These are the very best electric cars that effortlessly will fit into everyday life and carry the family and its paraphernalia.
Full-size, daily-usable electric vehicles have been a long time in rising to prominence, but they’ve now well and truly arrived, with more options available to buyers than ever before. Because the battery pack is usually hidden in the floor, many are SUVs, but there are some hatchbacks, saloons and crossovers to choose from also.
Battery technology has come a long way here, bringing down prices of new EVs and also making range anxiety much less of a problem than it used to be. Charging infrastructure still leaves much to be desired, but if you can charge at home, you may never need to visit a public charger.
Add in the fact that EVs let you travel in silence and produce zero emissions, are exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge, and qualify for low benefit-in-kind taxes as fleet options, and they start to become a truly viable family transport picks.
While we have yet to see many true driver’s cars with electric power, the instant, silent punch, uninterrupted by gearchanges that even fairly basic EVs offer will surprise and delight many drivers used to conventional powertrains.
This is a list of our top 10 electric cars for families, compiled considering factors such as range, usability, driving dynamics and value for money. Some EVs are still subject to relatively high prices compared with combustion-engined cars, but their premiums can be offset against lower running costs.
20 years ago, it would have been surprising to see a list like this dominated by Korean car-makers Hyundai and Kia, but the duo have not only managed to build a range of impressive mainstream cars, they were also quick out of the gate with electric versions of regular cars.
The Ioniq 5 is the start of one of them getting truly serious about EVs, and it’s built on a bespoke EV model platform with 800-volt electronic architecture. An 800v system allows for much faster charging and the only others doing something similar are the Porsche Taycan and Audi E-Tron GT. Pretty good company.
It’s not just a technical exercise. The Ioniq 5 draws attention with its distinctive retro-futuristic design and modern, high-quality interior.
We were impressed with the rapid dual-motor version when we drove it. Although it is too big and soft to be truly engaging, it proved a lovely relaxing cruiser, with good noise suppression, a comfortable ride, and a really convincing luxury aura that suits an electric car perfectly. Good packaging means that space in the back is more than generous, with a usable boot.
The long-range rear-wheel drive version narrowly saw off the Skoda Enyaq in a recent group test, proving a more engaging drive and winning over our tester with its more daring design. The range starts from £36,995 for a 168bhp rear-wheel drive car with a 240-mile range, rising to £41,945 for a 281-mile, 214bhp version, and £45,145 for the 302bhp dual-motor range-topper – so it’s competitive value, too.
Skoda often takes Volkswagen Group mechanicals and wraps them up in an even more sensible, spacious package that’s better value to boot. So too with the Skoda Enyaq iV. It uses the same VW Group MEB electric ‘skateboard’ platform that underpins the VW ID 3 and ID 4, and the Audi Q4 E-Tron. Clever design choices ensure it hits a sweet spot in the EV SUV market, though.
It impresses with a roomy and cleverly thought-out cabin that is a match for the Audi’s on tangible quality and personalisation. The chassis set-up proved very mature during our road test: it won’t appeal to keen drivers, but feels medium firm and fairly tightly controlled to inspire confidence without any meaningful detriment to the range.
The 201bhp ‘80’ version we tested showed performance that should satisfy most drivers and the 333-mile range makes the Enyaq very usable on longer journeys, too. For the more budget-conscious, Skoda offers a ‘60’ model with a 58kWh battery pack that yields a 250-mile range. An even smaller 50 exists but isn’t available over here at the moment. The 80X Sportline adds a front motor for extra power and all-wheel drive and details of the range-topping vRS with 302bhp and all-wheel drive are to be announced soon.
Only the added character of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and a handful of awkward design decisions, some slightly annoying active safety features and a slightly mean standard equipment tally keep it from finishing at the very top of this list.
3. Kia EV6
Kia has come closer than anyone so far to bringing real driver appeal to the market for usable, affordably-priced, ‘normal’ electric cars. With the EV6, sister car to our class champion the Hyundai Ioniq 5, it has taken a state-of-the-art electric-specific model platform, clothed it in a handsome body, thrown in a good-sized cabin, and finished the package with keen-feeling ride and handling delivered by a natively rear-wheel drive chassis that feels significantly more interesting and involving to drive than so many EVs have thus far.
