If an electric car ought to excel anywhere, it’s in the supermini segment - particularly with the recent changes to the government's £2500 plug-in car grant, which now applies only to cars with a sub-£35,000 list price.
Admittedly, a small platform means less space for batteries and so the range of the following cars will never match the potential of larger alternatives. But a small battery also means a lower asking price; and if we’re talking about urban runabouts that do only the occasional longer journey, it’s debatable just how many owners would need more than, say, 180 miles of driving range.
Best small electric cars 2021
The all-electric version of the 208 supermini is one of several PSA Group compact EVs that hit the market in 2020, but it's the best priced and also the most visually appealing. For its mix of usable range, performance, value, practicality, style, perceived quality and driver appeal, it clearly deserves to figure highly if you’re shopping for your first electric car this year.
Unlike more low-rent-feeling EVs, the car’s materially rich interior distinguishes it just as clearly as the stylish bodywork. Practicality is on a par with the Renault Zoe and better than in a Mini Electric. Refinement beats both of those key rivals too, and performance is fairly strong. Certainly, you get an adequate dose of that electric-motor-enabled ‘zip’.
The car also rides with a suppleness missing from some smaller EVs, which often struggle to contain their body mass on the road, while in its higher-speed body movements it doesn't feel as heavy as key rivals. The steering is striking for its directness, although body control deteriorates a little bit if you drive more enthusiastically. Even so, it’s the roundedness of the e-208’s driving experience that really impresses.
Fiat’s model range is now slightly confusing, because the old car lives on as the Fiat 500 Hybrid (despite only being a mild hybrid). The one you want, however, is the new electric 500. It might look familiar, but it’s only when you see them side by side that you realise the new electric 500 is completely new.
Fiat has done a marvellous job at retaining the modern-day 500’s cute retro looks, while making it into a car for the modern age. As it was developed as a purely electric car from the outset, it has a fairly sizeable (for a small car) 42kWh battery and a theoretical WLTP-lab-test range of 199miles, even if that translates into more like 140 miles in real-world use. There is a cheaper ‘Fiat 500 Action’ model with a 24kWh pack, but the savings aren’t great enough for that version to be recommendable.