14, and in Europe the general age is 16.
The Ami is not so much a cut down electric car, though, as an upgrade on an electric scooter or motorbike. It’s much safer than the latter and can more comfortably carry two people. The technology is minimal, with just a simple digital display for speed, range, and odometer. If you want sat-nav or music, you supply this with your own phone, but there’s a custom space for a Bluetooth speaker (which Citroen will sell you as an accessory) alongside a USB port and built-in smartphone cradle to streamline this process. This car doesn’t even have a boot, just some space behind the seats and in front of the passenger. Charging is via a 13a plug cable that is built into the door housing. Air conditioning involves opening a window. But if you just need a vehicle for a 15-20-mile commute, city shopping or nipping to the gym, the tiny Ami, which is likely to cost under £7,000, could deliver just what you require – and nothing more.
Read our full review of the Citroen Ami.
Lifetime Achievement Award: BMW i3s
The BMW i3 is one of the most venerable EVs on the market. It was launched in 2013 and has since then sold over 170,000 units worldwide. Although the i3 is no longer available to buy new in the USA, it remains on sale in Europe and the UK. The looks were always radical, and the battery has increased in size over the years, so the latest models have up to 190 miles of range. That’s a little limited compared to the latest EVs coming on the market. The i3 is also relatively expensive, starting at nearly £34,000. But with rear-wheel drive and 184hp in the i3s, it’s quick – taking just 6.9 seconds to hit 62mph. Handling is also what you’d hope from a BMW, despite the skinny tyres. The i3 was way ahead of its time when it arrived eight years ago, and although it has been surpassed by recent releases, it’s still a rapid and fun drive, and has done a lot to make EVs aspirational rather than just worthy and beneficial for the environment.
Read our full review of the BMW i3s.
Best Electric Van: Citroen e-Dispatch Driver Edition
The Citroen e-Dispatch Driver Edition is probably the best electric van on the market right now. Purchase price is attractive starting at just £33,265 plus VAT, although leasing rates need to come down. Fleet buyers can opt for the lower cost Panel Van X, while tradesmen can go with the top-spec ‘Driver' edition. With 5.8 cubic metres of cargo space and tons of handy time-saving features, plus a smooth drive and up to 211 miles of range with the 75kWh battery option, this is the first commercial EV that will bring pressure on tradesmen to switch.
Read our full review of the Citroen e-Dispatch Driver Edition.