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Cheap electric cars: affordable models for less than £30,000

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Looking for an electric car that’s as kind to your bank balance as it is to the planet? Take a look at this list of affordable models to find one that’s right for you.

While electric vehicles (EVs) tend to be pricier than their petrol or diesel counterparts, there is a growing number of cheaper options that makes going electric an increasingly viable proposition.

This list consists of models in entry-level trim with an on the road price* of less than £30,000, including the UK Government’s Plug-in Car Grant (worth £3000).

Smart EQ fortwo coupe/Smart EQ forfour ‘passion advanced’ – £17,550/£18,035

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Battery size 17.6kWh Range (WLTP combined) 82/79 miles Charging capability 22kW Power 80bhp Torque 118lb ft 0-62mph 11.6/12.7 seconds

Smart has evolved into an EV-only brand that offers a choice of two models – the recognisable fortwo city car and the roomier forfour. Upgrade from basic ‘passion advanced’ spec and the fortwo can also be had as a cabriolet. This pair may be the cheapest cars on this list, but are compromised by ranges which fall some way short of their (admittedly pricier) rivals.

Seat Mii electric – £19,800

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Battery size 36.8kWh Range (WLTP combined) 160 miles Charging capability 40kW Power 82bhp Torque 156lb ft 0-62mph 12.3 seconds

Seat’s first fully electric car is closely related to the VW e-Up! (it’s unconfirmed whether this car’s name was inspired by the traditional Yorkshire greeting) and Skoda Citigo-e iV, both of which go on sale next year. The Mii electric’s 160-mile range betters that of several more expensive cars on this list.

Fiat 500 ‘Action’ – £19,995

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Battery size 23.8kWh Range (WLTP combined) 115 miles Charging capability 50kW Power 94bhp Torque tbc 0-62mph 9.5 seconds

The iconic Fiat 500 has been reinvented as an electric car for its third generation. While the entry-level 500 ‘Action’ has a 115-mile range, a larger 42kWh battery offering an extra 84 miles is available in ‘Passion’ trim (£23,495) and above, as is a convertible option.

MG5 EV ‘Excite’ – £24,495

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Battery size 52.5kWh Range (WLTP combined) 214 miles Charging capability 50kW Power 154bhp Torque 192lb ft 0-62mph 7.7 seconds

As an estate car, the MG5 is something of a rarity among EVs. But with a 214-mile range and 578 litres of boot space with the rear seats up, it makes a decent case for itself as an environmentally-friendly load-lugger. A conventionally-powered Skoda Octavia estate, with its 640-litre boot, will carry even more though.

Mini Electric ‘Level 1’ – £25,100

Battery size 32.6kWh Range (WLTP combined) 144 miles Charging capability 100kW Power 181bhp Torque 199lb ft 0-62mph 7.3 seconds

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The Mini Electric is the closest thing to an electric hot hatch we’ve seen so far, with only a little less power and a slightly slower 0-62mph time than the petrol-powered Cooper S. That performance comes at the expense of range and it’s likely you’ll need a fairly light right foot to achieve the 144-mile official figure.

MG ZS EV ‘Excite’ – £25,495

Battery size 44.5kWh Range (WLTP combined) 163 miles Charging capability 50kW Power 141bhp Torque 260lb ft 0-62mph 8.5 seconds

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The second fully electric car in MG’s line-up is the ZS SUV. Even entry-level ‘Excite’ trim comes with MG Pilot, a suite of safety and driver assistance features. This includes Traffic Jam Assist, which allows the ZS EV to automatically follow another car at speeds of up to 35mph, taking care of steering, braking and accelerating.

Mazda MX-30 ‘SE-L Lux’ – £25,545

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Battery size 35.5kWh Range (WLTP combined) 124 miles Charging capability 50kW Power 143bhp Torque 200lb ft 0-62mph 9.7 seconds

Mazda is another company taking its first step into full electrification with the MX-30 – a crossover with some quirky features. These include backwards-opening rear-doors, last used by Mazda on the RX-8 sports car. The MX-30’s interior features sustainably-sourced cork and materials made from recycled plastic bottles to help boost its eco credentials.

