Best electric cars for 2020
By Daljinder Nagra
Article 3 of 16
The best electric cars are every bit as good as their petrol or diesel rivals, with enough range to go the distance. Discover the best electric cars.
Electric cars have finally come of age, offering virtually all the functionality and practicality of traditional petrol- and diesel-engined cars, while delivering zero exhaust emissions and the potential for very low day-to-day running costs.
As demand increases, more manufacturers are offering all-electric models, spanning car-classes large and small, both mainstream and premium.
At one end of the scale is the Renault Zoe, Nissan Leaf, VW e-Up and e-Golf. At the other, the likes of the BMW i8, Audi e-tron and Tesla Model S and X. But are these cars good enough to make our top recommendations?
You'll find the best electric cars in the tables below. Plus we reveal some models that aren't worth your money.
Alternatively, use the links below to jump to our electric car buying tips:
The zero-emissions models that have performed well in our tests, available new.
Best new electric cars
This premium manufacturer’s first attempt at an electric hatchback is impressive. It has decent range and performance, and an upmarket feel. It’s also nippy, with a tight turning circle, and is a treat to drive in town. A range extender hybrid version was originally available for those who regularly travel further afield, though all new models are battery electric only.
Hyundai has expanded its Kona compact crossover range with a battery EV model. It has a impressive driving range and is absolutely effortless to drive. Furthermore, boot space hasn’t been affected in the transformation into a zero-emissions car, though it wasn’t much to write home about in the first place.
The greatest compliment we can pay this zero-emissions, all-electric model is that it's very much like the regular combustion model to drive (aside from a lack of noise). It doesn't sacrifice much space to fit in the new tech, either - it's a well-deserved Best Buy.
The best used electric cars
Save money without the risk of buying a car that will let you down, with our used electric car recommendations.
Best used electric cars
A battery electric car that doesn't compromise on luxury. It may be the frumpy hatchback in its maker’s range, but it's got most of the luxury trappings of more expensive models. The silent electric drivetrain only improves the tranquillity. It's a deserved Which? Best Buy.
Performance is strong, with power coming in instantly, but this can make the car feel a little unsettled and it's less sharp to drive than a conventional petrol model. It’s also got a smaller boot, thanks to the battery packs under the floor. Elsewhere, however, it’s near identical to the combustion version, and that’s no bad thing at all.
Electric power suits the stop-start driving that city cars get subjected to. This was one of the earliest zero-emissions hatchbacks available. As such, it has a limited range compared to the latest models and charging takes an age, but its silent running and potential for very low running costs could prove very appealing if it fits your motoring life.
The electric cars to avoid
Save yourself from range anxiety and the potential for big bills by steering clear of these models.
Electric cars to avoid
This was one of the earliest available modern battery electric cars. As such, it had a very limited driving range and was compromised in terms of daily usability thanks to a small boot and restricted visibility. It was only available via a battery leasing agreement, too.
An electric car pioneer, this model was designed to excel in the city. Its narrow body and nippy electric motor make it easy to drive, though it has serious driving range and practicality shortfalls. Euro NCAP’s crash safety test revealed concerns over its occupant protection in front-end collisions over 40mph.
How to buy the best electric car
Here are our top tips on buying and owning an electric car including all the information you need on vehicle tax exemption, getting a plug-in car grant and an at home charging point grant too.
Find out what electric cars are like to actually drive, and how far they can go before you have to charge the battery.
The lack of pistons and noisy combustion means electric cars ghost along very quietly, and they tend to be very nippy indeed. The surprising turn of speed from a standstill can potentially be a risk to the uninitiated, so make sure you take it slow the first few times you drive one.
The lack of noise is surprising at first but can prove to be very relaxing.
The basics of driving an electric car are the same - there's still an accelerator and a brake pedal. But in other ways an electric car can be strange to a seasoned driver.
