This small electric Chinese supermini is ready to take on competition from Europe

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Why, you might ask, should you be interested in an electric car that is not and will not be sold in Europe, let alone the UK?

The answer is because it is made by Roewe, the luxury car arm of SAIC Motors, which also happens to own MG. Oh, and, to jump the gun a little, because it is really rather good.

The Roewe E50’s clean lines and unfussy looks inside and out complement the electric drivetrain

SAIC’s history hasn’t always promised so much. It purchased the rights to the Rover 75 and Rover 25 after the 2005 collapse of MG Rover, and thus when the first Roewe car was born; called the Roewe 750, it was a reworked 75.

The company produced its first electric car in late 2010, a modified version of the Roewe 350. Suffice to say it didn’t set the world alight. This Roewe E50 followed in concept form at the 2012 Beijing motor show, and then entered production at the start of 2013.

The Roewe E50 is a city car-sized four seater whose clean lines and unfussy looks inside and out complement the electric drivetrain.

It is powered by a 71bhp motor and 18 KWh battery pack. It has a claimed 120-mile range if you drive at a consistent 45mph and a top speed of 81mph.

A 30-minute charge from a standard socket delivers a theoretical 90-mile range, while a six-hour charge tops the battery out.

The interior is unfussy but practical. Excellent packaging means there is a decent amount of room, even in the back. Two six-footers can comfortably sit one behind the other.

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On the move, the car delivers an involved and refined drive. Performance is good, the steering feel pleasantly engaging and the balance especially decent for a car with such a short wheelbase. Despite being small and weighing over a tonne, it feels nimble.

The ride on the short but surprisingly bumpy test track we sampled it on was well controlled. Only the sharpness of the response from the brakes is sub-optimal but, all in, it delivers more than enough to be a pleasant city companion.

It’s only on sale in China, but if you live there – and more specifically in Shanghai – the national and local government incentives to do so are compelling.

The Chinese government sees electric car technology as an opportunity for its homegrown car makers to leapfrog some of the established competition, as well as reduce pollution. Therefore, it wants Chinese buyers to favour such products, and offers incentives of around £7000 to buyers.

In Shanghai, this price reduction is complemented by a further £2500 incentive plus the waiving of an £8000 licence plate fee. 

As such, a Shanghai buyer can have a Roewe E50 for around the same money as a conventional supermini.

Even so, Roewe says its goal is to sell an incredibly modest 1000 cars this year.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Roewe E50 First drives