The car comes with a choice of three trim levels, and in either single-motor rear-driven- or twin-motor four-wheel drive form. Power outputs range from 226- to 321bhp, with a range-topping GT version coming soon with close to six-hundred horsepower to call upon (imagine that). Public rapid charging at up to 239kW is possible in the car (where available), at which pace the car’s 77.4kWh battery can be topped up roughly the time it takes to order a cup of tea and consume an iced bun; while range extends up to 328 miles on the WLTP lab test standard.
The EV6’s package has a few limitations, one of which is price (this isn’t the most affordable electric option among its peers). Because it’s a bit sporty, it’s also not the smoothest-riding, refined EV of the current bunch; cabin quality isn’t nearly as rich or inviting as that of the car’s Hyundai relation; and lifeless, numb steering takes the edge of the car’s dynamic appeal a little.
Nevertheless, the EV6 is remarkably agile-handling, its performance is spirited (even in the case of single-motor models), and it gives plenty of heart to keen drivers who have assumed that zero-emissions motoring simply won’t nurture their enthusiasm quite like they’re used to.
The Blue Oval was a little late to the full-sized electric car market, but has made something of a splash in any case by appropriating its much-loved Mustang sub-brand for its first battery-electric production model. The Mustang Mach-E isn’t a square-jawed muscle coupé, though, but a proper five-seater with an appealing-looking crossover bodystyle, as well as impressive real-world range potential and a more affordable price than some of the cars listed here.
It’s available from just over £40,000 in the UK, so it’s not as affordable as some key rivals. If you want the WLTP-accredited 379-mile Extended Range version, you’ll need almost £50,000. However, it’s a proper, usable family car that beats premium rivals by up to 30% on both claimed range and value.
In Extended Range RWD form, Ford’s first proper EV doesn’t dazzle with warp-speed acceleration. Instead it is the chassis that brings some driving satisfaction, with its appreciable poise and even a little playfulness when the moment takes you. Outright fun? Like its rivals, the Ford is too heavy for that, and its steering too synthetic, but this is certainly one of the more pleasing driver’s cars of its ilk.
Fears that the Mach-E would be very much ‘style over substance’ are further dispelled by what is a truly spacious and airy cabin, even if the look of the place is somewhat unimaginative and perceived quality a rung or two below what you’ll find in European rivals.
The ID 4 is the second Volkswagen to be launched on the group’s MEB platform, following on from the ID 3. It’s a bigger, pricier car than that earlier model, but also one that will play just as crucial a role in helping VW become a dominant player in the global EV market. The world is, after all, crazy for SUVs, and Volkswagen claims the ID 4’s packaging allows it to offer Touareg levels of practicality in a Tiguan-sized package. That sounds like a winning combo.
In practice, it works pretty well, too. There’s loads of space up front, and its 531-litre boot is larger than a Tiguan’s. Even better, since locating the battery under the floor allows for clever packaging, space in the rear is similar to a Mercedes E-Class. The only slight niggle is that it also means the rear bench sits a bit higher than you might like, which restricts head room.
Speaking of the battery, two sizes are available, and they correspond to the output of the rear-mounted electric motor. The 146bhp and 168bhp models come with a 52kWh unit, while the 201bhp model has a 77kWh battery that’s good for a WLTP range of 324 miles. A dual-motor, four-wheel-drive 295bhp GTX model tops the range, though it’s more of a fast cruiser than a true GTI for the electric age.
Performance of the normal 201bhp version is usefully brisk as well, and it’s very refined, even on big wheels. But there’s also enough character to ensure that it doesn’t leave you cold: neatly tuned control responses, sharp initial performance, interesting little design cues and a sense of maturity on the move.
The ID 4 offers a neat, simplified and intuitive electric-car experience, though the interior ergonomics have been simplified a bit too much. Despite a very appealing ambiance inside the ID 4, the loss of most buttons means it’s not very user-friendly – a common complaint with modern Volkswagens.
6. Polestar 2
You may remember the Polestar 1: the muscular but oh-so-svelte 600bhp plug-in hybrid GT built by Volvo’s environmentally minded subsidiary. Well, it is the smaller and cheaper Polestar 2 that really demonstrates the kind of the car this young brand wants to make.
