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Get into the club on the up, go electric!
Published 01/09/14

I HAVE always said that when buying a new car ultimately you must trust your own judgement and taste.

This applies not only to the kind of deal you are being offered but also to the make and specification of the car you eventually plump for.

But this rule of thumb applies doubly so when it comes to buying electric vehicles.

First of all, of course, by purchasing an electric car you are literally buying into a new way of driving, a new ethos, if you like, on your whole attitude to motoring in the 21st century.

You need to be sure you want to join this particular “club”, as sure as if you were joining, for example (and I mean nothing malicious by this) a fraternity of tree huggers.

But if you have to, then you have to — buy an EV that is. My emotions are mixed on the subject. On the one hand I support greener cars wholeheartedly; on the other, I feel the jury is definitely still out on EVs.

I am not saying the EV sales pitch by carmakers today is misleading: all of them have boundless bundles of literature and information on what it means to own an electric car which they will happily make available to you, the potential buyer. But my experience of EVs so far has not been a particularly good one.

So I have to reserve judgement until someone convinces me that you can own and use an EV in much the same way as a car driven by the good old fashioned internal combustion engine.

However, once you have embraced the EV ethos and decided to buy, which electric car is best for you? There are quite a few on the market so you have a choice. One of the best I have experienced is this week’s drive, the Volkswagen e-up!

As with all things Volkswagen, as one would expect, the e-up! is a very nicely built car. I went to the UK launch of the non-electric up! a few years back and was impressed by the car’s solidity, handling and economy.

Indeed, earlier this year the Volkswagen up! was top in the What Car?/ J D Power customer satisfaction awards. Praise was given to its fuel economy, excellent visibility and its styling. The e-up! was new to Britain for 2014 and is essentially a city car: it is one of the smallest four-seater cars available. Its turning circle is a space-saving 9.8 metres.

Inside there is room for four adults and for a city car it has a large boot. With the rear seat folded, load space increases to 951 litres.

The e-up! has an AC electric motor which produces 60kW/82PS and 210Nm of torque; this is linked to the front wheels via a single-speed gearbox. Power comes from a lithium-ion battery pack.

Now this next bit of information from Volkswagen is important and I think refreshingly informative on what this whole business of electric car ownership is about.

Volkswagen says of the e-up!: “Depending on driving style, charge level and ambient conditions, the e-up! has a range of up to 100 miles. Research by Volkswagen AG shows that 57 per cent of potential electric car users across Europe drive no more than 18.5 miles a day. Twenty per cent travel up to 31 miles, while 13 per cent travel up to 62 miles.”

I reckon that 57 per cent of drivers mentioned there are on the money when it comes to practical use of their e-up!s.

If you are prepared to go the whole hog and buy an EV, then this new Volkswagen should be high on the list of those seriously to be considered.

• Based on the award-winning up! five-door city car, but with zero emissions

• AC electric motor produces 60kW/82PS and 210Nm of torque

• Can be charged from a standard household 13-amp three-pin outlet using cable provided

• Optional wallbox for home garage use provides 3.6kW supply and can recharge a completely discharged battery in six hours

• The lithium-ion battery is integrated into the vehicle floor, and weighs 230kg

• Performance: 0 to 37 mph takes 4.9 seconds, and 0 to 62mph 12.4 seconds. Acceleration from 50 to 75 mph takes 10.5 seconds. Top speed for the e-up! is 81mph

• Depending on driving style, charge level and ambient conditions, the e-up! has a range of up to 100 miles

• The e-up! is priced at £19,250 (including the government’s £5,000 electric vehicle grant, or £24,250 on-the-road)

SEAT has launched a new special edition, I-TECH, across most of its UK line-up. Offering customer savings of up to £480 compared to buying each of the equipment items separately, the new versions feature on the Mii, Ibiza, Toledo, Altea and Alhambra ranges.

The first member of the SEAT family to welcome the new addition is Mii. Replacing the former Toca version, I-TECH nestles between SE and Sport, costing £9,995 in three-door guise, and £10,345 in five-door. It’s powered by a nippy 1.0-litre 60 PS engine, offering a super-frugal 62.8 miles per gallon.

The best-selling I-TECH range is likely to be Ibiza, which offers it on each of its three bodystyles, SC, 5-door and ST. Fitting snugly between Toca and the new ‘30 Years’ special edition, it comes based on SE, with prices starting from £13,790. It joins the sporty FR using the highly regarded 1.2 TSI 105 PS engine, combined with a manual gearbox.

Published 01/09/14

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