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Best in Class: EV hatchbacks

Date: 01 November 2023   |   Author: Martyn Collins

How does the Smart #1 match up with rivals on a cost per mile basis?

Smart #1

Smart as a brand is celebrating its 25th birthday this year but gone are the days when the nameplate equalled tiny, but clever city cars, sadly. Following its reimaging as an all-electric brand in 2017, in 2019 joint-founder Mercedes formed a joint venture with Geely, a Chinese company which also own Lotus, Polestar, and Volvo amongst others. The first car of this collaboration, being built in China using Geely technology (with plenty of European input), is this #1. 

Sized similarly to a Volkswagen ID.3, after the sawn-off profile of the recent ForTwo and ForFour, the #1 looks like a conventional SUV, with the style of the Mercedes EQA about it - which we're sure is not coincidental. Standout styling features of the Smart are the front and rear lights, which are formed into light bars. There are also distinctive front and rear air dams and the 'Smart' badging. The side is probably the most interesting part of the #1's design, with the upward curve to the chunky underbody cladding. Plus, flush door handles, unusual alloy wheel design and a chrome Smart logo halfway up the rear roof pillar on the curvy window line. 

Inside, again the feeling is more Mercedes than Smart in the #1. This can be seen in the design with the tall centre console, the metal detailing on the multi-function three-spoke steering wheel and switchgear. Quality appears to have stepped up a few notches, with the glass panoramic roof giving welcome added light, again giving the illusion that you're driving a Mercedes rather than a Smart.

On the road, the #1 impresses - but it's a tidy rather than involving drive, even with 272hp of the Premium spec we're focussing on here, which makes the Smart one of the most powerful EVs in its class. We've also driven the range-topping Brabus with an incredible 422hp but can report the Premium's performance is more than enough. Still, the steering has a reasonable amount of feel, the #1 handles well and there are high levels of grip. The ride also seems decently balanced, feeling less bothered by road imperfections than you might expect. 

Choose any one of this set and because they're all EVs, you'll be benefitting from the lowest BIK figure, at 2%. 

We've said it before, but over 200 miles of EV range is more than enough for everyday use, so you'll be pleased to know that all of these do that, and at least 50 miles more. Although, the Smart at 273 miles comes in joint second place with the MG, with the Kia taking top spot. 

Apart from the MG, all the EVs in this set are closely priced, but the Smart's 44% residual figure is only good enough for third place here, behind the MG and Kia.

Again, the MG's exceptional list price has played a part in the depreciation, as despite a £21,310 figure, the #1 is only good enough for third place behind the Kia and MG. Having the second-highest SMR figure at £3,425 completes a generally middle-of-the-road performance from the Smart. The 47.83p cost per mile figure,places it in a solid third place, but apart from the list prices, the Smart was very close to the other cars here.

Smart #1 Premium 66kWh  

P11D: £38,895

CO2 (tax): 0g/km (2%) 

BIK 20/40% a month: £12/£24

Range: 273 miles

National Insurance: £107

First year VED: £0

Subsequent VED: £0

Battery size/power: 66kWh/272hp

AFR: 10p

Residual value: 44%

Depreciation: £21,310

Fuel costs: £3,967

SMR: £3,425

Cost per mile: 47.83p

BYD Unknown -5 Copy 2

BYD Atto 3

New this year, the Chinese BYD Atto 3 is a C-segment SUV. It features a 60kWh 'blade battery', which uses clever cell-to-pack technology, for safety and reliability, which in turn equals a slimmer design. All this signalling the Chinese maker's intent to take on other key EV rivals.

The 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. 

Outside the styling is generic, but inside the Atto 3 has a more extravagantly styled, well-equipped interior, with the 15.6in touchscreen the highlight. On the road the BYD is a tidy handler with a comfortable ride.

We think the lack of knowledge of the BYD brand has affected its showing here - it's still a relatively new brand to the market. So, whilst the Atto 3 has finished in last place here, its figures in key areas such as depreciation and residual value see it closest to the Smart and not far behind the rest.  

BYD Atto 3 Design 60kWh  

P11D: £39,640

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

BIK 20/40% a month: £13/£26

Range: 261 miles

National Insurance: £109

First year VED: £0

Subsequent VED: £0

Battery size/power: 60kWh/204hp

AFR: 10p

Residual value: 42%

Depreciation: £22,540

Fuel costs: £3,803

SMR: £3,645

Cost per mile: 49.98p

Kia Niro EV64.8k Wh 4 Copy

Kia Niro

The latest Niro is longer, wider, and taller, but the basic crossover hatchback shape remains unchanged from the original. That's where the similarities with its rather tamely styled predecessor end, however. 

Inside, the feel is modern, spacious, and obviously influenced by Kia's larger EV6. There's plenty of space throughout, and a big 475-litre boot, so this Kia is practical too.

On the road, the Niro offers a tidy drive with a comfortable ride. To sum up, it has its own sense of style and looks interesting when compared to rivals. 

The Niro has the best range at 285 miles, has the lowest SMR figure at £1,869, and the highest residual value at £19,225, holding 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 over £7,000 cheaper than the Kia, the Niro would have taken the best-in-class honours here. As it is, the Niro finishes in a solid second place and justifies its 'Highly Commended' title at this year's Business Car Awards. 

Kia Niro 3 64kWh  

P11D: £39,490

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

BIK 20/40% a month: £13/£26

Range: 285 miles

National Insurance: £109

First year VED: £0

Subsequent VED: £0

Battery size/power: 64kWh/201hp

AFR: 10p

Residual value: 50%

Depreciation: £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 our New Company Car of the Year, the MG4 shows the Chinese-owned British brand's new family look, and you won't miss it - Trophy models also get the distinctive twin aero rear spoiler.

Inside, the MG4 has a horizontal dashboard design with two screens - one for the instruments and the other for infotainment. The driving position is comfortable even for the tallest - although rear space is tighter, but boot space at 363 litres is reasonable. 

On the road, it's the torque (249Nm) that impresses first. Handling-wise, the MG4 corners tightly, with minimal body roll and precise steering. It rides well too on the modest rubber.

Previous MG models have scored well for residuals and the MG4 does again with its 47% figure, although that's not enough for it to take top honours. However, MG will be pleased the MG4 does have the lowest depreciation figure here at £16,893. 

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

MG4 Trophy Long Range 64kWh  

P11D: £32,440

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

BIK 20/40% a month: £10/£20

Range: 273 miles

National Insurance: £90

First year VED: £0

Subsequent VED: £0

Battery size/power: 64kWh/203hp 

AFR: 10p

Residual value: 47%

Depreciation: £16,893

Fuel costs: £3,890

SMR: £2,351

Cost per mile: 38.55p