The main problem currently preventing more people from buying an electric car is their retail price. Dacia, the leader of affordable individual mobility unveils the new Spring, from 15th April. Deliveries of this cheap electric car won’t start before next autumn but we have already tested it for you!
The Renault- Nissan Alliance definitely knows how to play the global market card to full effect: the newly- introduced in Europe Dacia Spring was initially only intended for the Chinese market. Its single building site is the Dongfeng Shiyan factory, located in the province of Hubei. Contrary to original plans, the Renault City K-ZE (based on the Indian market Renault Kwid) that retailed for just € 7,890 was eventually very short-lived in China. The Renault Nissan Alliance changed its mind and decided to market this first low-cost electric model in Europe instead. The Spring could just be another Dacia success story… Customer brand loyalty will see to that.
Before we set for our test drive, let’s start with some figures. The first one will undoubtedly scare some of you: power available is a paltry 45 HP! When was the last time we drove a car with so few ponies? Obviously, being an electric car, torque and its instantaneous delivery matters more than outright power. Official torque figure is 125 Nm, right on par with a Kia Picanto 1.2 or a Fiat 500 1.2. This should be adequate for a 970 kg city car not really intended to be used on motorway hauls. Batteries are 190 kg and WLTP range is 230 km. In truth, Dacia targets the individual buyers’ market: 85% buyers should be individuals paying with their hard-earned cash. The remaining 15% should be shared mobility companies, like the Leclerc group in France which already has Springs on order.
Let’s get on board now! Recently, the Belgian importer assembled a row of these uniformly grey Dacia Springs for journalists. These “Business” version, targets car sharing companies. Apart from this dull grey colour, only white will be available. Which is a real shame as cities deserve to be more colourful. More choice will be available from next Autumn, along with better seats, improved fit and finish and lower noise and vibration levels… So, let’s be cautious this time!
Once inside, the feeling of space is real. There is enough room for tall people and nothing is missing from the dashboard. Dacia fans won’t be disappointed as the knobs, buttons, screens and the steering wheel all come from the brand’s parts bin. However, the most confusing bit is the lack of any gearshift. Here, it is replaced by a chromed rotary knob located between the front seats. It’s dead easy to use, just choosing between “drive”, “neutral” and “reverse”. The 7’’ inch touchscreen offers satnav, DAB radio and is Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto compatible. Bluetooth connection is included, as well as a USB port and an auxiliary jack. Voice recognition is included too and activated via a button on the steering wheel.
The equipment list leaves nothing to be desired: the Dacia Spring is equipped with a speed limiter, ABS, switchable ESP, electronic brake force distribution, emergency braking, no less than 6 airbags and auto lights. Quite enough to feel confident and take it to the road! After turning the key (a slightly weird and dated gesture aboard an electric car), we leave the RBL headquarters in Drogenbos, for a 70 km journey in the surrounding areas. No, we were not even confined to 30 km/h areas in Brussels, all the better for it. To the contrary, we mostly drove on 50 and 70 km/h roads and even took the roadring motorway for a while, doing 100 km/h. Let’s face it, we stuck to speed limits like never before but never fell a lack of power. However, it was quite compulsory to do so as this Spring is mostly intended for town and suburban use, taking advantage of electricity. 4 people can travel in reasonable comfort in the Spring and the 290 litre boot can easily be extended to 620 litre by folding the rear seat.
Obviously, there are some flaws: seat comfort is quite spartan as you sit more on than in them. The compulsory “safety sound” for pedestrians can be heard inside as much as on the outside and the low speed noise is pretty awful too. No doubt all these niggling problems will be put right by the Autumn. We spent the drive talking with our passenger, taking roundabouts briskly or getting quickly to 100 km/h on the motorway. At the end, we were left with a 167 km range and we used 11,4 kWh/ 100 km on average. This means we bettered the manufacturer official range, achieving a 240 km figure (WLTP standards). Recharging the Spring on a 220V domestic socket will take 14h or less than 8h30 using a 3,7 kW Wallbox. Less than 5h will be needed if it’s a 7,4 kW one and, finally, an 80% charge will take less than 1h30 using a 30 kW DC terminal. Given that the average daily commute for such a city car in Europe is 31 km, the Dacia Spring would only need one charge a week. In a few months’time we will know for sure if this €16,990 (RRP of the “Comfort” access version) is going to accelerate the pace of electrification in the automotive sector. (Translation: Dimitri urbain)