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Best electric cars for 2021

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With tech, designs and range in the segment better than they’ve ever been, we’re going to help you make the switch to an electric car.

If you’re ready to take the leap into the world of electric vehicles, now is the best time. The technology behind EVs continues to grow smarter, ranges are longer than ever between charges and charging infrastructure is finally starting to come alive.

The problem is figuring out which of the many electric vehicles on sale today will best fit your life and your budget. Do you want something cheaper and with a more limited range, or do you want to pony up some cash for luxury features and enough range for charge-free road trips? How are you supposed to choose the best EV for you?

We can’t tell you exactly which EV is right for your life, but we can narrow your choices down. See, we’ve driven just about every permutation of every current-production electric vehicle on sale in the US today, so we here at Roadshow have a better-than-average view of what’s good and what’s not in EVs right now.

After taking a look at our recommendations, don’t forget to check out our tips afterwards for buying your first EV.

Best small electric car2021 – Mini Cooper SE

Mini might be new to the EV game, but the brand’s first effort is a great one. What it lacks in overall range, it makes up for in being fun to drive and great to be in, all at a surprisingly reasonable price. We’re also a total sucker for those electrical outlet-style wheels.

The Mini SE may only do 110 miles to the charge, but with 181 horsepower and a boatload of torque in a small package, they’ll likely be 110 very fun miles. The good news is that on a 50-kilowatt fast charger, you’ll be able to get an 80% charge in around half an hour.

Best small electric car runner-up 2021 – Chevrolet Bolt

The 2021 Chevy Bolt is our runner-up thanks to its less-than-exciting driving dynamics and interior quality, but it offers phenomenal range for something in both its size and price classes. The Bolt benefits from a refresh for the 2022 model year, so if you have your heart set on an American EV, maybe wait a few months.

The Bolt is still one of the best bargains on the market when it comes to range versus cost. With a range of 259 miles in a cute-ish hatchback body style, there’s plenty of reason to recommend it. It’s also decent to drive thanks to its 200 horsepower. If you can spare the extra cash and need the range, the Bolt is a good way to go.

Best midsize electric car 2021 – Ford Mustang Mach-E

Ford is also new to the dedicated EV platform game with the Mustang Mach-E, but it’s a stellar effort. Despite its controversial name, the Mach-E offers good range, a great interior and excellent driving dynamics in an uber practical package that also boasts 29 cubic feet of cargo space with all the seats up.

The Mach-E is currently available in several flavors, with hotter (and more expensive) GT versions on the horizon, but even the base model is pretty fun to drive and deserving of its Mustang badge. With 290 horsepower on tap in RWD form, or 346 hp in all-wheel drive trim, the Mach-E easily gets out of its own way. The chassis is great and the cabin is a pleasant place to be. The Mach-E is one of the best all-rounder EVs on sale now.

Best midsize electric car runner-up 2021 – Tesla Model 3

Tesla’s Model 3 is a super popular choice among electric car shoppers, and for good reason. It’s great to drive, cool to look at and offers both a killer range and a very, ahem, active community of owners. But because of its higher price tag (when you include the FSD bundle), build quality issues and lack of service centers in some areas, it had to be our runner-up.

While it’s far from perfect, the Model 3 is still a perfectly lovely car to drive. It offers tons of electric power to make passing or merging a breeze and its chassis is way more competent and sporty than it has any right to be. The interior is basic, sure, but it offers plenty of storage space thanks to its two trunks. Being a Tesla, the Model 3 also offers awesome, best-in-class range. The cheapest version will still let you travel 263 miles between charges, but if you move up to the Long Range version, that goes to 353 miles. You’ll be able to skip a few charging stations.

Best full-size electric car 2021 – Porsche Taycan

On paper, the Porsche Taycan is kind of a tough sell. It’s expensive (it’s a Porsche, after all) and its range estimate looks straight-up bad. Driving a Taycan tells a completely different story and we’re confident that this is the best EV you can buy right now. Its real-world range is totally adequate for all but long road trips and its build quality and driving dynamics are basically unassailable.

Presently, the best you’re going to be able to do officially with a Taycan is 227 miles and that’s in the 4S trim with the performance battery option. Even if that were totally accurate in the real world, that’s still plenty for most people on most days. Even the base Taycan offers a driving experience that’s leaps and bounds beyond any other EV on sale right now and does so with just 400 horsepower. Once Porsche figures out the range thing, the rest of the industry better look out.

Best full-size electric car runner-up 2021 – Tesla Model S

There’s no arguing that right now Tesla’s Model S is the king of the jungle when it comes to range. It’s also an aging platform with well-known and oft-criticized quality control issues. It’s a great car to drive — in previous forms, since nobody has driven the refreshed version — but it still falls behind the brilliant Taycan in this regard.

While Tesla can’t quite keep up with Porsche when it comes to driving dynamics or build quality, the Model S has the kind of name recognition that it does for a reason. It’s still a comfortable, ludicrously powerful luxury EV and if you’re only interested in doing insanely long drives without too many charging breaks, then it’s the way to go for sure. 

The new Plaid Plus version takes the whole fast EV thing to another level entirely, too. Tesla claims that it will do better than 520 miles on a charge while delivering over 1,100 horsepower and sub-2-second launches to 60 mph. Will this actually play out as Elon Musk says? We don’t know, but it’d be cool if it did.

Best affordable EV 2021 – Hyundai Kona Electric

Many people shopping for their first electric vehicle are going to be looking for something affordable. While EVs still haven’t reached price parity with internal combustion vehicles, there are tons of great examples under $50,000. Our favorite among these is the Hyundai Kona Electric. We picked the Kona because it offers great range, a practical small-SUV-style body and a stellar warranty.

The Kona Electric offers a super respectable range of 258 miles and a drivetrain that produces 201 horsepower, all in a package that will work for most families. It has a decent amount of cargo space — 19.2 cubic feet with all the seats up, to be specific — and because it’s a Hyundai, it also has tons of creature comforts as standard equipment. Don’t even get us started on the warranty. If you can live with the styling (we like it) and you can stretch your buck far enough, the Kona is an almost perfect first EV.

Best electric SUV runner-up 2021 – Audi E-Tron

Audi’s E-Tron is one of those EVs, like the Taycan, that doesn’t seem as impressive on paper but once you drive it for a bit, its price seems much more justified. It features great build quality, as befits a German luxury SUV, and a lovely interior. It’s a well-considered first effort from Audi and even though it lacks huge range capability, it’s a compelling car with all the practicality of an SUV. It’s even got 28.5 cubic feet of cargo space with all the seats up. Its cost kept it out of the first place spot.

We also really enjoyed Audi’s E-Tron Sportback, but had to go with the more traditional SUV for practicality’s sake, and practical it is. It’s the right size to fit a family and their stuff while also being easy to get around in a busy city. It looks and feels like an Audi and aside from the amazing Jetsons low-speed noise, you could mistake it for a Q5. For some folks, going under the radar is preferable to shouting things out. It’s also fun to drive thanks to its 355 horsepower and all-wheel drive. If you can afford one, you’ll be happy with it.

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