What are the best electric cars of 2021?

What is the best electric car for 2021?

By John R. Quain

These are the best electric cars and trucks you can buy now

With GM joining the race to electrification, the writing is on the gas pump. Electric vehicles are the future. While GM is the first of the big 3 to promise to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2035, Tesla has been impressing buyers with EV performance for years. California has already pledged to ban sales of new gasoline powered vehicles by 2035, joining countries such as France, Norway, and Germany that have announced similar plans to eliminate ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles.

Fortunately for us, there are a lot more EVs for us to choose from now. There are electric luxury sedans, exotic supercars, compact commuters, and even pickup trucks coming this year. Tesla’s finally got some serious competition. Moreover, home charging stations have dropped in price from thousands of dollars to do-it-yourself models costing $600. It all represents solid progress on the electrification front. In fact, as a sign of how far electric vehicle technology has progressed, all but two of the models in this years best-of list are pure electrics or BEVs, battery electric vehicles.

Please note – There are relatively many EV manufacturers in China but this review has not cover them.

1. 2021 Hyundai Kona Electric

The best electric car overall

(Image credit: Hyundai)

Price: $38,575 | Range: 258 miles | 0 to 60 mph: 6.4 seconds | Drive: FWD | Availability: Now

We still love the unprepossessing electric version of Hyundai’s tiny crossover, the Kona, and it continues to be a hit with shoppers. It’s more comfortable than it deserves to be for its size, and it is a true joy to drive, which is why it’s one of the best electric cars around.

For a modestly priced compact, Hyundai includes some welcome features. There’s a more-than-adequate 7-inch center touchscreen, as well as support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Furthermore, with the 258-mile estimated range, the Kona Electric is just a smidge worse than the standard range Tesla Model 3 and costs a lot less with the available Federal tax credit (Tesla no longer qualifies for it).

Of course, you can spend more. The Ultimate version of the Kona includes a 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen. And also ventilated leather seats, smart cruise control and rain-sensing wipers but pushes the price north of $45K.

2. 2021 Polestar 2

(Image credit: Polestar)

Price: $59,900 | Range: 233 miles | 0 to 60 mph: 4.7 seconds | Drive: AWD | Availability: Now

Polestar is the independent performance car company founded by Volvo. As such, it benefits from the safety technology of its founders. It is remaining free to push the envelope of engineering and EVs. The Polestar 2 is the first pure-electric 5-door from the company. It’s not only attractive, it’s also a safety system leader.

The Polestar 2 is driven by two electric motors, front and rear axles, and a battery pack that delivers an EPA rated 233 miles of travel on a single charge. That’s less than some others, like the Tesla 3, but not terrible. Polestar does one-up Tesla by delivering a more advanced infotainment system founded on Google’s Android Auto platform (one of the first on the market). It also has niceties like self-cleaning headlights and a butt-kicking sound system from Harmon Kardon.

More important is the fact that the Polestar 2 comes standard with Volvo’s Pilot as well as some unique features, which makes the combination of driver assistance and safety systems one of the best we’ve ever seen. For example, this vehicle features a run-off mitigation suspension system to reduce injuries in an off-road accident and post impact braking to assist when the driver is temporarily incapacitated in the midst of an accident. There’s also Volvo’s top-notch emergency braking system and pedestrian detection system. There’s blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane centering — all standard.

3. 2021 Tesla Model 3

(Image credit: Tesla)

Price: $36,490 | Range: 263 miles | 0 to 60 mph: 5.3 seconds | Drive: RWD | Availability: Now

Every car company in the world seems to be gunning for Tesla. Model 3 remains one of the best electric cars available with excellent range, features, and a price that demonstrates that Teslas aren’t just for the 1-percenters. Indeed, the 2021 Tesla Model 3 may still be the best mass-market electric car out there. The Model 3 can go up to 263 miles on a single charge (with the standard battery). While this car is stubbier and plumper than Tesla’s Model S, it’s about half the price.

Critics point out that Tesla continues to overstate the technical abilities of its driver-assist AutoPilot feature. We think it’s still worthwhile, within limits. Software updates offer continual improvements. If you want more range and better handling AWD, pricing on the Model 3 starts at $45,490.

4. 2021 Mustang Mach-E Premium

(Image credit: Ford)

Price: $56,200 | Range: 300 miles | 0 to 60 mph: 6.1 seconds | Drive: RWD | Availability: Now

Ford’s EV Mustang has officially arrived, and while it may be a Mustang in name only, it’s still bound to win over converts for its styling and solid mix of technology and performance.

With raised front fenders and wide haunches, Ford has definitely put a lot of thought into the Mach-E’s design. For example, the front trunk, or frunk, has a plastic liner that can easily be cleaned in case you want to use it for serving post-pandemic tailgating potluck dishes. 

Inside, there’s also plenty of tech to keep drivers happy. A 15.5-inch touchscreen sits in the center of the dash for the infotainment system, and it supports Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto — something lacking from Tesla’s vehicles, much to the annoyance of owners. Boosting the luxury feel here is the inclusion of a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system.

Does the Mustang Mach-E best a Tesla X in range or acceleration? No, but it costs almost $25,000 less, which is why it’s one of the best electric cars for the money.

5. 2021 Mini Cooper SE

(Image credit: Mini)

Price: $30,750 | Range: 110 miles | 0 to 60 mph: 6.9 seconds | Drive: FWD | Availability: Now

The more we drive the Mini Cooper SE, the more we like it. Sure, in most respects this electrified SE model is similar to a standard Mini Cooper in terms of interior space, weight, and connected technology. For example, it includes niceties like rain-sensing wipers, dual zone climate controls and an Apple CarPlay compatible infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen.

What this best electric car adds is a new traction control and braking system and a total of 181 hp for a 0-to-60 time of about 6.9 seconds. Multiple test drives (we didn’t want to give it up) proved that the Mini Cooper SE’s handling was more sprightly than its acceleration rating would suggest, and on a race track it was what Minis have always been, a really fun drive. The one downside to this EV is its relatively short range; a single charge will get you about 110 miles, making it more of an urban commuter than a long-range rural driver.

So why does it make our best electric car list? Because the Mini Cooper SE is damn fun to drive. So if you’re mostly commuting to work and doing short jaunts on the weekend, you couldn’t have a better choice.

6. 2021 Porsche Taycan Turbo S

(Image credit: Porsche)

Price: $185,000 | Range: 201 miles (Turbo S) | 0 to 60 mph: 2.4 seconds (Turbo S) | Drive: AWD | Availability: Now

The Porsche Taycan can still lay claim to several firsts. It was the first production EV with a two-speed transmission to boost acceleration. It was also the first production EV with an 800-volt system, which cuts down recharge times. And, of course, it’s the first pure-electric production Porsche.

One of the best electric cars, this Porsche sedan boasts supercar features including neck-snapping acceleration, carbon-ceramic brake rotors, active anti-roll bars, air springs, and high-speed rear-wheel steering. And those slots on the front are front brake air ducts that close at highway speeds to improve aerodynamics. New for 2021 is a head up display, SiriusXM satellite radio, and the ability to receive over-the-air software updates.

With the Porsche handling and emblem come some Porsche prices. While the base model tops out at a few grand over $100K the Turbo S — the one you really want — starts at $185,000.

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