Mia electric car driven

* Electric microbus * From £22,012, including grant * Available from February 2012...

Mia electric car driven

What is it?

Mia is a new brand, based in France, producing plug-in electric vehicles.

There are three versions of the same basic design: standard wheelbase, long wheelbase and box van models. Each has a central driving position, plastic bodywork and a pair of sliding side doors. Theyre designed purely as urban vehicles: maximum range is 96 miles and top speed is 62mph.

Drive comes from a 24bhp electric motor, powered by a 12kwh battery. Full recharging via a standard domestic socket takes five hours.

The exterior design with strong shades of VWs iconic Camper van is by ex-VW designer Murat Gunak.

Whats it like to drive?

We drove a pre-production model, for a few minutes, on a short stretch of track at the Ecovelocity event in London.

That wasnt enough to form a definitive verdict, but Mia UK sales director Richard Deslandes assertion that the Mia will put a smile on drivers faces doesnt seem far-fetched.

Initial acceleration is brisk and the single-speed transmission operates smoothly. The steering is responsive too, and the Mias dinky dimensions, light weight and tiny overhangs combine with a comparatively wide body to make it seem reasonably composed and agile.

The very tight turning circle is a bonus for a city car like this and the Mia will fit into the smallest parking spaces. Even the long-wheelbase version we drove is only 3.2 metres long: 40cm shorter than a Kia Picanto.

The ride on an admittedly bumpy surface seems firm, and first impressions are that the Mias small wheels clunk noisily over sharper bumps. Well reserve final judgement until weve driven a production car on real roads, though.

Whats it like inside?

If the Mias exterior looks pretty funky, the interior is less so. Its simply styled and the layout could hardly be easier to use, but compared with similarly priced mainstream hatchbacks it feels functional in the extreme.

There are good points: a bare minimum of switches and thanks to the central drivers seat - plenty of space up front.

Theres a minimal range of adjustment for the drivers seat and steering wheel, though, and the rear view through a mirror mounted at the side of the windscreen is restricted.

There are two separate rear seats in the standard-wheelbase version, while the long-wheelbase model has a three-seat bench. Rear passengers feet (for all but those in the central seat in the long wheelbase model) rest on either side of the drivers seat. Legroom is reasonable, but the seating position (and the seat itself) isnt especially comfortable.

The boot is fairly small and has no load cover, but its big enough for a couple of bags.

Should I buy one?

The standard-wheelbase model costs £22,012 and the long-wheelbase version costs £22,899, including the Governments maximum £5000 plug-in car grant. That makes the Mia cheaper than its key rivals the all-but-identical trio of the Citroen C-Zero, Mitsubishi i-Miev and Peugeot Ion. The cheapest Nissan Leaf currently costs £25,990. As with all of those cars, the Mia is exempt from the London Congestion Charge.

Theres no getting around the fact that the Mia feels very basic inside, though, and standard equipment is extremely limited. Safety kit is restricted to a drivers airbag and anti-lock brakes, while air-conditioning isnt even an option. You do at least get a stereo with USB input and Bluetooth.

The Mia is likeable and fun, but its appeal is limited. Its a cute, eco-friendly city runabout, but so is the Kia Picanto 1.0 1 Air, which is much better equipped, Congestion Charge-free, and costs less than half as much.

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