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When supplies of India’s G-Wiz electric city car dried up, some wondered what would replace it. Mahindra’s new and improved e2o is the answer
  • First Drive

    2016 Mahindra e2o TechX review

    When supplies of India’s G-Wiz electric city car dried up, some wondered what would replace it. Mahindra’s new and improved e2o is the answer
  • First Drive

    Think City

    Pricey, but a safer and more practical option than a G-Wiz
Steve Cropley Autocar
26 April 2016

What is it?

Remember how the G-Wiz, the tiny Indian-built electric city car, made headlines by making friends and enemies in London at the same time? Its maker, Reva, was able to set up a healthy business because its machine was able to take advantage of early financial concessions to electric cars, while dodging the designed-in safety measures required of others by being officially called a quadricycle.

Well, now the G-Wiz has a successor, the e2o, but it has a new 'legal' design and an entirely new maker. Mahindra, the huge Indian car-making conglomerate and owner of Ssangyong, acquired the Reva factory several years ago and set about making a small city car for similar duties to those of the G-Wiz, while meeting the same safety standards as a Ford or a Bentley.

It won’t be sold like any other car, though. All contact is first made online. Using the website, you discover details about the car and its pricing (the price is the price, and there are no part-exchanges) and that way you can make arrangements for a test drive at one of a number of big shopping centres in London, Birmingham, Milton Keynes and Bristol, the first outposts - or you can contact a call centre. When and if you do your deal, your new car gets delivered to your door. When you need servicing, a man in a van calls at your home.

What's it like?

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.

Should I buy one?

A surprising cohort of city drivers bought the G-Wiz, and Parkinson estimates there are still 600-odd of them plying the streets of London, which speaks well of their utility and durability. There’s no disputing the fact that Mahindra is a bigger and better car manufacturer than Reva, and the e2o is a much better car. But against other cars costing £13,000 to £16,000, the e2o really can’t compete on capability or comfort.

The two reasons we can see for buying one of these are to take advantage of parking and charging concessions that are still generous in the city, and to avoid both the need to buy fuel and to pay London’s £11.50-a-day congestion charge - a combination that could easily save you £100 a week. Parkinson believes green credentials and some serious money-saving will be enough to entice buyers away from better cars, and on the evidence of the e2o, he’s probably right.

Mahindra e2o TechX

Location London; On sale Now; Price £14,995; Motor Electric; Power 142bhp; Torque 67lb ft; Gearbox Single-speed, direct drive; Kerb weight 942kg; 0-50mph 18.0sec; Top speed 63mph; CO2/tax band 0g/km, 7%

Join the debate

Comments
11

26 April 2016
Better looking than a G-wheeze, but wouldn't an Up! or a Twingo at 8-9k would be a better car for most people, and the price difference can easily go towards congestion zone charges

bol

26 April 2016
...this might find buyers - like the G-wiz did. But it's 15 years later. You can buy a low mileage used I-miev, ion etc for less than £5k, and despite their shortcomings they're infinitely better by any measure than this thing. Let alone a good early Leaf for £7k.

I love that you're such an enthusiast for all things four wheeled Steve, but you rather gloss over the safety issues here - it's a good job they go so slowly, but can you imagine what state you'd be in if something hit you? I know it's all about reading between the lines, but you were monumentally generous with 3 stars.

If they sell more than half a dozen new to actual customers I'll be astonished.

26 April 2016
The e2o has passed whole vehicle type approval and has been fully crash tested, it has a steel space frame similar to the one used on the formula E car that mahindra uses. As far as i am aware NCAP have not asked to crash test it yet (it is not a requirement) but they will at some point. The insurance groups for the leaf, ion and imiev are considerably higher than the mahindra e2o. Comparing a brand new car to a second hand car is ridiculous. I imagine that the state you think you would be in if something hit you in the e2o is pure speculation like the rest of your information. It is nothing like the G-WHiZ which is why you are speculating about the car's safety. Top gear tested the G-WHIZ at a speed limit that the car physically was not able to drive.

26 April 2016
The e2o has passed whole vehicle type approval and has been fully crash tested, it has a steel space frame similar to the one used on the formula E car that mahindra uses. As far as i am aware NCAP have not asked to crash test it yet (it is not a requirement) but they will at some point. The insurance groups for the leaf, ion and imiev are considerably higher than the mahindra e2o. Comparing a brand new car to a second hand car is ridiculous. I imagine that the state you think you would be in if something hit you in the e2o is pure speculation like the rest of your information. It is nothing like the G-WHiZ which is why you are speculating about the car's safety. Top gear tested the G-WHIZ at a speed limit that the car physically was not able to drive.

bol

26 April 2016
Have you put a deposit down, or maybe you have the inside line?

I look forward to reading their Euro NCAP star rating. I've seen their space frame rendering, and notice that it has a crash structure at the front which is most reminiscent of a shoebox. I look forward to being proved wrong.

I've a feeling you might be alone in seeing the slightly lower insurance as a compelling argument against a proper electric alternative. I didn't mention in my previous post that you can buy a brand new ion for the same money. Despite being outclassed by the Zoe and Leaf it's still 10 years ahead of this oddity.

26 April 2016
Electric cars use batteries made of heavy metals mined from the Earth with no truly adequate way to recycle them at the end of their life. They are too heavy for the energy that they produce and, depending on where you get your electricity, increase the coal pollution in the atmosphere. However, in an effort to look like they are saving the world, people will buy these monstrosities wholly clueless at the actual damages that they do. While it appears Mahindra is addressing issues in manufacturing we still have the issue of the battery that still hasn't been adequately address nearly 20 years after the introduction of the Prius Mk I.

26 April 2016
Three years ago, Autocar India compiled a review of an early example, which may be of interest to some on youtube: youtu.be/oe9oSxWBIlU.

26 April 2016
Why bother when you can buy a proper, Mitsubishi i-mvec.

www.KOOOLcr.com

 

26 April 2016
That's a good score for a car from India. Like TG said if they continue at this pace....

27 April 2016
I said it before and I will say it again, The Renault Zoe just trumps it in every way and costs about the same . It even has a 5 star Euro NCAP rating. There is also the Toyota yaris hybrid (5 star Euro NCAP rating) in the same price range, which might not be fully electric but I can hit the motorway with it. If money is not a problem, you have the e-UP and e-Golf from VW as well as the Leaf from Nissan. And these cars are just miles ahead of this monstrosity. All in all, just an ugly thing that shouldn't have bothered with the UK market.

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