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. The best offer virtually all the functionality and practicality of traditional petrol or diesel cars, while creating zero exhaust emissions and the potential for very low day-to-day running costs.
As demand increases, more manufacturers are offering fully electric (rather than hybrid) models, spanning car classes large and small, both mainstream and premium.
But not all electric cars are created equal. We know from our extensive owner surveys that some electric cars require extensive trips to your local mechanic - so make sure you read our reviews before you buy.
You'll find our top recommendations for the best new and used electric cars in the tables below. Plus we reveal some models that aren't worthy of consideration.
Alternatively, you can 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.
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.
Aside from the usual electric car compromises of a high purchase price and limited range (103 miles in our own independent tests), this car is a thoroughly practical and likeable electric compact crossover. Low day-to-day running costs (and government grants) should help ease the financial burden, however. So if your lifestyle and budget can accomodate this car, then it should certainly be considered.
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.
One of the greatest compliments we can pay this zero-emissions, all-electric model is that it's very much like its non-electric counterpart to drive (aside from the lack of engine noise). It doesn't sacrifice much space to fit in the electric batteries either – it's a well-deserved Best Buy, and we’re not surprised that its owners love it.
The electric cars to avoid
Save yourself from range anxiety and the potential for big bills by steering clear of these models.
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.
This tiny city car is on paper the perfect candidate for an ell-electric version. Being a light-weight hatchback, it's great to drive around town and does indeed provide low cost, zero-emissions motoring. For us though, its lack of active safety technology - and consequent low Euro NCAP safety rating - make it a complete non-starter.
A tiny driving range is just one of this electric city car's shortcomings. It's got a tiny boot and the ride is overly-firm. Not what you want from a car designed to take on the city streets. Lively performance and potentially very cheap running costs are not enough to redeem it. One to avoid.
How to buy the best electric car
There are many things to consider before purchasing a car that runs on electricity. Below are our top tips on buying and owning an electric car, including information you need on vehicle tax exemption, getting a plug-in car grant and an at-home charging point grant too.
Read on to find out what electric cars are like to 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 take the uninitiated by surprise, so make sure you take it slowly the first few times you drive one.
The lack of noise can seem peculiar at first, but it can prove to be very relaxing.
The basics of driving an electric car are the same as any other car. There's still an accelerator and a brake pedal. But in other ways an electric car can seem strange to a seasoned driver.
Some models, including the Nissan Leaf, can be driven using just one pedal. So when you lift off the accelerator, the car uses heavy regenerative braking to slow down the car significantly (enough to illuminate the brake lights) and feed energy back into the battery. It can take a little getting used to and there's still a separate brake if you'd prefer to drive conventionally.
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 costing less than £50,000 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 £3,000. 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.
Since an announcement in the 2020 Budget, electric cars costing more than £40,000 are now exempt from the 'expensive car supplement', which sees most cars priced above £40,000 (including options) liable for an additional £310 per year of car tax for years two to six. This will continue until 31 March 2025.
For more on the rules around taxing your car, read our guide on car tax explained.
Don't even think about using a domestic three-pin socket to charge your car. This is slow. Very slow. We're talking in excess of 24 hours' worth of slow, depending on the car.
For regular charging at home, if your property allows it, you'll be best off investing in a dedicated fast charger. This normally takes the form of a wallbox mounted on the outside of your house. The 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 work out which ones are compatible with your car, and register with them accordingly. And bear in mind that some public charging points can be very costly when compared with rates for home charging, with some providers billing based on the duration of the charge, rather than the amount of electricity consumed.
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 £350 (down from £500 after the 2020 Budget) 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.
If you're planning to buy an electric car, check the maximum range of the electric cars in your shortlist, especially if you regularly drive long distances. 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. Luxury models with larger batteries offer greater claimed driving ranges, but even entry-level models should offer a driving range of around 150 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 on 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 plug-in 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, particularly if you don't regularly charge it up.
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 figures 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.