Top 10 best electric cars 2023
These are the best electric cars in the world, according to Autocar, each with its own specialised subject
The ten cars listed below are, in Autocar’s considered view, the very best electric cars on the market right now. Each sits right at the state of the electrified art, whether that be for performance, range, space, luxury and refinement, in-car technology, or driver appeal.
Rather than being direct competitors, each has been picked for excellence in one particular area. So if you want to know what the most practical, most entertaining, or the most comfortable electric car for sale at any price, you’ll find it here; but we’ll also tell you which is the best value - and, in every case, why our nominated car is so good.
Stand by, then, for a few hundred words of essential reading for anyone who's about to take the plunge on their first electric car, and for those aspiring car-makers who want to know which cars to aim for in those all-important product development benchmarking exercises.
*The best electric cars*
*Best for: fun factor*
*Commended: Abarth 500e, Kia EV6*
Autocar has, for a couple of years now, conducted an annual test of the best-handling, most engaging electric cars on sale. We call it Britain’s Best Fun EV; you can read it in Autocar every summer; and our current reigning champion is the Cupra Born, which beat the challenge of cars like the MG 4 XPower and Abarth 500e to impress our judges.
The Born sits at a compelling nexus of size and usability, weight and power, of real-world range, and of price and affordability. It’s got enough power to keep you interested, but not so much as to seem excessive for the road, or to compromise its efficiency in quicker motoring. It’s got an engaging, balanced rear-driven chassis, and some precision and purpose to its body control - but it doesn’t forget to include four usable seats and a decent boot. It’ll cover 220 real-world miles on a charge, which should be enough to get you to and from your favourite road; but it’s also got the personality and poise to make the trip worthwhile.
There’s a completeness to the Cupra Born as a package that makes it the ideal affordable EV for interested drivers to take their first steps into zero-emissions motoring. Perhaps not by chance, it feels more like a Volkswagen Golf GTI for the electric age than anything VW is making itself right now.
*Cupra Born review*
*Best for: range*
*Commended: Mercedes EQS, Lucid Air*
Aston Martin designer turned company boss Henrik Fisker takes a no-nonsense view when it comes to electric cars and range: for the time being, you can’t really offer too much of it.
That’s why his new mid-sized SUV, the Fisker Ocean, comes with a Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt drive battery of 106kWh of usable capacity. That’s almost as much as either Mercedes or BMW provides in their flagship EV models - only Fisker is putting it on the market for half of their cost. The Ocean’s WLTP claimed lab-test range is as much as 440 miles, depending on model trim; but the priciest version of the car is currently a little over £60,000, with big-selling mid-range examples some £10k cheaper.
We’ve tested the Fisker Ocean abroad, and found that a real-world 400-mile range from the car is achievable on a mixed test route taking in plenty of motorway. That’s the kind of range that might help to change the way we think about EVs, and might also open up ownership for those who can’t charge at home.
Some super-expensive EVs may go slightly further - but nothing offers a better combination of usable range and value for money right now than this.
*Fisker Ocean review*
*Hyundai Ioniq 5*
*Best for: design appeal*
*Commended: Polestar 2, Honda e*
Designing really good-looking EVs is difficult. That’s the lesson that so many electric cars seem to teach, with their necessarily long wheelbases, short overhangs, and high-rising bodies so typically displaced upwards by under-floor battery packs.
So really great-looking electric cars demand recognition - particularly when they’re more affordable ones. The Hyundai Ioniq 5 has shown us, better than any rival, that EVs can be desirable and stylish, and still affordable. Its maker reached for some retro design cool with its look, referencing the Giugaro-designed 1974 Hyundai Pony Coupe among other inspirations.
The result is undeniably distinctive and desirable on the road, and also manages to solve the proportion-related design problems that so many EVs face. The Hyundai Ioniq 5 is a cool car that just happens to be electric - and we’re not sure that Hyundai has ever built something you can define in anything like the same terms.
