Lockdown has affected all aspects of the UK’s economy, not least the car industry. A combination of physical restrictions and financial uncertainty has seen new car sales fall off a cliff, with the number of new registrations in April at just 4,321 – a tiny fraction of the 160,000 cars that drove off dealer forecourts in the same period last year.
With buyers staying out of showrooms, electric vehicles (EVs) have taken prominence on the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)’s car sales list. The pricey Tesla Model 3 made 658 sales to oust even the Ford Fiesta as the most popular new car in April.
Following close behind in second place is the Jaguar I-Pace, an even more expensive, high-end battery-powered car, which racked up 367 sales in April.
And, proving that the zero-emission motoring lifestyle isn’t just for those with the budget for a premium model, the Nissan Leaf hatchback has also snuck into April’s top ten bestsellers list at number nine, with 72 finding homes.
The infiltration of electric cars into the sales rankings is only likely to get greater as we march closer to the proposed petrol and diesel engine ban in 2035. But for now, are these EVs the best on the market, or could you do better? Below we consider their appeal and the rival models available.
Read our expert reviews of the Tesla Model 3, Jaguar I-Pace and Nissan Leaf, and get the final word on the best electric and non-electric cars available new and used, in our guide to the best cars including hybrid and electric cars we recommend.
Tesla Model 3, £40,895
Under usual circumstances, a grand total of 658 sales wouldn’t be much to write home about, but a combination of online sales and a raft of orders for the all-electric hatchback has seen the company trump all of Europe’s established models.
It’s not difficult to see why the Model 3 is so popular. It’s brought all the desirable qualities of the larger Model S and X – excellent battery range, high performance and a raft of high-end tech – into the reach of more people.
With simple exterior styling that doesn’t make as much of an eco-statement as some EV models and a spacious five-seat interior, on the face of it it’s a great choice for anyone looking to make a stress-free leap into emissions-free motoring.
But are the range claims all they stack up to be, and is the Tesla Model 3 safe and fun to drive? These are worth thinking about particularly as its price puts it in the firing line of some excellent petrol and hybrid competition.
Find out in our full Tesla Model 3 review.
Kia E-Niro, £34,995
Electric cars are no longer just expensive halo models sitting at the top of a manufacturer’s model range. Both Hyundai and sister brand Kia offer electric versions of regular petrol and hybrid cars, of which the Kia E-Niro is the latest.
While Kia may not have the cool appeal of the Tesla, it offers everything that matters. Not only is it a roomy five-seater, it’s got a claimed range to rival the Tesla – something that some EV manufacturers have often struggled with. It’s also backed by a seven-year manufacturer warranty, which is one of the best available.
So do you really need to spend more on an EV hatchback to get the best ownership experience?
Read our full Kia E-Niro review, where we put it through our full road and lab assessment to find out how it compares.
Jaguar I-Pace, £63,129
As you might expect from Jaguar’s first EV, the I-Pace large SUV sits firmly in the heart of luxury car territory. It’s as laden with tech and safety equipment as you could want and, despite breaking new ground, it successfully exhibits the best qualities of Jags of old.
Performance is mighty despite its significant weight, and with styling that breaks the mould for a coupé-SUV, it certainly stands out among its identikit German luxury SUV rivals.
However, traditionally Jaguar isn’t known as the most reliable of car brands, so the I-Pace will have to be very good indeed for potential buyers to put any dependability concerns to the back of their mind.
Find out if it’s worth taking the leap in our full Jaguar I-Pace review.
Audi E-Tron, £57.577
Audi, along with BMW and Mercedes, has long been the German thorn in Jaguar’s side – and it’s no different when it comes to electric cars. Audi was the first of the German big three to launch a full-electric SUV, and it sticks faithfully to its maker’s ideals.
The cabin, for instance, is amongst the best in the business. High-quality materials and avant-garde design create a futuristic but welcoming interior. There’s lashing of high-technology gear too, though some of it – such as the cameras that replace conventional wing-mirrors – we’re slightly hesitant about.
Furthermore, a luxury electric car needs to offer more than gimmicky gadgets and a pleasing interior. Our tests examine just how much energy each electric car uses, so you can gauge just how much each will cost you to run, just like a petrol car.
Find out if this Audi is a better all-round car than the I-Pace in our full Audi E-Tron review.
Nissan Leaf, £27,746
The original Nissan Leaf was the first mainstream electric car to gain popularity in the UK. For this second iteration, Nissan has broadened its appeal. The styling is less sci-fi – it just looks like a bang-up-to-date hatchback. With a claimed range of 168 miles, it’s one of the cheaper electric cars available to buy new.
Top marks then? Well it may have been an EV pioneer but the Leaf is not without its drawbacks – one being that, as a medium sized hatchback, rear passenger space is slightly pinched.
But does the Leaf offer the right balance between performance, eco-credentials and practicality overall?
Find out if it offers everything you require in our full Nissan Leaf review.
Hyundai Kona Electric, £32,900
It’s been with us for a couple of years now, but the all-electric version of Hyundai’s compact Kona crossover remains a compelling proposition. It’s amongst the more affordable EV offerings and, as we’ve come to expect from Hyundai, has a decent range of standard equipment.
Its taller bodywork over the Leaf makes it very on trend, but that faux off-roader styling isn’t without its drawbacks. Boot space is at a premium and it doesn’t solve the problem of rear-passenger legroom, either.
Is that enough to seal the Kona’s fate, or should it make the shortlist for your next family car?
Find out in our full Hyundai Kona Electric review.