Best small EVs 2021

Best small EVs 2021
In 2021, electric vehicles (EVs) come in all shapes and sizes.

Electric SUVs are popular because of the space and performance they offer for families.

However, if you don’t need heaps of room and mainly use your car for zipping around town, a small EV makes a great deal of sense. Here are 10 of the best.

Smart Fortwo EQ


Smart-Fortwo-EQ

The tiny two-seat Smart Fortwo revolutionised the city car market when it was launched in 1998. It was only a matter of time before it was reborn as an electric car.

Powered by an 60kW electric motor, the Smart Fortwo EQ’s official 81-mile range is one of the shortest of any electric car on sale – and very similar to those of EVs from a decade ago.

However, that does mean its 17.2kWh battery can be refilled in less than 40 minutes from a 10-80 percent charge via a rapid charger. Using a home charge point, the Smart can be fully charged in less than six hours.

If the Fortwo is a little too tiny, Smart also offers the four-seat Forfour, which uses the same motor and battery as its smaller sibling.

Read our Smart Fortwo EQ review.

Volkswagen e-Up!


Volkswagen-e-Up!

One of the first small electric vehicles, the Volkswagen e-Up! packs a decent amount of space into its city car footprint.

Underneath the practical five-door body is a 60kW (82PS) electric motor and 32.3kWh battery. Good for an official 159 miles of range, the e-Up! was Volkswagen’s first mass-produced EV when it first went on sale in 2013.

Regular updates since then have kept it fresh, and its range continues to beat fashionable newcomers such as the Honda e and Fiat 500e.

Climate control, cruise control, heated front seats and a reversing camera are standard. When using a 40kW fast charger, the e-Up!’s battery can be topped up to 80 percent in an hour.

Read our Volkswagen Up review.

Honda e


Honda-e

Honda’s first electric car is striking and cool. Mixing futuristic looks with retro styling cues, it’s cute, quirky and certainly stands out.

Those themes continue inside, where the ‘wood’ trim contrasts with door-to-door digital displays. Even the door mirrors have been replaced with side cameras that feed screens at either end of the dashboard.

Designed primarily for urban use, the Honda e has a single charge range of 137 miles from its 35.5kWh battery. Its 113kW (154hp) electric motor provides it with sprightly pace.

Dinky dimensions and a very tight 4.3m turning circle make the Honda fun to drive through crowded streets. But they do come at a price; this is one of the costliest electric city cars to buy. Here are some cheaper EVs if you're on a budget.

Read our Honda e review.

Nissan Leaf


best-evs-2021-nissan-leaf

You're probably already aware of this - but it bears repeating: the Nissan LEAF is the world's best selling electric vehicle.

Since its release in 2011, Nissan have continued to tweak charging times and driving range on the LEAF to offer a family car that’s both practical and cheap to run.

After a decade on the road, the vehicle comes with a few smart extras too. The Acenta trim includes a smart e-Pedal that allows drivers to start, accelerate, decelerate and stop using only the accelerator pedal.

The N-Connecta version adds an intelligent Around View Monitor providing a 360º picture of your surroundings with added Moving Object Detection.

Read our in-depth Nissan LEAF review.

Find amazing RAC Electric Car Leasing deals on models like the Nissan LEAF today.

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Fiat 500 Electric


Fiat-500-Electric

Electric motoring has finally come to the popular, retro-look Fiat 500. It may appear similar to its petrol-powered siblings, but the electric 500 is a brand new model from the ground up.

Available with 24kWh or 42kWh batteries, plus a 70kW or 87kW electric motor, maximum official range is up to 199 miles on top-spec models. Entry level versions can travel 118 miles on a single charge.

Fast charging can refill the 500 Electric’s battery to 80 percent in 30 minutes, with 30 miles replenished in just five minutes.

Like the Honda e, the Fiat 500 Electric has a ‘one-pedal’ driving mode, which means you can drive using the only accelerator with little need to use the brakes. Buyers can choose from hatchback or roll-top convertible models, too.

Read our Fiat 500 Electric review.

MINI Electric


MINI-Electric

Like the Fiat 500, the MINI is a modern version of a classic model – and just like the Italian car, it has enjoyed phenomenal success. With its cheeky, youthful personality, an electric version was almost inevitable.

Thanks to its 135kW (184PS) motor, the MINI Electric is one of the most powerful zero-emission city cars. Like the 500 Electric and Honda e, however, its maximum range of 145 miles is optimised for scooting about town.

Driving fun is a MINI forté and it’s no different with this electric version. It can get to 62mph in just 7.3 seconds, and its small size means it will dart through city streets with ease.