*Hyundai Ioniq 5 review*
*Best for: onboard technology*
*Commended: Polestar 2, Fisker Ocean*
It was Tesla that really blew the lid off in-car digital technology when it introduced the original Model S saloon; but it’s now the world’s oldest car-maker that’s taken the game on, in a bid to prove that it can better anything that can be made in Silicon Valley.
When the Mercedes-Benz EQS arrived in 2021, it blooded the Mercedes Hyperscreen: a wide expanse of touchscreen digital real estate that seemed to occupy the entirety of the car’s fascia. In reality, it doesn’t quite do that: but it does bring together a sizeable digital instrument console with a large head-up display, a huge 17.7in widescreen central infotainment screen, plus a 12.3in touchscreen in front of the passenger. The combined effect is pretty dizzying, assuming you like lots of touchscreen technology in cars (at Autocar, the road test jury’s still split on that one).
Mercedes isn’t just throwing massive screens at its cars, though; its latest third-generation MBUX infotainment software is much easier to navigate than its predecessors were, and evidences a user-friendliness that other brands aren’t equalling.
*Mercedes EQS review*
*Mercedes EQS SUV*
*Best for: ride comfort*
*Commended: BMW i7, Hyundai Ioniq 5*
Onboard comfort was a character facet of modern cars overlooked for much of the late 20th century, but is now making something of a resurgence with EVs. A gentle, absorptive, quiet ride is a dynamic quality you can enjoy on every journey, and while we just somehow expect electric cars to have one because of their wider refinement advantages, you’ll find you don’t always get one.
So if you want to prioritise a comfortable ride, the Mercedes-Benz EQS SUV is the big EV to go for. As road tester Illya Verpraet observed when we drive this high-rise, seven-seat EQS limousine in the UK for the first time, it rides with almost no perceptible road noise at all, and makes lumps and bumps seem to just disappear under its wheels. As far as comfort is concerned, recorded our reviewer, “it simply doesn’t get much better than this.”
For a great-riding EV of a different shape or price point, meanwhile, look to the excellent BMW i7 or Hyundai Ioniq 5.
*Mercedes EQS SUV review*
*Best for: value*
*Commended: BYD Dolphin, Dacia Spring*
If you could ask the average Brit on the street why he doesn’t already own an electric car, what response would you get? “Because they cost too much, and they don’t go far enough between charges”. Well, think again Joe.
Built in Ningde, China by SAIC, and presented to UK buyers wrapped in the comfort blanket of a brand they know well, the MG 4 comes with a choice of 51-, 64- and 77kWh battery packs. The smallest of those can be had for a whisker under £27,000 (which now only just about buys the very cheapest piston-engined Volkswagen Golf) and is rated for 218 miles between charges. The biggest, meanwhile, is rated for 323 miles, but still costs less than the very cheapest plug-in hybrid Vauxhall Astra.
Value isn’t the only thing this car has on its side. The MG 4 has a pleasingly well-balanced, rear-driven chassis, and driving dynamics that feel much more finely honed than you’d expect. A roomy four-seater cabin completes a package that only the foolish wouldn’t make time to at least sample.
*MG 4 review*
*Best for: rapid charging speed, handling appeal*
*Commended: Hyundai Ioniq 6, Audi E-tron GT (rapid charging speed); Kia EV6, Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor (handling appeal)*
Porsche really stole a march on the rest of the luxury car industry when it introduced the Taycan electric saloon. The car’s been with us since 2019 - half a model lifecycle, in industry terms - and yet it’s still a truly standout prospect for both its Porsche-brand handling appeal and driver engagement, and for its DC rapid charging speed.
The Taycan isn’t the lightest EV of its kind, its 92kWh lithium-ion drive battery weighing some 650kg all on its own. But Porsche innovated by effectively cutting holes out of the under-floor battery level to enable the driver to sit lower in the car, and to therefore lower the whole profile of the vehicle; and so, by delivering a truly low, sporting-feeling driving position and a low centre of gravity, the car’s tactile, enticing handling gets off to a perfect start.
