Currently reading: The best cheap electric cars you would actually want to own
EVs remain pricier than ICE equivalents, but there are more options at the affordable end of the market than ever

‘Cheap electric car’ still feels like a contradiction. In fact, ‘cheap new car’ can often feel like a contradiction. But while electric motoring isn’t coming to the masses overnight, efforts are being made to bring down the costs of electric cars.

Right now, a full-featured EV with a 200-mile range remains out of reach below £20,000, but the bottom of the market is looking a lot healthier than it was only a few years ago, with plenty of genuinely enticing options between £20,000 and £40,000.

You may have spotted our list of the cheapest EVs on sale, which is literally just that. You can buy a Citroën Ami for under £10,000, but you probably don’t want to. Read on to discover our favourite cheap electric cars we would actually recommend if you have up to £40,000 to spend.

Top 10 cheap electric cars

1. Cupra Born


Despite being effectively a Volkswagen ID 3 Sport, Cupra’s take on the electric Golf-sized hatchback has slowly become a firm Autocar favourite. It dominated at the 12-car EV mega-test we held in March, with all judges unanimously giving it the nod for its enticing blend of practicality, driving fun and EV credentials.

It capitalises on its rear-wheel-drive platform in a way that the ID 3 doesn’t, offering nimble, intuitive and subtly throttle-adjustable handling. But what makes the Born special is that it doesn’t sacrifice ride comfort, noise isolation or energy efficiency in the pursuit of being the sporty one. In fact, it’s very good at all of those other things too.

It’s due for a mechanical revision soon that will bring a more powerful and efficient motor and a new multimedia system. The latter is one of the few weak points of the Cupra Born, so it might be worth waiting for the updated model. On the other hand, there are currently some great finance deals available as Cupra tries to shift its stock of pre-update cars. Whichever you choose, you’ll be getting a very rounded EV.

Price £34,125 (58kWh) Range 263 miles


Read our review

Car review

Cupra’s first EV looks rather like a Volkswagen ID 3. Is the difference in the driving?

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2. Hyundai Kona Electric


Hyundai’s smallest EV was the runner-up in the same EV mega-test that the Cupra won. If boot space features higher on your list of priorities than driver engagement, it might just be your winner. Because while it is the Korean car maker’s smallest EV, it has grown substantially compared with its predecessor, giving very generous rear passenger and luggage space.

Its easy-going nature appeals as well: it rides softly and has comfortable seats while its silver-button-heavy dashboard seems to welcome you into the cool warmth of an early-2000s DVD player. Being less reliant on screens than most of its rivals means it’s easy to use. With a relatively large battery and good efficiency, its official range nudges 300 miles too.

Price £34,995 (Standard Range), £38,595 (Long Range) Range 234 miles (Standard Range), 282 miles (Long Range)

3. MG 4 EV


Previous picks not affordable enough? Try this. The MG 4 EV is an important moment in the development of MG Motor as a serious car maker. Since the British brand’s relaunch under the ownership of the Chinese giant SAIC, it has always played the budget end of the market. With the MG 4, it still does, but with a car that is genuinely impressive in its own right.

Being a physically smaller car than the previous two, it’s not quite as spacious, but not by much. Its rear-drive layout lets it serve up some real handling thrills while its soft but controlled ride means it’s well suited to rough British roads. It has a very competitive range and charging figures too, and all for £26,995 for the SE model or £29,495 for the Long Range SE. There’s an Extended Range and a bonkers-fast 429bhp XPower model, but we wouldn’t bother.

You can see some of the cost savings in the low-grade interior materials and slightly haphazard infotainment and driver assistance features, but none of it is egregious enough to seriously detract from how much value for money the MG 4 offers.

Price £26,995 (Standard), £29,495 (Long Range), £36,495 (Extended Range, XPower) Range 218 miles (Standard), 281 miles (Long Range), 323 miles (Extended Range), 239 miles (XPower)

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4. Citroën ë-C3


But wait, you go even cheaper without ending up in a golf cart. The Citroën ë-C3 costs just £21,990 and it doesn’t even come out of China. Well, not all of it anyway. In fact, there will be a sub-£20,000 version, but its 124-mile official range is pretty borderline.

Your £21,990 buys you a fairly small car that is proudly built to a cost but still with the goal of not being compromised or feeling cheap. The 201-mile range from its LFP battery is very usable and the interior has a good amount of charm and plushness to it.

The wider test team has yet to give its full verdict in the UK on Citroën’s new budget EV, but impressions from the international launch were very positive indeed.

Price 'Sub-£20,000' (standard), £21,990 (44kWh) Range 124 miles (standard), 203 miles (44kWh)

5. Vauxhall Corsa Electric


A recent facelift brought a bigger battery, more power and a longer range to the electric version of Vauxhall’s long-running supermini. But that’s not the version we’re recommending here, because it’s tied to pricey trim levels. Instead, Vauxhall is doing some very enticing deals on the entry-level Corsa Electric with the smaller battery.

A total of 221 miles from a charge is still pretty impressive for a supermini that retails for £26,895. The entry-level You trim is fairly bare-bones, but that might be all you need. The Vauxhall Corsa Electric isn’t the roomiest in its class, or the most fun, or the most luxurious, but it is easy to drive, solid and mostly free of quirks.

