The five best electric cars you’d be happy to drive: Nissan Leaf is a good all-rounder

Top five best electric cars

Prepare for the 2040 switchover


AFTER THE government announced that it intends to follow the lead set by Norway and France, and ban the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2040, drivers will be considering which type of car they should buy next.

In 2040, the choice of what powers a new car will be simple: only hybrids and pure-electric vehicles (EVs) will be allowed. Given that is almost 23 years down the road, and assumes the government won’t make any exceptions for low volume manufacturers of sports cars and luxury cars, much could change.

However, for those ready and willing to explore hybrid and EV cars, it’s time to sort the good from the bad. To help, here we name the five EVs that Driving believes its readers would be happiest to drive and live with, in place of a diesel or petrol car.


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One word of advice, however, is for drivers to carefully compare the different ways to buy an electric car, as many manufacturers offer a choice between owning the battery, or leasing it. So always compare like with like when looking at costs.

 

Renault Zoe: best value

The five best electric cars you’d be happy to drive: Renault Zoe is most affordable

If you’re looking for a comparatively compact, good to drive and affordable electric car, the Zoe is for you. It costs from £18,745 – and that’s before you knock off the £4,500 that the government will give you towards it, as part of the low emission vehicle plug-in grant.

However, there’s a catch. You have to pay a mandatory battery hire fee of £59 a month. But the battery has recently been upgraded and now offers an official driving range of 250 miles, which Renault says – with refreshing honesty – in the real world is more like 186 miles in the summer and 124 miles in winter weather.

Every Zoe comes with the same powertrain, so all buyers have to choose between are the trim levels, which comes down to personal preference and budget. What you get is a practical four seat hatchback with a reasonably sized boot nearly 340 litres) and assured road manners.

It’s not terrifically futuristic like a BMW i3, or as quick, but it does make an excellent substitute for a VW Polo or Ford Fiesta if drivers rarely make long distance trips.

  • Model Renault Zoe
  • Price range £18,745 – £30,520
  • Our pick Zoe Dynamique (£22,670)
  • Range | CO2 250 miles | 0g/km
  • Acceleration 0-62mph in 13.5sec
  • Top speed 84mph

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BMW i3: most futuristic

The five best electric cars you’d be happy to drive: BMW i3 is most stylish

Is this the coolest electric car on sale? Some would say so. It looks oh-so different to the many other sensible family hatchbacks on the road, like a glimpse of the future.

Inside, the i3 is equally avant-garde, with an airy ambience that’ll recall an Ian Schrager hotel lobby. We like the use of recycled materials, absence of petroleum-based plastics and the fact that the car’s built using energy from sustainable sources. Another neat trick is that the rear doors open like a London black cab’s, making it easy to get into the back seats.

This feeling of it being out of the ordinary runs right through the car, thanks to some clever engineering. It’s fairly agile, responsive and very quick off the line, thanks to a lightweight carbon-fibre construction that helps counteract the weighty batteries.

In regular conditions the i3 should have a range of 125 miles, according to the car maker. But upgrade to the Range Extender (REX) model and you get a small, two-cylinder petrol engine that maintains the charge of the batteries when low.

However, some would argue adding an extra lump of metal and oil, and a fuel tank, to the REX goes against everything the i3 stands for. It also makes it slower…

  • Model BMW i3
  • Price range £33,070 – £36,230
  • Our pick i3 (£33,070)
  • Range | CO2 125 miles | 0g/km
  • Acceleration 0-62mph in 7.3sec
  • Top speed 93mph

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Tesla Model S: most powerful

New 2016 Tesla Model S model update

Tesla has just launched the Model 3, the first fully electric car that could be a practical alternative to a BMW 3-series. However, after Driving questioned the company about when Model 3s would arrive in the UK, it admitted that there may a delay, until 2019. So for now, the larger, more expensive Model S is the best Tesla drivers can get their hands on.

Drivers may have seen attention-grabbing headlines, announcing videos of Tesla Model S saloons accelerating faster than a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche – or whatever sports car the naïve owner has decided to line up against a Model S. However, these typically involve the P100D, the top-of-the-range version that costs an eye-watering £126,900.

For most drivers, the less powerful P75D, which costs from £64,700, offers all they’ll need from an electric car. It has an official driving range on a single charge of 304 miles, so will comfortably manage somewhere in the 200s. It also comes with a four-year warranty for the car, and eight years of cover for the battery and drive unit.

To drive, it feels as smooth as any fossil-fuelled premium model. Inside, it has spacious, minimalist cabin, dominated by a giant touchscreen, that’s an oasis of peace. Just don’t believe the hype about the car’s “self-driving” Autopilot mode. Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, may be able to launch and land a space rocket vertically via his other company, SpaceX, but Autopilot — as we found out when testing it — still needs some work.

  • Model Tesla Model S
  • Price range £60,000-£126,900
  • Our pick P75 D (£64,700)
  • Range | CO2 304 miles | 0g/km
  • Acceleration 0-62mph in 4.2sec
  • Top speed 140mph

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Volkswagen e-Golf: the best family hatchback

The five best electric cars you’d be happy to drive: VW e-Golf is most practical family hatchback

There’s a simple reason for choosing an e-Golf: it’s a Golf. The Golf is the best family hatchback on four wheels. In fact, it’s one of the best cars on the road, full stop.

But what happens when its diesel and petrol engines are replaced by batteries and electric motors? The good news is that it continues to impress.

Because it’s a Golf, the interior is one of the best, the ride comfort and handling are impressive and the general feel is of a polished product, rather than something that’s a bit of a bodge job. It’s also nippy, especially about town and up to speeds of around 50mph.

Downsides? Officially the electric Golf has a driving range of 186 miles but driven in a saintly fashion, it’s only possible to get 150 miles during normal driving, and there’s just one model in the range, which costs from £31,780 (excluding the plug-in car grant). Still, it keeps things simple, and that’s what what the Golf is all about.

  • Model Volkswagen e-Golf
  • Price range £31,780
  • Our pick e-Golf
  • Range | CO2 CO2 186 miles | 0g/km
  • Acceleration 0-62mph in 9.6sec
  • Top speed 87mph

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Nissan Leaf: the pioneer

The five best electric cars you’d be happy to drive: Nissan Leaf is a good all-rounder

It may be no oil painting, but it’s what’s beneath the surface that counts, and here the Leaf delivers. It is about the same size as a Ford Focus or VW Golf, and costs from as little as £21,180 (excluding the plug-in car grant), plus a £70 monthly lease for a battery.

Newly available with a bigger battery – a 30kWh or a 24kWh – the Leaf now has a range of up to 155 miles, according to official tests. Drivers won’t get that in the real world but most will easily reach 100 miles before having to recharge, even if using the heating.

That seems to be enough for most – if the popularity of the Leaf is anything to go by. Well built, it’s decent to drive and the larger battery is covered by an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty. It was also the world’s first mass-market purpose-built electric car.

What the Leaf lacks is the any semblance of desirability. It feels like white goods on wheels.

  • Model Nissan Leaf
  • Price range £21,180-£32,290
  • Our pick Acenta 30kW (from £25,290)
  • Range | CO2 CO2 155 miles| 0g/km
  • Acceleration 0-62mph in 11.5sec
  • Top speed 89mph

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