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Eco Cars on Test

The UK’s plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 might still seem far away, but the switch to electric is already gaining speed – is it time you joined the charge? Matt Chappell looks at five eco cars to consider…

2020 is already a year of big change – and, for the eco-car market, it appears to have only accelerated what was already a steadily climbing trend. Sales for fully-electric cars (EVs) spiked during lockdown, having more than doubled last year, with time off the road sparking a reassessment of exactly what drivers need from their daily. Maybe it’s the market’s vastly lower running costs, often up to 60% cheaper than petrol equivalents. It could be the Government’s attractive Plug-In Car Grant, knocking up to £3,000 off an EV under £50,000. Maybe the world is just an environmentally friendlier place, hooked on the idea of looking after Mother Nature. If 2020’s lockdown period of self-reflection got you thinking about whether to plug in and jump on the ecobandwagon, you might be wondering where to start. Whatever your reason, we’ve picked out five great choices to begin with, that suit a variety of needs. With a greater choice of models, a larger, faster charging network and longer ranges, this is a maturing market that has something for everybody.


Best for: Plush normality Price: From £60,650 Range: Up to 249 miles

This is a fully-electric, luxury family SUV offering a look into the future, without the leap. It’s maverick style meets subtlety with the E-tron, its long strip brake light and virtual door mirrors are sure to turn heads, whilst a sophisticated, plush interior, piled with tech and driver aids, provide reassuring Audi familiarity. Huge torque and a 0-62mph of 5.7 seconds give way to near silent cruising under the right-hand pedal, blissfully gliding across motorways on air suspension. One charge offers up to 249 miles and the boot can fit 16 carry-on cases inside it, making family adventures to the coast easy. This is an EV that slots neatly into everyday life but makes for an experience, not just a journey. Available from Audi Epsom.

MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK: Hyundai Kona Electric

Best for: Affordable range Price: From £30,150 Range: Up to 278 miles

If owning an EV has ever had you worried about actually reaching your destination, you’ve experienced ‘range anxiety’. The Kona blasts that out of the water, at a fraction of the cost of some other competitors. It’ll throw your head back if you let it too, with a punchy 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds. It has an eye-grabbing exterior, and a roomy cockpit with heated/ cooling seats, wireless charging and a well designed dash keeping things pleasant. Fully (rapid) charged in 75 minutes, this is value for money for eco-conscious drivers after a family orientated crossover that can go the distance. And, when you get all of this for under £40k, no wonder it’s already a sweetheart of the EV motoring world. Available from Wilsons Epsom.

ENVY INDUCING: Tesla Model S Best for: All-round performance Price: From £77,980 Range: Up to 379 miles

Bursting onto the scene over eight years ago, the Tesla Model S really set the precedent for EVs today. This is a sleek saloon car packed with technology, range and explosive performance; a true all-rounder. Take its autopilot system, powered by 12 ultrasonic sensors and a forward facing radar searching up to 160m away. Or the 17-inch touchscreen in the cockpit, with noise engineering ‘comparable to a recording studio’. Then there’s its supercar acceleration, from 0-60mph in 2.3 seconds (ludicrous mode), with AWD and air suspension. It also holds the medal for longest range, chewing up to 379 miles, making it a reliable, zero-emission long-range cruiser that packs a punch. It’s got the price tag to match but it’s guaranteed to make the neighbours just a little bit jealous. (Pictured top)

CITY SLICKER: Renault Zoe Best for: Urban living Price: From £26,495 Range: Up to 245 miles

Stylish, small, nippy – these are the attributes needed for any city car worth its salt. But the all electric supermini Renault Zoe delivers all three, at zero emissions and a fraction of the running cost. With enough room for four in the cockpit and enough push to make leaving the lights a blast, this lively second generation EV can run for up to 245 miles. That’s a lot of range for not a lot of car, meaning even trips out of town stay green. The car’s ‘B’ mode also gives access to regenerative braking, whilst the interior holds an electronic gear shifter and parking brake, and material made from recycled seat belts and bottles to keep things eco friendly. A great entry-level option, the Renault Zoe offers a conventional ride desirable for many mainstream car buyers.

REASSURING CROSSOVER: Kia Niro PHEV Best for: Family holidays Price: From £31,945 Range: Up to 30 miles

Plug-in hybrid cars (PHEV) combine a small electric battery with the reassurance of a traditional engine. The Kia Niro PHEV is the crossover SUV offering up cost-effective pootling around town in fully electric – perfect for midweek commuting – and the option of taking the family on a staycation with a reliable 1.6 litre petrol engine. Practical and spacious, inside it’s got a nicely surprising array of tech; adaptive smart cruise control, lane assist, wireless charging. Its automatic six speed dual clutch gearbox provides a smooth ride, and a sport mode kicks the petrol engine in sooner. Squeezing out up to 208.1mpg, this is better as an efficient family car, serving up the best of both worlds. Available from Kia Epsom Shelly Motors.