The arrival of many new electric vehicles in 2022 saw their market share surge by an astonishing 38% compared with the year before, and the rise of EVs is set to accelerate again in 2023.
In November, electric cars represented the second most popular type of car after petrol-only models, with a strong 15.1% market share.
Such was the strength in demand for EVs in 2022 that in June the government saw fit to axe its plug-in car grant that had been operational since 2011, citing “the success in the UK’s electric car revolution” as the reason for the move.
It’s fair to say that, shocking petrol and diesel price rises in 2022 notwithstanding, one of the biggest reasons that electric vehicles have really taken off is due to much greater choice in the market, with EVs now capable of appealing to a much broader range of customers.
It’s also no longer possible to lump together all electric cars in one category … most ‘best car’ lists by segment will now feature at least one EV
At the end of 2021 there were around 50 electric vehicles on the UK market, and today there are approximately 75 different electric vehicles for sale in Britain. There are now excellent EVs in all segments from little charismatic city cars, to stylish and practical family hatches, as well as large, luxurious SUVs and high-end sports cars.
The number of EVs for sale and the breadth of choice will only increase further as more manufacturers’ electrification strategies kick into gear and as the UK government’s 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars looms closer.
Such is the breadth of choice in EVs now that it’s no longer possible to lump together them all under the one category of “best electric cars”. That’s why our Times and Sunday Times Motor Awards 2022 did away with the electric car category altogether — EVs were winners in many of the groups, and once again our car of the year was an electric vehicle.
So instead of compiling a list of the best electric cars, we’re taking a look at the best that’s on offer in each segment, no matter what type of vehicle you’re in the market for.
The city car segment is where some of the most fun, exciting EVs reside. The Fiat 500 is a real charmer, as is the Honda e. At the slightly larger end, the Mini Electric is the driver’s choice though it’ll face competition in 2023 from the arrival of the hot Abarth version of the Fiat 500 (pictured).
Small cars (superminis)
The UK’s best-selling car last year, the Vauxhall Corsa, is also available in electric form while its Stellantis cousin, the stylish Peugeot e-208 with which it shares its underpinnings, is a strong alternative. And let’s not forget the Renault Zoe, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2022.
One of the most competitive market segments is also where buyers will find some of the best electric cars. The Volkswagen ID.3 makes a solid case for itself as an alternative to the Golf. Its Spanish relative, the Cupra Born is based on the same underpinnings but holds the title of the world’s first electric hot (well, warm) hatch and is terrific to drive. Both make excellent use of space and the rear seats are surprisingly accommodating.
Newly arrived to the UK market, however, is the MG4, which is a hugely compelling package with loads of space, kit and quality for a starting price of not much over £25,000 thanks to economies of scale that come from a behemoth Chinese owner (SAIC). A game-changer in its class, relatively speaking.
Buyers don’t currently have much choice when it comes to electric estates with just the poles-apart MG5 and Porsche Taycan Sport/Cross Turismo models to choose from. They should at least be joined in 2023 by the arrival of the Peugeot e-308 and Vauxhall Astra Electric estates.
Compact SUVs/ Crossovers
This is a particularly hotly-contested area of the market, with cars such as the Volkswagen ID.4 and the related Skoda Enyaq iV going head-to-head with the likes of the Hyundai Ioniq 5; Kia EV6; Ford Mustang Mach-E; Volvo XC40 Recharge, Tesla Model Y, Genesis GV60 and Electrified GV70; Nissan Ariya; Vauxhall Mokka Electric; Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric; Mercedes EQC, EQA and EQB; Audi Q4 e-tron; and BMW iX1. There’s also the affordable MG ZS, and fresh onto the market is the Smart #1. To say that the electric crossover market is crowded is a bit of an understatement, but there are some fine cars among the pack.
Not a hugely well-populated part of the car market just yet, but there are large SUVs coming down the line from Volvo, Polestar, Mercedes, Land Rover, Hyundai, Kia and others. Buyers in search of a large electric SUV will have to make do with the BMW iX (an excellent car if visually challenging) and the Tesla Model X.
Buyers for whom practicality and space are the overriding concerns are actually reasonably well catered to by the Stellantis group given that three of its companies — Peugeot, Citroën and Vauxhall — offer electric versions of their Berlingo/ Rifter/ Combo Life van-based MPVs as well as the larger Spacetourer/ Traveller/ Vivaro Life. What they may lack in style, they make up for with tons of seating, space and competent road manners.
Saloon buyers in the premium end of the market are better catered for than those looking for something cheaper, though the arrival of the Hyundai Ioniq 6 to compete with the likes of the Tesla Model 3, BMW i4 and Polestar 2 in 2023 should throw the cat among the pigeons.
The groundbreaking Tesla Model S, though bordering on elderly, still has lots going for it. From a sheer desirability point-of-view though, the Audi e-tron GT and Porsche Taycan are genuine lottery-win cars.
Sports and supercars
Some could say a few of the saloons and coupes mentioned above have sports or supercar-like performance, but we’re going to concentrate on the models with tradtional sports car and super styling here.
Until MG launches the production version of its Cyberster concept, those in search of an inexpensive electric sports car are somewhat starved. Porsche looks likely to launch its new Cayman and Boxster models in electric form, and there are electric versions of the Maserati MC20 and GranTurismo coming in 2023, too. The gorgeous Polestar O2 electric roadster will enter production, too.
For now though, there are only a very few electric hypercars on the market including the Lotus Evija, Pininfarina Battista and Rimac Nevera with none costing less than £1.7m. This is definitely a niche that needs filling.
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