The latest crop of electric and hybrid cars combine high performance with strong eco-credentials.
Volvo XC40 Recharge
- Price: from £53,155
With the XC40 plug-in hybrid already in showrooms, Volvo will go a step further early next year with its Recharge Pure Electric model. As the name suggests, there’s only battery power under your right foot, but it boasts a decent 400km-plus range on a full charge.
This is Volvo’s first all-electric car, and the Swedish firm’s first step towards its aim of half of all of its global sales to be purely electric by 2025. The XC40’s sustainability goes further than skin deep too, with the door linings and carpet made from 97 per cent recycled plastic bottles. The lack of a traditional engine makes room for a small extra 30-litre boot under the bonnet.
The hefty £53,155 price tag might make you wince a little, but with so many XC40s likely to be bought as company cars or on finance, its ultimate success will come down to a competitive monthly payment. And, given the history of the rest of Volvo’s excellent XC range, this could be its biggest hit of 2021.
- Price: from £65,195
With more than 80 global awards, including three coveted World Car of the Year 2019 accolades in the trophy cabinet, the Jaguar I-Pace has set the tone for the latest breed of electric cars since it arrived in summer 2018.
And now it’s even better, with Jaguar having introduced a host of updates to the I-Pace collection. The 470km fully-charged range is still present, as is the speedy 4.5-second 0-60mph time, but there’s now an improved onboard charger fitted as standard, which gives drivers faster on-the-road charging than before – a 50kW charger can add up to 63km in 15 minutes.
A new infotainment system makes it easier to use public charging points, showing you in real time whether they’re available and an estimate of charging time. There’s greater connectivity, with wireless mobile charging and Bluetooth technology that can pair two phones simultaneously, plus a host of design improvements, too.
- Price: from £26,495
Three generations on and the Renault Zoe is the most popular electric car in Europe. The styling might not have altered much during that time – no bad thing to our eyes, as the Zoe has always been a looker – but the changes under the skin have been considerable.
It now boasts a 52kWh battery capable of up to 394km on a full charge (which can cost less than £5), and it can also accommodate a rapid charge. There’s a new regenerative braking B-mode that, like many EVs, enables you to drive almost without touching the brake pedal.
The Zoe’s green credentials extend beyond its battery power, too, with some of the interior plastics and seat fabric being made from recycled plastic.
Kia XCeed PHEV
- Price: from £30,695
With its brilliant new Soul EV and E-Niro models, Kia – along with its sister firm, Hyundai – is taking the electric car market by storm. Kia had already enjoyed record sales of its electrified models in the first quarter of 2020 and is aiming for more than a fifth of European sales to be fully electric by 2026.
The latest in the range to help achieve that ambition is this plug-in hybrid XCeed. A 1.6-litre petrol engine is allied to an 8.9kWh battery, giving the XCeed an all-electric range of 58km and emissions from only 32g/km. The touchscreen sat nav can tell you where the nearest charging points are in your vicinity or en route to your destination. Bearing in mind the huge sales success Kia has had with the smaller Stonic and larger Sportage models, plus the growing popularity of crossovers, it would be a brave person to bet against this XCeed – especially in this plug-in form – proving another winner.
Tesla Model 3
- Price: from £40,490
No round-up of electric cars could be complete without at least one mention of Tesla. Whatever your perceptions might be of its co-founder and chief executive, Elon Musk, there’s no question that his company has shaken up both the electric vehicle market and the car industry as a whole beyond measure. For all the bluster up until now, however, it’s this smaller Model 3 that is really helping the brand to take great strides into the mainstream.
It’s still not cheap, or perfect, but the build quality – a notable weak point on past Teslas – is notably better, while the entry-level Standard Range Plus’s 409km range and 5.3-second 0-60mph time are not to be sniffed at. Dig deeper into your bank balance and you can bring the acceleration time down to 3.2 seconds (that’s supercar speed) or raise the range to 560km.
As a company, Tesla still isn’t entirely without its issues, and the dealer network still needs better coverage, but the Model 3 has already been seen in the UK’s top-ten bestseller lists and is sure to become a more popular sight on British roads.
- Price: from £83,367
Back in our February issue, when previewing the likely biggest cars of 2020, we predicted that the all-electric Porsche Taycan might win the World Car of the Year Performance Car award. Turns out we were spot on, although what we didn’t guess was that it would pick up the World Luxury Car prize as well.
A deserving double win for Porsche’s first fully electric four-door saloon? You bet. Any concerns that fans of the German sports car manufacturer might have had with the Taycan have been swiftly allayed thanks to its superb performance and range – a 0-60mph time of only 2.6 seconds and a range of 412km-plus. Even better, though, is how the Taycan handles on the road, feeling more like an old 911 than a 2.3-tonne four-door saloon. A game changer for both Porsche and the electric car market.
Audi E-tron/E-tron Sportback
- Price: from £60,650
After the E-tron’s initial introduction, Audi has now expanded the electric line-up on both the original car and the newer Sportback version. New models range from the 50 Quattro, which has a range of 314km, up to the sportier “S” models offering higher performance – the first electrified car to wear Audi’s famous S badge.
As with traditional petrol or diesel models, with the newly expanded E-tron collection you simply choose your level of performance, range and equipment according to your budget. The German firm has already promised the arrival of a Q4 E-tron SUV coupe next year, its seventh electrified model.
Fiat 500 La Prima
- Price: from £26,995
Electric cars always make the most sense as city models, and few more so than the latest generation of the classic Fiat 500. Called La Prima, it has grown marginally in terms of its dimensions and comes in both hatchback and convertible 500C forms, with a 42kWh battery providing a creditable 320km fully-charged range.
The 500’s onboard technology and infotainment systems have taken a notable step forward, which is just as well given the convertible’s sizeable price tag of £29,000. Even the hatchback will leave you with just a fiver in change from 27 grand.
- Price: est. from £60,000
There’s no question that BMW has been at the forefront of electric car progress with its fantastic i3 hatchback and i8 supercar – some might even say it was too early with technology that is only now starting to catch on with mainstream buyers, the i3 having been introduced back in 2013.
The forthcoming iX3 is a different matter, though – it’s BMW’s first fully electric SUV, which, given the global appetite for them, is something of a no-brainer to introduce. It offers all of the practicality of the current X3 but with a 459km range and zero emissions. When it arrives on UK roads in summer next year, it will be available only in rear-wheel drive, rather than four-wheel drive like the conventionally powered X3.
- Price: from £29,160
Is the Honda E the cutest and coolest new electric car to be introduced in 2020? We certainly think so. With its retro styling, there’s no question that the E is a stunning thing to look at both inside and out, featuring suit-like seats and matt-finish wood to create what the Japanese firm calls a “lounge-like” atmosphere.
The tech is impressive, too, with five screens dominating the dashboard (two are for the side cameras in lieu of traditional door mirrors), while the on-road experience is quick off the mark and guaranteed to put a smile on your face. What might make you feel less chirpy is the £29,160 price for the Advance (a cheaper £26,660 version arrives in 2021), the 201km range and limited practicality, all of which might hamper what is otherwise a highly desirable car.
- Price: from £24,900
Like the Honda E, the new Mini Electric could well be one of the most fashionable small electric cars to arrive in showrooms this year. That familiar Mini shape with a 32.6kWh battery gives it a range of up to 233km, slightly better than the Honda E but not as good as Renault’s Zoe.
As you’d expect of a Mini, it feels sporty on the road and is faster than most of its rivals (0-60mph in 7.3 seconds), although for now it only comes in three-door form.