Some models, including the Nissan Leaf, come with one-pedal driving. So when you lift off the accelerator, the car uses regenerative braking to slow down and feed energy back into the battery. It can take a little getting used to and there's still a separate brake.
Government-backed grants are available through OLEV (Office for Low Emission Vehicles) towards the cost of selected new electric vehicles.
The criteria for eligibility for a plug-in car grant has been tightened in recent years, and now only cars that have official CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and that can travel at least 70 miles on electric power alone fall under the scheme.
For such models, the grant will pay for 35% of the retail price, up to a maximum of £3,500. A similar grant scheme also operates for low emission vans and motorcycles.
For the time being, electric cars are completely exempt from car tax, in both the first and subsequent years, as they emit zero CO2.
There is one caveat in the new VED tariff, however. If the car costs more than £40,000, the owner will be required to pay £310 per year for years two to six. Assuming they still own it. That's a total of £1,550.
Don't even think about using a domestic three-pin sockets to charge your car. This is slow. Very slow. We're talking in excess of 25 hours' worth of slow, depending on the car.
Instead, get a wallbox charger. Which type of charger, connector and wattage you need will depend on your car, budget and what electricity connection you have.
When you're away from home, you can use a number of different websites or apps to find out where your nearest public charging point is. These include on-street charging points in city centres, for example, as well as the growing number of high-voltage fast chargers and rapid chargers at strategic service stations on the motorway network.
Currently charging points are run by a variety of separate networks, so you’ll need to be familiar with who operates ones convenient to you, and register with them accordingly.
See our dedicated how to charge an electric car guide for all you need to know.
Get an electric car charging point grant
Grants are also available towards the cost of having a charging point installed at your home. OLEV is currently offering to cover up to 75% of the cost (up to a maximum of £500) towards equipment fitted by one of its approved suppliers, provided it's a smart charger.
Conditions apply, and you’ll need to own (or at least have ordered) a vehicle that’s on the list of OLEV approved models. Find out more at the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles website.
Be sure to check the maximum range of the electric cars in your shortlist, especially if you regularly drive a long distance. And don't forget to factor in your charging time, too, if you need to top up at any time other than overnight.
The maximum driving range available can vary greatly between models. For example, Nissan estimates its Leaf hatchback will go for 155 miles on a full charge, whereas the more expensive Tesla Model S has an estimated max range of around 270 miles.
However, don't just look at the official figures. At Which? we do our own realistic range tests because, just like fuel tests, the figure manufacturers quote are often quite ambitious.
We've found cars that fall more than 30 miles short of their quoted range. If you don't want to be caught out, make sure you check out the real, independently tested ranges in our electric car reviews.
Electric cars may be cheap to run but they can suffer when it comes to boot space. The huge batteries that keep the cars going need to go somewhere, and often that's in the boot. The same goes for hybrids.
Plug-in hybrid models can also have smaller fuel tanks to make more space for batteries, so you may need to fill up more often on longer journeys.
Car manufacturers vary in the way they measure boot space. We measure the boot of every car we test to work out the usable amount of space, so you can use our figure to compare boot sizes and make sure you buy the car that's right for your needs.
For more information about our independent lab and road tests, see how we test cars.
We test cars more thoroughly than anyone else
Our tests go further than those carried out by other organisations, and because Which? is independent and doesn't accept advertising or freebies, you can trust our reviews to give you the full, honest and impartial truth about every car we test.
Every car we review is subjected to more than 100 individual tests in a lab, on a test track, and on real roads – and we really clock up the miles, driving around 500 miles in every car we test.
Testing in controlled lab conditions means the results we collect are directly comparable between different cars, helping us determine exactly which models are better and why, and helping you find the perfect car for your needs.
And so you know which cars are likely to prove reliable for years to come, we also gather feedback from thousands of UK car owners through the Which? Car Survey, using it to generate detailed reliability ratings for the cars we test.
To take the guesswork out of choosing your next car, join Which? and you'll receive access to all our expert reviews and advice.