Peugeot e-208 ‘Active’ – £26,025

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Battery size 50kWh Range (WLTP combined) 217 miles Charging capability 100kW Power 134bhp Torque 192lb ft 0-62mph 8.1 seconds

The Peugeot 208, available in petrol, diesel and electric form, won the 2020 European Car of the Year Award. Impressively, it beat the likes of the Tesla Model 3 and Porsche Taycan to first place. The e-208’s 217-mile range compares favourably with other small electric cars, as well as some bigger rivals like the Nissan Leaf.

Vauxhall Corsa-e ‘SE Nav Premium’ – £26,640

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Battery size 50kWh Range (WLTP combined) 209 miles Charging capability 100kW Power 134bhp Torque 192lb ft 0-62mph 8.1 seconds

You may have noticed that the Corsa-e’s vital stats are virtually identical to the Peugeot e-208. That’s because they are both based on the PSA Group’s e-CMP platform and have the same battery and motor, the latter offering sprightly performance off the line – the Corsa-e will go from 0-31mph in 2.8 seconds.

Nissan Leaf ‘Acenta’ – £26,845

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Battery size 40kWh Range (WLTP combined) 168 miles Charging capability 50kW Power 148bhp Torque 236lb ft 0-62mph 7.9 seconds

The aforementioned Leaf is a stalwart of the electric car market – the original went on sale in 2011 and over 500,000 units have been built since. The current 40kWh model was named the 2021 What Car? Used Electric Car of the Year, so it’s worth considering a second-hand example. The Leaf e+ has a 62kWh battery and 239-mile range, but exceeds our £30,000 limit.

Renault Zoe ‘i Play R110 Z.E. 50’ – £26,995

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Battery size 52kWh Range (WLTP combined) 245 miles Charging capability 22kW Power 107bhp Torque 166lb ft 0-60mph 11.4 seconds

Another well-established model, the Renault Zoe also serves as an indicator of how much progress electric cars have made. The first generation, launched in 2012, had a range of around 93 miles – 152 less than today’s car in ‘Play’ specification. You’ll have to upgrade to either ‘Iconic’ or ‘GT Line’ trim to benefit from faster 50kW DC charging, on which it’s an optional extra.

Honda e – £27,160

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Battery size 35.5kWh Range (WLTP combined) 137 miles Charging capability 100kW Power 134bhp Torque 232lb ft 0-62mph 9 seconds

Technophobes, look away now – with a total of five screens spanning the length of the dashboard, the Honda e is part smartphone, part car. Two of those screens provide feeds of what you would normally see in the side mirrors, which have been replaced by cameras. Rear-wheel drive, 50:50 weight distribution and a 4.3m turning circle should make the e ideal for darting around city streets.

Kia e-Niro ‘2’ – £29,595

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Battery size 39kWh Range (WLTP combined) 180 miles Charging capability 100kW Power 134bhp Torque 291lb ft 0-60mph 9.5 seconds

Kia introduced this entry-level ‘2’ grade for the popular e-Niro earlier this year. Its smaller battery means its considerably down on range compared to the 282-miles offered by higher-spec versions. However, Kia is set to expand its EV line-up to 11 models by 2025, so there may be more longer-range offerings in the sub-£30,000 bracket from the brand in future.

VW ID.3 Pro Performance ‘Life’ – £29,990

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Battery size 58kWh Range (WLTP combined) 263 miles Charging capability 100kW Power 201bhp Torque 229lb ft 0-62mph 7.3 seconds

At a tenner under £30,000, the ID.3 just sneaks onto this list of cheap electric cars. As the first of the electric ‘ID’ models, it’s a car which VW hopes will be the successor to the Beetle and Golf as the company’s next era-defining hit. The ‘Life’ is the first of six trim levels available for the ID.3 in Pro Performance guise. More affordable variants with a smaller 45kWh battery will go on sale in 2021.

*Prices were sourced from manufacturers’ websites on 20/11/2020, or from manufacturer-issued press releases.

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