Electric cars were once considered a silly novelty with limited range, thrills and questionable practicality (those large, heavy batteries had to go somewhere, after all). Tech has since moved on, and we have a veritable buffet of electric cars available at various price points. So let’s have a look at five of the best electric cars under $40k (base price) for 2021. These are not hybrids or range extenders – pure electric cars.
You won’t find any models from Tesla here, as their cheapest offering starts a bit over $40k. Neither will you find premium European offerings or ones that can snap your neck with their accelerative prowess. The cars in this list are ideal as urban/suburban run-abouts, especially if you have a larger and plusher vehicle for long trips. So, If you are in the market for a pure-electric car that’s small, practical and budget-friendly, grab a beverage of your choice and have a read.
1. Mini Electric
This nipper from Mini nips in at a base price of $30,750 and comes with an EPA rated combined range of 110 miles which is more than enough for a city runabout. It’s got a 181bhp electric motor with 199lbft of torque that will give you sprightly acceleration – the 0-60mph time is around 7 seconds, which was Camry V6 territory at the turn of the noughties. It’s got a small battery pack to maintain luggage space, hence the limited range. It maintains that trademark go-kart handling too.
+ Relatively small size
+ Sprightly acceleration
+ Go-kart like handling
– Limited range and rear space
2. Nissan Leaf (2nd Generation)
The second-generation Leaf starts at $32,525 and for that, you get a 40kWh battery pack, a 147bhp motor and an EPA range of 149 miles. However if you can spring another $7,000 for the Plus version, you get a nice 62kWh pack with a 226-mile range as well as a more powerful motor racking up 214bhp. It’s also a seven-seconder in the 0-60mph sprint and a more comfort-oriented ride. The Leaf’s e-Pedal feature allows the driver to drive the car using the throttle only – releasing it enables strong regenerative braking to recharge the battery, with a side effect that the driver almost never has to touch the brake pedal! The seats are said to be extremely comfortable, and it comes with a decent level of tech toys as well as safety tech.
+ Decent performance
+ Comfortable seats and ride
+ Plus model offers enough range for quick trips
– Not for spirited drivers
3. Hyundai Ioniq Electric
Whilst the Mini and the Nissan are true-blue hatchbacks, the Ioniq is also classed as a hatchback, but offers more space a-la-Prius style. It starts at $34,000 but is not sold in all states. The car comes with a 170-mile EPA range and a 134bhp motor – hardly likely to light any fires, but this car is all about family space and practicality, with active safety features, large infotainment touchscreen, more interior space and luggage volume.
+ Larger interior spaces
+ Competent handling
+ Comprehensive suite of active safety features
– Not sold in all states
4. Chevrolet Bolt EV
The Bolt EV has been around for nigh-on five years now, but it’s been facelifted and upgraded. The 2021 model comes in at a base price of $37,495 but offers a 259-mile EPA range and 0-60mph in 6.7 seconds thanks to a 200bhp motor. It’s also got strong regenerative braking that allows you to utilise one-pedal driving under certain conditions. The interior can handle four adults easily, with five at a pinch. The 2022 model is slated to come in at a lower base price so you might want to wait for that…
+ Sprightly acceleration
+ Decent range for short trips
+ Good interior and cargo space
– 2022 model comes in with lower base price
5. Kia Niro EV
The dearest in our sub-$40k budget, the Niro EV nips in at $39,620 base. It’s got a 201bhp motor that offers 0-60mph in 6.5 seconds, a EPA range of 239 miles and a long list of active safety features including emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring, but is only available in 12 states. The Niro EV offers decent space for people and luggage but despite the strong acceleration, isn’t a sporty handler.
+ Strong acceleration
+ Active safety feature list is long
+ Decent interior space
– Only available in 12 states
Here you are – five electric cars under $40k. Ten years ago, a list of electric cars under this price ceiling would number precisely zero. Today, we have five. As technology improves, we will no doubt see more contenders. Until then, if you are looking for something small, nippy and electric under $40k, these are your best bet.
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