Price £26,895 (136PS), £38,585 (156PS) Range 221 miles (136PS), 246 miles (156PS)

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6. Kia Niro EV


Like the Hyundai Kona Electric further up this list, but wish it looked less weird and more like a hatchback? Kia is here for you. Mechanically, the Kia Niro EV is very closely related to the Kona, so it offers very similar vital statistics. They ride a bit more firmly and handle a touch more directly, but there isn’t a huge amount in it. We find the user interface a little fiddlier than on the Hyundai, and Kia’s finance deals tend to be a bit more expensive but Kia’s EVs are still excellent choices.

You could also get a Kia Soul. The Soul rides slightly better and has less fiddly controls and a clearer but more basic-looking gauge cluster. The driving position is more SUV-ish but the cabin isn’t quite as roomy. Compared with some of the other options here, the Kias are a little bit plain, and also on the expensive side, but still very recommendable.

Price £32,975 (Soul Urban), £39,075 (Soul Explore), £37,325 (Niro) Range 171 miles (Soul Urban), 280 miles (Soul Explore), 285 miles (Niro)

7. Mini Cooper E


If you’re looking for something roomy and family-friendly, you can just skip this one. Like all Mini hatchbacks, the Cooper E is still relatively mini in size, but you’ll fall for it because of the style and the driver engagement.

While the original Mini Electric was based on the petrol version, but with a small battery shoehorned in, this new one was developed from the outset as an EV and has no mechanicals in common with the petrol version. That allows a bigger battery, with 36.6kWh in the Cooper E and 49.2kWh in the Cooper SE. The latter is rated for a very decent 249 miles. More than that, though, it’s a style statement and one of the more entertaining EVs on the market.

Price £30,000 (Cooper E), £34,400 (Cooper SE) Range 190 miles (Cooper E), 234 miles (Cooper SE)

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8. Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric


The Renault Mégane is another stylish electric hatchback, one that really stands out from the crowd, but it’s a size bigger than the Mini. It’s still a bit smaller and less practical than the Cupra Born or Hyundai Kona, though.

For that, it feels a cut above some of the other options here when it comes to interior quality and ambience. Its Google-based multimedia system is also a major plus for how easy to use it is. Renault also sticks to physical controls for climate functions. While the Renault is far from the most sporting option here, it is quiet at speed and rides well. Pricing and range revisions since launch have made the Mégane one of the more affordable family hatchbacks too. For its size, it could be more practical, it’s not the most efficient and its slightly nervous steering isn’t to all tastes.

Price £33,995 Range 285 miles

9. Fiat 500e


The electric Fiat 500 has very little in common with its ancestor, the 1950s icon that brought motoring to the Italian masses. Given its size, it’s not even that cheap. Nevertheless, £28,195 is fairly affordable for an electric car, and the £31,195 37kWh version offers a claimed 200 miles of range, which is pretty good for a city car.

It looks fantastic and drives pretty well, too. While the ride is bouncy, the 500e is perfectly capable of motorway driving, and it’s a lot of fun zipping through narrow country lanes that would make you slow down in a bigger car. Being small and relatively light, it’s efficient too, which keeps running costs low. We also like its user-friendly multimedia system and good selection of physical controls.

Price £28,195 (95hp), £31,195 (118hp) Range 118 miles (95hp), 203 miles (118hp)

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10. Tesla Model 3 RWD


Just sneaking into this list is the Tesla Model 3 because it makes so much sense on paper. Yes, at £39,990 it’s one of the more expensive choices here, but that does buy you a BMW 3 Series-sized saloon with very generous interior space.

When it comes to EV drivetrain efficiency, no one can touch Tesla. A Model 3 can manage a genuine 4.0mpkWh. If that sounds boring, it starts a powerful virtuous circle: Teslas get better range than rivals but with a smaller battery. That takes less time to charge than a big one, and the physical space it saves can go to passengers and cargo. A small battery weighs less, which itself improves efficiency further and helps with the Model 3’s immediate handling and zippy performance. There are versions with even more range and pace, but they're well out of the realm of 'affordable'.

The Tesla doesn’t come higher up this list because it’s very divisive. While some people will find Tesla’s way of doing things absolutely fine, others simply can’t live with the extremely screen-dependent user interface, the lack of indicator stalks, the poorly tuned driver assistance features, the always-on one-pedal driving and the litany of other quirks.

Price £39,990 (RWD), £49,990 (Long Range), £59,990 (Performance) Range 318 miles (RWD), 390 miles (Long Range), 328 miles (Performance)

Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.

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HiPo 289 18 June 2024

Total Cost of Ownership of EVs is already way lower than fossil cars and purchase price parity between new EVs and fossil cars is near. (Why do you think the EU wants to put import tarrifs on Chinese EVs?  Because they will undercut European cars and European car makers will suffer.)  But buyers want cheaper EVs and they will arrive anyway.  If you want to worry about the cost of something, think about how all the used internal combustion cars will drop in value once new EVs are cheaper to buy than new petrol and diesel cars.  Oh and don't forget that 80% of the petrol you pour into a petrol car is wasted energy anyway.  It just causes a lot of pointless heat. 

Boris9119 11 June 2024

Firstly, 40k is not considered 'cheap' and never has been, but I guess that was the only way you could get enough vehicles on the list to make the article work. And secondly, you really wouldn't want to own or buy most of these EV's. 

Marc 11 June 2024
Why wouldn't I?
Supermario 10 June 2024
So cheap indeed. Except for a Tesla which you can buy for about £25k in the US or in China, none of these are worth looking at.
Marc 11 June 2024
Thankfully I'm not in China or the US, so I guess I'll have to put up with paying 40k instead.