Best in class: electric hatchbacks

Best in class: electric hatchbacks


01 November 2023

| author: Martin Collins

How does the Smart #1 stack up against competitors on a cost-per-mile basis?

Smart #1

Smart as a brand is celebrating its 25th birthday this year, but the days when the nameplate was the equivalent of small but smart city cars are sadly over. After reimagining it as an all-electric brand in 2017, co-founder Mercedes in 2019 formed a joint venture with Geely, a Chinese company that also owns Lotus, Polestar, Volvo and others. The first car in this collaboration, which is manufactured in China using Geely technology (with a lot of European input), is Car No. 1.

Similar in size to the Volkswagen ID.3, following the published profile of the recent ForTwo and ForFour, the No. 1 looks like a traditional SUV, with a Mercedes EQA design around it – which we’re sure is no coincidence. Notable design features of the Smart are the front and rear lights, which are shaped like light bars. There are also distinctive front and rear air dams and a ‘smart’ badge. The side is probably the most interesting part of the No. 1’s design, with the upward curve of the thick lower cladding. In addition, there are flush door handles, an unusual alloy wheel design and a chrome Smart logo in the middle of the rear roof pillar on the curvy window line.

Inside, once again, it feels more like a Mercedes than a smart No. 1. This can be seen in the design of the long center console, the metal details on the three-spoke multi-function steering wheel and the keyboard. Quality seems to have gone up a notch, with the panoramic glass roof providing welcome extra light, again giving the illusion that you’re driving a Mercedes rather than a Smart.

On the road, the No. 1 is impressive – but it’s tidy to drive and not engaging to drive, even with the 272bhp of the premium spec we’re focusing on here, making the Smart one of the most powerful electric cars in its class. We’ve also driven a range-topping Brabus with an impressive 422bhp but we can report that the Premium’s performance is more than adequate. However, the steering has a reasonable amount of feel, the No. 1 handles well and there are high levels of stability. The ride also feels well balanced, feeling less bothered by road imperfections than you might expect.

Choose any of this group and because they are all electric vehicles, you will benefit from the lowest BIK figure, which is 2%.

We’ve said it before, but an electric car’s range of over 200 miles is more than enough for everyday use, so you’ll be happy to know that it does all of these things, and at least 50 miles more. Although the Smart’s 273 miles comes in second place with MG, with Kia taking first place.

Aside from MG, all the electric cars in this group are similarly priced, but the Smart’s remaining figure of 44% is only good enough for third place here, behind MG and Kia.

Once again, the MG’s exceptional list price played a role in the devaluation, because despite the £21,310 figure, the 1 is only good enough for third place behind the Kia and MG. Earning the second-highest SMR figure at £3,425 rounds out the Smart’s overall middle-of-the-road performance. The cost of 47.83p per mile puts it in third place, but list price aside, the Smart was very close to the other cars here.

Smart No. 1 Premium 66 kWh

P. 11 d: £38,895

CO2 (tax): 0 g/km (2%)

20/40% per month: pound£12/24

Ranges: 273 miles

National Insurance: £107

First year VED: 0 GBP

Subsequent VED: 0 GBP

Battery size/power: 66kWh/272hp

FR: 10 p

Residual value: 44%

Consumption: £21,310

Fuel costs: £3,967

SMR: £3,425

Cost per mile: 47.83 p

BYD unknown -5 version 2

Ato 3 World

New this year is that China’s BYD Atto 3 is a C-segment SUV. It features a 60 kWh battery, which uses smart cell-to-pack technology, for safety and reliability, which in turn equals a slimmer design. All this indicates the Chinese company’s intention to conquer other major competitors of electric cars.

BYD also features the world’s first mass-produced 8-in-1 electric powertrain and a high-efficiency heat pump, which should equal more efficiency and range reliability.

The exterior design is generic, but inside the Atto 3 has a more extravagant and well-appointed interior, with a 15.6-inch touchscreen. On the road, the BYD is a tidy handler with a comfortable ride.

We think a lack of familiarity with the BYD brand has affected its presentation here – it is still a relatively new brand in the market. So, while the Atto 3 finished last here, its numbers in key areas like depreciation and residual value put it closest to the Smart and not far behind the rest.

World Ato 3 design 60 kWh

P. 11 d: £39,640

CO2 (tax): 0 g/km (2%)

20/40% per month: £13 / £26

Ranges: 261 miles

National Insurance: £109

First year VED: 0 GBP

Subsequent VED: 0 GBP

Battery size/power: 60 kWh / 204 hp

FR: 10 p

Residual value: 42%

Consumption: £22,540

Fuel costs: 3803 pounds sterling

SMR: £3,645

Cost per mile: 49.98p

Kia Niro EV64.8k Wh 4 version

Be Nero

The latest Niro is longer, wider and taller, but the basic hatchback shape of the crossover remains unchanged from the original. This is where the similarities with its predecessor with a somewhat tame design end.

Inside, the look is modern and spacious and is clearly influenced by Kia’s larger EV6. There’s plenty of space throughout, and a large 475-litre boot, so this Kia is practical too.

On the road, the Niro offers a composed ride with a comfortable ride. In short, it has its own sense of style and looks interesting when compared to competitors.

The Niro has the best range of 285 miles, has the lowest SMR figure at £1,869, and the highest residual value of £19,225, which is 50% of its original value. Had it not been up against the MG4, which in the Trophy Long Range trim we’re looking at here is still more than £7,000 cheaper than the Kia, the Niro would have taken best-in-class honors here. As it was, the Niro finished a strong second place and justifies its ‘Highly Commended’ title at this year’s Business Car Awards.

Kia Niro 3 64 kWh

P. 11 d: £39,490

CO2 (tax): 0 g/km (2%)

20/40% per month: £13 / £26

Ranges: 285 miles

National Insurance: £109

First year VED: 0 GBP

Subsequent VED: 0 GBP

Battery size/power: 64 kWh / 201 hp

FR: 10 p

Residual value: 50%

Consumption: £19,570

Fuel costs: £3,731

SMR: £1,869

Cost per mile: 41.95p

MG Exterior - Static - 06 copy


Recently announced as our Best Electric Car Under £40,000 and New Company Car of the Year, the MG4 showcases the Chinese-owned British brand’s new family look, and you won’t miss it – Trophy models also get the distinctive dual aero rear spoiler.

Inside, the MG4 features a horizontal dashboard layout with two displays – one for the gauges and one for the infotainment system. The driving position is comfortable even for the tallest – although the rear space is tighter, the 363-litre boot space is reasonable.

On the road, it’s the torque (249 Nm) that impresses first. In terms of handling, the MG4 corners tightly, with minimal body roll and precise steering. It also rides well on modest rubber.

Previous MG models have scored well for the rest, as the MG4 did again with 47%, although that’s not enough to take top honours. However, MG will be pleased that the MG4 has the lowest consumption figure here at £16,893.

Overall, the MG comes out on top in enough areas to achieve a best cost per mile of 38.55p, while the Kia Niro EV comes in second with a figure of 41.55p.

64kWh Long Range MG4 Award

P. 11 d: £32,440

CO2 (tax): 0 g/km (2%)

20/40% per month: £10 / £20

Ranges: 273 miles

National Insurance: £90

First year VED: 0 GBP

Subsequent VED: 0 GBP

Battery size/power: 64 kWh / 203 hp

FR: 10 p

Residual value: 47%

Consumption: £16,893

Fuel costs: £3890

SMR: £2,351

Cost per mile: 38.55 p


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