Best Electric Cars of 2021: The year EVs went mainstream

by Vicky Parrott

There was a time when picking the best electric cars in any given year was been not much different to picking the only electric cars; the selection really was that limited. Not so for 2021. While 2020 was the year that EVs truly went mainstream, 2021 was the year when buyers wanting a battery vehicle started to have real choice thanks to an influx of new models. From city cars to family SUVs and luxury GTs, in 2021 the pure electric car was starting to become an option whether you were shopping for the functional, the fun or the fashionable.

Here’s our pick of some of the best EVs that arrived in 2021. For more recent models, check out our guide for the best electric cars going on sale this year.

Best Electric Cars of 2021

2021 BMW i4 front driving 2

BMW i4

The BMW i4 is the German brand’s answer to the Tesla Model 3 and Polestar 2; a pure electric saloon that will look very similar to the company’s new BMW 4 Series. The i4 gets an 80.7kWh battery that feeds electric motors (either a 335bhp single motor in the eDrive40, or 536bhp in the dual-motor M50), with BMW claiming an impressive official range of between 337 and 352 miles.
BMW i4 Review
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Tesla Model Y

The Tesla Model Y is a mid-sized SUV that’s based on an extended Model 3 platform. It comes in at roughly the same size as a BMW X3, making it a rival for similarly sized EV SUVs such as the Mercedes-Benz EQC and Jaguar I-Pace, but the Tesla will seat up to seven people thanks to an optional third row of seats. It's be offered in Standard, Long Range and Performance variants. An ultra-rapid charging rate of 250kW means that you can have an 80% battery top-up in under 15 minutes. The Tesla Cybertruck might be the vehicle Elon Musk is using to grab all the headlines, but this car is far more important, because this is the one customers in the UK will actually buy.
Tesla Model Y Review
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Ford Mustang Mach-E

It’s controversial, putting the much-beloved Mustang name on an electric SUV, that’s for sure. But this is a brave new world where the wild horse logo is more brand than model name, and this mid-sized, five-seat SUV is the start of this new era for Ford. It’s a good start, too, complete with storming performance and an all-new cabin design that features a 15.5-inch touchscreen, complete with smart voice control, internet connectivity and phone integration. There are two battery options in the Mach-E; 76kWh or 99kWh, and you can have rear- or four-wheel-drive powertrains with either. The rear-wheel drive 99kWh Extended Range model offers the longest range in the line-up, at 370 miles.
Ford Mustang Mach-E Review
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Skoda Enyaq iV

The Enyaq sits on VW’s MEB platform, which also underpins the Volkswagen ID.3. This gets a scaled-up version of the platform, in order to make it comparable in size and roominess to a Kodiaq, but the Enyaq isn’t be offered as a seven-seater as the Kodiaq is. Battery options are 62kWh or 82kWh, badged 60 or 80 respectively, and offering a range of 242- or 316 miles. Both are well equipped and decent value, as you’d expect from the Czech brand. In fact, we rate the Enyaq so highly that we named it our best family electric SUV in 2021.
Skoda Enyaq Review
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Fiat 500e

Technically, the 500e went on sale in late 2020, but we’ve included it in our 2021 roundup since cars didn’t reach dealers until then. And because it looks brilliant, does up to 199 miles to a charge and costs from only £20,000. Mind you, that entry price is for the lower powered ‘Action’ model, which will cover 115 miles from a 23.8kWh battery. You have to go for the Passion trim to get the bigger 42kWh battery pack, with its 199 mile WLTP range, but it still seems good value next to alternative stylish electric city cars like the Honda e and Mini Electric, which both cost more despite their shorter ranges. Ultimately, the New 500 is a great design evolution from its fantastically popular predecessor, and sticks to similar values of style and affordability, only with vastly better interior finish, driver comfort and infotainment.
Fiat 500e Review
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Long range EV mercedes-eqs-saloon

Mercedes EQS

The EQS is to be Mercedes’ flagship electric vehicle: a full-sized, pure electric limousine that looks distinctly different to the conventional S-Class. It has a shorter bonnet and more smoothed-out look, as well as an optional black panel grille. The EQS 450+ is rear-wheel drive and produces 329bhp. It has a range of up to 453 miles thanks to its 107.8kWh battery. The AMG EQS 53 4Matic+ features dual electric motors that produce 657hp sent to all four wheels.
Mercedes EQS Review
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Cupra Born

A Cupra isn’t just a fast Seat any more, it’s a brand in its own right, and the Born is its first pure electric model. Based on the VW ID.3 (and also much the same size) the Born is a five-door hatchback that promises to be a sportier, hot hatch take on the Volkswagen. It is available with a 45-, 58- or 77kWh battery, giving an official range of 211, 263 or 335 miles respectively. We love the Born for its sporty styling and good drive.
Cupra Born Review
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Renault Megane E-Tech Electric front cornering

Renault Megane E-Tech

If a more conventional family hatchback is more your thing than the swoopy, deliberately futuristic-looking VW ID.3 and Cupra Born, the Renault Megane E-Tech could be worth a look. This is a slick, evolutionary design that is offered with a 40kWh or 60kWh battery, with a range of 186 miles or 292 miles respectively. Rapid charging of up to 150kW is offered, and the Megane E-Tech is great to drive. There's lots here to like.
Renault Megane E-Tech Review
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Nissan Ariya

The Nissan Ariya is another rival to the Tesla Model Y and Ford Mustang Mach-E. Nissan has a lot of experience in EVs courtesy of its decade-and-more of selling the Nissan Leaf, but the Japanese maker's take on the spacious, mid-sized family SUV-crossover looks slicker and more grown up than its popular family hatchback. The Ariya showcases a new design language for Nissan, with the tapering windowline, contrasting roof and super-slim headlights all likely to appear on other future Nissan production cars. The Qashqai-sized Ariya doesn't have the option of a seven-seat layout, but you do get to choose between a 63kWh or 87kWh, and front- or four-wheel drive.
Nissan Ariya Review
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Audi E-Tron GT

This is Audi’s take on the excellent Porsche Taycan. Based on the same platform, Audi’s luxury four-door zero-emission sports car gets a 93.4kWh battery for a range of around 280-300 miles depending on the spec of the car. It also debuts new wireless charging technology that will deliver a charge of up to 11kW when you park over the charging pad, although most homes in the UK will be limited to 7kW charging speeds (whether the charging station is wireless or not) due to the single-phase electrical system in most domestic residences.
Audi E-Tron GT Review
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Vicky Parrott is a contributing editor at CarGurus. Vicky started her career at Autocar and spent a happy eight years there as a road tester and video presenter, before progressing to be deputy road test editor at What Car? magazine and Associate Editor for DrivingElectric. She's a specialist in EVs but she does also admit to enjoying a V8 and a flyweight.

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