Combine electric power with the compact nature of city cars and you have an ideal urban runabout. A relative lack of range makes zero difference in built up areas, and with brake energy recuperation and no gears, EVs make short work of stop-start traffic. We round up - in no particular order - the ten best small EVs if you’re looking for a car to get in, out, or about built up areas.
The Mini hatch is a brilliant car to run around in full-stop But the electric version is even better, turning that brilliance all the way up to 11. It’s not hugely practical, but it is agile, nippy, and has more than enough range for the daily drive. And the space inside is plenty for one or two occupants, plus another couple of occasional passengers in the rear.
A range of almost 150 miles will mean there are few charging stops needed on the go, while the brake energy recuperation technology borrowed from the BMW i3 makes sure that one-pedal driving is possible in all but the most heavy braking areas. It’s efficient, but more importantly, fun.
Peugeot’s 208 supermini is offered with petrol, diesel, or electric power - all alongside each other. And why people would pick anything but the latter when needing an urban car is almost unfathomable.
Driving range is around 200 miles on a charge, and potentially more in city traffic. It’s a little more practical than the Mini above, but they are similarly-sized cars. Rear doors and a more practical boot off-set the Mini’s fun to drive nature. That said, the Peugeot e-208 is in this list for the driving experience and cabin quality/design over its group stablemate, the Vauxhall Corsa-e.
If range is your big deciding factor, the Renault Zoe is your car. Despite having the same small footprint as the two cars above, the Zoe manages to pack in around 250 miles from a charge.
A high-class and reasonably spacious interior will tempt plenty of drivers in, and boot space is a strong point too for this size of car. It’s quietly stylish, relatively quick, comfortable to drive, and a strong all-rounder.
The i3 has recently gone out of production, but it makes this list because it’s one of the finest city cars ever made. Futuristic looks, and an even more futuristic manufacturing process - carbon fibre features extensively for a lightweight yet strong compact car.
It’s light and airy inside, despite its compact proportions, and access to the rear is aided by two half-sized rear-hinged doors. Boot space is tiny, but this city car is nimble, fast, and has a small turning circle thanks to the rear-wheel drive set-up.
Without a long driving range, the Honda e is often overlooked. But unfairly so. It’s superb around town, particularly when a range of around 125 miles or so makes little difference to urban drivers.
Like the BMW i3, a rear-mounted motor frees up space for the front wheels for a tiny turning circle, and the small nature of the e makes light work of nipping through traffic. It’s quick to pick up at low speeds, has a funky and high-tech cabin, and is great to look at.
Kia Soul EV
Although it looks like an SUV, the Kia Soul EV is more crossover than large off-roader. It’s tall and boxy proportions mean interior space is good for a car this size, and even leg & boot space is usable for four travelling regularly.
The overall driving experience is very good, and the range is huge for this size of car - around 280 miles in all. It shares the same powertrain as the e-Niro, but in a more compact package, and a focus on youthful style.
Hyundai Kona Electric
Similar in principle to the Kia Soul EV, the Kona Electric is a supermini-on-stilts crossover, with a long driving range and compact proportions.
Around 300 miles is possible on a full charge, and the recently refreshed Kona Electric includes the latest Hyundai infotainment system and smoothed off front-end. It’s not as practical as the Soul EV, but will go further for those that regularly need to escape built up areas.
The Fiat 500 is, like the Mini Electric, a fantastic car that is better because it’s electric. Smaller than the Mini, the 500 is now electric only, with a choice of two battery sizes and the now traditional convertible or hatchback bodies.
Range is more than 100 miles for the smaller battery, or close to 200 for the larger pack, and buyers need to pick which suits their needs best really. It’s stylish, classy, fun to drive, and made for nipping about city streets.
Mazda’s MX-30 could be described as a blend of three cars previously mentioned on this list - the BMW i3, Hyundai’s Kona Electric, and the Honda e. It has the rear-access of the i3, the proportions of the Kona, and the range of the Honda.
It’s also fun to drive, reasonably practical, and uses a host of eco-friendly materials inside. Mazda reserves its “MX” moniker for its sporty yet useable models, which says a lot about how the MX-30 is pitched.
Finally, we have the Vauxhall Mokka-e. The DS 3 Crossback E-Tense or Peugeot e-2008 could also be mentioned here, but I prefer the Mokka-e in this electric crossover package from the Stellantis Group. It’s a stylish thing to look at, and surprisingly practical when you start loading it up - though the Peugeot is more practical still.
A range of close to 200 miles should be possible around town, and the driving experience is good for a tall supermini. It’s a well-balanced take on an urban car, not excelling anywhere in particular but performing well across the board.