The Polestar 2’s fundamental architecture is shared with the Volvo XC40, but the stark exterior design, warm interior ambience, Android-developed infotainment and the 402bhp all-electric powertrain make it almost unrecognisable from any other Volvo-based car in terms of its character. The 78kWh battery is rated for 282 miles of WLTP range if you go for the Performance Pack, of which is delivered about 225 miles in real-world use; and the car can charge at speeds of up to 150kW.
What impresses us about the 2 is how complete and sophisticated it feels. The control weights are nicely judged, the cabin is comfortable and it’s superbly easy to use, excepting its compromised rear visibility. There are bigger and more spacious cars on this list, and some that confer a bit more status and reflected glory; but few are quite so nice to use.
The Tesla Model Y is the slightly gawkier-looking, more practical and grown-up brother of the big-selling Model 3. It’s 50mm longer than the Model 3 but importantly some 180mm taller, offering significantly more cabin space but a similar chassis specification which, at launch, will only include twin-motor long-range models that will look a little bit expensive compared to other cars in this list, with prices starting from a whisker under £55,000. That’ll get you the ‘Long Range’ version of the Model Y, which has 434bhp; does 0-62mph in just 5.0sec flat; and has a range of 315 miles. Ally all of that with the advantages brought by access to Tesla’s extensive ‘supercharger’ public charging network and you’ve got an EV that, on paper at least, certainly looks like it should be worth paying a premium for.
The Model Y does indeed offer plenty of passenger space and an airy interior feel, and its cabin is minimalistically furnished and fairly well-presented. Storage space, split between boots at both ends of the car, is also generous.
The car follows a familiar-feeling dynamic template, with relatively quick-geared and quite heavily weighted steering, firm suspension and a slightly hard, occasionally brittle-feeling ride. You get ‘Autopilot’ semi-autonomous driver assistance system as standard, but the full ‘self-driving’ support system is optional (and Tesla does point out in the small print that it’s an assistance system really, and drivers should remain in control and vigilent at all times).
The very earliest European-spec examples arrived on the continent in autumn 2021, and right-hand drive UK examples are expected early in 2022.
If you can’t quite justify the cost of a full-sized Audi E-tron Quattro for your first foray into premium EV ownership, there is this: the smaller Q4 E-tron. LIke its bigger sibling it comes in both regular-bodied and extra-swoopy ‘sportback’ silhouettes, but unlike the bigger car it uses the VW Group’s specially developed ‘MEB’ model platform. Those underpinnings allow it to offer four-wheel drive to those who want it, and in excess of 300bhp; but they also give it a mechanical link to cheaper sibling cars like the VW ID4 and Skoda Enyaq iV, which we rank elsewhere in our family EVs chart.
That relationship doesn’t seem to be putting off European buyers of this car any more than its pug-nosed looks or its glitzy but slightly plain-feeling cabin quality; but it was enough to temper our reaction to the car when we road-tested it. The Q4 E-tron demonstrates how tricky it will be for premium brands to differentiate platform-engineered cars in the all-electric era, when extra value can no longer be added by refined or high-performing combustion engines, and chassis technologies are shared across brands. It’s a credible car, with a range of approaching 300 miles in the case of the longest-legged versions: but it isn’t well distinguished dynamically, by its only superficially different design, or by the upmarket ambience of its interior.
Volvo’s first all-electric model is closely related to the Polestar 2. It’s built on the same model platform and uses the same 78kWh drive battery and electric drive motors. Being a little taller and more bluff than the Polestar, it’s slightly slower-accelerating and has less lab-test-certified range (257 miles).
If you test drive the Polestar and find it a bit too sporty for your liking, this might be the car to soothe your furrowed brow. The XC40 is softer-riding than its electric stablemate, and offers a little more interior headroom and boot space. It’s got assertively fast performance, but doesn’t handle with the Polestar’s dynamic aplomb. Until cheaper, less-powerful derivatives arrive, it’ll also look expensive compared with key rivals.
10. Lexus UX 300e
The Lexus UX 300e is a rather tentative first step into the EV scene for Toyota’s premium automotive outfit. It’s at least broadly competitively priced, but it offers less real-world range (less than 200 miles is claimed) and cabin practicality than the cars it’s up against, and it doesn’t compensate with a particularly sporty or memorable driving experience.
The car uses a front-mounted electric motor and front-wheel drive, and offers a pretty unremarkable 201bhp. Ride refinement is decent, but in its handling the car feels a little heavy and inert.