Step forward the Mahindra e2o (Eee-Two-Oh), a short, narrow, high-roofed two-door, four-seat battery-electric city car with brand new styling, a new tubular steel chassis, strut suspension front and rear and a 42bhp electric traction motor under the rear seat, driving the rear wheels.
Its 165kg lithium ion battery has a 15.5kWh capacity (about half that of the heavier and bigger Nissan Leaf), but the advantage of this is that with a fast charger you can top up an e2o in just 90 minutes and expect a cruising range of 60-80 miles, depending on how you drive. There’s also a 'revive' setting buried in the system that allows an extra eight miles of cruising if you inadvertently run the normal system down.
The e2o is available in two models: the well-equipped City at £12,995 (after the government’s £4500 subsidy on electric cars) and the fully loaded TechX, which officially costs £15,995 (but is discounted to £14,995 for the first 200 cars) and comes with air conditioning, a central touchscreen that carries audio and sat-nav, a reversing camera and even its own wi-fi hotspot.
The e2o is hardly handsome, but it’s a lot better looking than a G-Wiz, and it has better accommodation, swallowing four medium-sized adults at a pinch. Its fully laden performance may not be up to much: the 63mph top speed and officially claimed 0-50mph time of 17-odd seconds are hardly impressive. However, on the move they’re oddly adequate, because (like all electric cars) the motor delivers its fairly generous maximum torque from zero, and anyway, Mahindra is insistent that this is a city car only. Never point it down a motorway.
Mahindra is also insistent that this is the beginning of a green car range for Europe, a clutch of cars intended to help clean up our cities. Thus the car, whose outer panels are made of impregnated bounce-back SMC plastic, bonded to the frame rather than welded, avoids two of the most polluting operations in car manufacture: paint spraying and welding. Other Mahindras (no one wants to say what is coming or when) will adopt the same philosophy.
For now, Mahindra UK CEO Steve Parkinson, a realistic and well-experienced industry professional, prefers not to make predictions for sales. “We know we have a big job ahead establishing the brand and that it will take time,” he says. “But we firmly believe we can be one of the big players in the electric car market."
On the road, the e2o is better described as adequate than good. Beyond 40mph, it is slow. In handling, it scores points for a spectacularly small turning circle and an agility brought about by its small dimensions (it’s similar in length to a Toyota Aygo, but taller) and the ride is fairly compliant and flat if you don’t go too fast.
The electric power steering is light to the heft but pretty dull, and although they're safe enough, the brakes don’t have the energetic initial bite we’re used to in most small cars. The high but flat seats are almost without side support, so if you corner medium-hard, you’re not retained by them at all. Better not to corner medium-hard. And yet, there’s a cheeky simplicity about the car and a pleasure in slipping it easily into traffic gaps a Ford Fiesta driver could never consider.