Personalisation packs also mean you make the MINI Electric very much your own. Just bear in mind that style comes at a fairly high price.

Read our MINI Electric review.

Peugeot e-208


Peugeot e-208

In addition to conventional petrol and diesel versions, the striking Peugeot 208 is also available as an electric model. 

The e-208’s 100kW (140PS) electric motor and 50kWh battery give it an official range of up to 217 miles, one of the longest of any small EV. A pair of regenerative braking modes help to eke out range even further.

In terms of price, the zero emission Peugeot supermini squares up to the MINI Electric, but its five-door body makes it more practical if you have a small family. 

Inside, the e-208 has one of the more daring small EV cabins, with digital displays and a 3D ‘i-Cockpit’ instrument panel, which looks very futuristic. 

Read our Peugeot 208 review.

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Renault ZOE E-Tech Electric


Another small EV with a long heritage, the first Renault ZOE hit the UK in 2013. Pretty, practical and with a decent range, Renault’s electric hatchback found many fans.

It’s easy to see why, and Renault hasn’t messed with its winning formula during the intervening years. The latest ZOE has a range of up to 245 miles, which is almost the same as larger, more expensive EVs.

You can choose between 80kW (109PS) or 100kW (140PS) electric motors, but all ZOEs come with a 52kWh battery. The latest model supports DC fast charging, meaning the battery can be topped up to 80 percent in little more than an hour.

It’s easy to think of the ZOE as just an electric Clio, but it has its own distinct personality. Upgrades to the redesigned interior have introduced premium materials, which give the car even more appeal.

Read our Renault ZOE review.

Vauxhall Corsa-e


Vauxhall Corsa-e

The Vauxhall Corsa-e uses the same 100kW (140PS) electric motor and 50kWh battery as the Peugeot e-208 and DS 3 Crossback E-Tense – and indeed the Peugeot e-2008 and Vauxhall Mokka-e SUVs.

Vauxhall’s smallest EV has an official all-electric range of 209 miles on a single charge. If you connect it to a 100kW rapid charger, the battery can be recharged from 15-80 percent in 30 minutes. 

As with the Peugeot e-208, a choice of three driving modes allows you to tailor the driving experience to be sporty for driving fun, or economical for more range

A little more subdued in style, the Corsa-e lacks the Peugeot’s design flair both inside and out. On the flip side, it’s one of the most discreet small EVs on our roads – perfect if you’re new to driving electric.

Read our Vauxhall Corsa-e review.

DS 3 Crossback E-Tense


DS-3-Crossback-E-Tense

Unlike its closely related Peugeot and Vauxhall relatives, the electric DS 3 Crossback is a kind of mini-SUV, in looks at least. It takes the popular first-generation DS 3’s styling, then adds rugged ‘crossover’ elements.

In common with its French and British siblings, the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense has a 100kW (140PS) motor and 50kWh battery. Here, they provide up to 206 miles of range, less than either the e-208 or Corsa-e.

However, the electric DS 3 makes up for that with its plush cabin. Refreshingly different – but perhaps a little too overly stylised for some – its materials and finishes give it undeniably upmarket aspirations. 

Neat touches on the outside include electrically operated pop-out door handles (like a Tesla), plus LED Matrix headlights on some models.

Read our review of the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense.

BMW i3


BMW-i3

The i3 led BMW’s electric charge, and was the company’s first bespoke mass-produced electric vehicle. Launched in 2012, it was unlike any EV that had gone before, both outside and in.

Radically different, the i3’s tall and boxy five-door body has ‘clamshell’ doors that open conventionally at the front, but are rear-hinged at the back. The lack of a central pillar also makes access easier.

The entry level i3 has a range of up to 190 miles from its 125kW (170PS) motor and 42.2kWh battery. The more powerful i3S shares the same battery, but has a 135kW (184PS) electric motor for a sportier drive, reducing its range to around 175 miles. 

On a home charge point, the i3 will take just under five hours to charge from 0-80 percent. This drops to around 40 minutes on a 50kW fast charger. 

Read our BMW i3s review.

The RAC is leading the way when it comes to supporting drivers in the switch to electric vehicles.

A growing number of our patrol vans have built-in emergency mobile charging systems that can give an out-of-charge electric car enough power to be driven a short distance home or to a working charge point. Our All-Wheels-Up recovery system also allows our patrols to rescue electric cars safely with no need for a flatbed.

Read next in Best electric cars

Read our guide to cheap electric cars in 2021 next.

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Return to the RAC Drive Electric cars hub

Read our guides on choosing, charging and running an electric car.

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