We’d pick a single-motor, rear-wheel drive model for the purest chassis balance; but, between saloons, Sport Turismo shooting brakes, Cross Turismo pseudo-offroaders, and so many GTS and Turbo models, there’s an awful lot of choice besides.
Meanwhile, Porsche’s habitual preference for effective cooling delivered 800v DC rapid charging performance for the Taycan that the rest of the industry is still catching up with today. The car is sitting pretty at the top of our real-world rapid charging performance test chart; with honourable mention to both the Audi E-tron GT and Hyundai Ioniq 6.
*Porsche Taycan review*
*Best for: luxury*
*Commended: BMW i7, Mercedes-Benz EQS*
The Hon. Charles Rolls noted the potential of electric motors for adoption in luxury cars right at the beginning of the 20th century. It took the car company he co-founded, and which bears his name, some 120 years to catch up with his embryonic vision; but now that it has, and the super-luxury EV class has its first ranking member, there can be no debate about which electric car comes first for luxury appeal.
The Rolls-Royce Spectre has wowed both our Editor Mark Tisshaw and Editor-at-Large Matt Prior on separate tests in South Africa and North America. Prior wrote in particular praise of the car’s ride isolation and cushioned body control, even on its 23in alloy wheels; but also of the uncommon smoothness of its ‘one-pedal’ drive; of its supreme, cocooning quietness; and of its unexpectedly rewarding steering and handling.
The BMW i7 and Mercedes-Benz EQS set a pretty high bar themselves for low noise levels and lavish onboard feel; but for the best of the best where luxury is concerned, and ultimate sense of occasion, Goodwood’s experts still set themselves apart.
*Rolls-Royce Spectre review*
*Tesla Model S Plaid*
*Best for: performance*
*Commended: Kia EV6 GT, MG 4 XPower*
Tesla’s name had to crop up on this list somewhere - but that it’s doing so here tells you a great deal about how few prisoners company boss Elon Musk is willing to take in his pursuit of a world-beating reputation for his firm.
In terms of standing-start acceleration, the Tesla Model S Plaid took our road test timing gear quicker than it had ever been when we road tested the car in August 2023. With fully 1020bhp and three electric drive motors doing its grunt work, it needed just 2.4sec to hit 60mph from rest; 4.6sec to hit 100mph; and 9.6sec for a standard quarter mile.
That’s without the advantage of one-foot rollout acceleration timing that US car-makers typically claim, of course; and it was quicker than a Bugatti Veyron Supersport, a Ferrari SF90 Stradale - not to mention everything else that Autocar has tested hitherto in its near-century of road-testing history. And this from a 2.2-tonne mid-sized executive saloon, not some carbonfibre hypercar. It’s a £130,000 saloon, granted; and also, we’re yet to fully test any of the electrified hypercars that might actually be quicker.
But for now, if you want to travel quickly - and without any associated carbon emissions, of course - this is the EV you need.
*Tesla Model S Plaid review*
*Volkswagen ID Buzz*
*Best for: practicality*
*Commended: Skoda Enyaq iV, Tesla Model Y*
Volkswagen finally got around to rebooting its iconic Type 2 ‘microbus’ with the 2022 ID Buzz. Sized to fit in between a big conventional passenger car and a medium-sized van, it’s intended to fit into typical marked parking bays, and to be easy enough to drive and use in everyday traffic as to feel like a regular family car on the outside, but offer much more space and versatility inwardly.
The Buzz offers passenger and cargo space well in advance of even bigger luxury EVs - and VW’s long-wheelbase version adds seven-seat versatility and extra carrying capacity on the top. VW’s retro design makes the car more desirable than any other utility-flavoured EV, and there are four-wheel drive, California camper and GTX performance versions planned.
The VW ID Buzz is a super-practical EV you’ll want to own, designed for life, that escapes the drawbacks of the usual van conversions.
*VW ID Buzz review*