This is Peugeot’s first electric car, the Ion…
Hang on! This Peugeot Ion looks a little familiar – isn’t it a Mitsubishi iMiEV?
Essentially, yes it is. Just as Peugeot (and Citroen) created re-nosed versions of Mitsubishi’s Outlander SUV, so the PSA twins now have their take on the electric iCar. But like the 4007 and C-Crosser 4x4s, PSA has also undertaken its own development work on the car to improve the aspects it didn’t like. And just as Mitsu adopted the Frenchie’s changes for its Outlander, a revised Euro version of the iMiEV will be revealed at the 2010 Paris motor show with all the bits Peugeot and Citroen have improved.
For a start – and all in the name of achieving a four star Euro NCAP rating – Peugeot-Citroen has fitted ESP, seat belts warning chimes, new front and rear bumpers, and has made changes to the car’s structure. There’s some trim and colour tweaks too, and there’s just a single D gearbox setting for forward drive, rather than the iMiEV’s three. And finally project leader on the Ion, Philippe Barriac, revealed that sensor tweaks to the regenerative braking system have improved the car’s by 30% range.
Does it cost the same as a Mitsubishi iMiEV then?
We just don’t know. While Mitsubishi might have just slashed thousands of pounds of the price of a iMiEV (bringing it down to a much more sensible and Nissan Leaf-matching £23,990) Peugeot won’t give us a price. We tried all kinds of tricks to get an answer out of the tight-lipped PR team, but Peugeot is insisting on leasing this car instead of selling it.
Thus you can lease an Ion for £415 a month on a four-year contract. Which seems like a lot, especially when you remember that the £415 figure includes the government’s £5k rebate. However, electric cars aren’t cheap and you do get a four-year/40,000 mile warranty, plus all your servicing. And if you want to buy it at the end of the scheme? Well Peugeot will tell you the price in 2014. But if you want to keep leasing the car after those first four years then you can sign up for another four years, with the same cover and a 80,000-mile limit, for a yet-to-be-confirmed £315-£345 per month.
A new type of car, a new way of driving it, and thus a new way of buying (leasing) is Peugeot’s way of thinking about it. And it points out that if you lived in London, and faced congestion and parking charges, having an electric car (which apparently costs just £2.50 per 120 miles) could save you £5150 per year. And that means it pays for itself.
Okay, but is it actually any good?
Let’s start with the limitations, one of which is the fact that underneath it’s a Mitsubishi iCar. And although the iCar is a great little city runabout, it’s a sub-£10k city car so the plastics and interior quality aren’t really worthy of the (lease) price. However, it will seat four people (there are only four seats) in reasonable comfort, and there’s lots of glass and lots of headroom so it doesn’t feel too cramped.
As for the electric part, Peugeot reckons you have a potential 93 mile range, which is way more than enough for the average daily journeys – the claims are 90% of trips are under 38 miles and 60% are under 20 miles. Meaning there’s more than enough juice for the average school run, shopping trip or commute to work. Just watch the range if you have the heating or air-con on – the former could zap 5-45% of your range, and the latter can swallow 5-25%, according to Peugeot. As for recharging, a household plug will have you at full capacity in six hours, while a quick charge facility could give you 50% in just 15 minutes.
Of course a straight comparison with a conventionally powered car won’t put it in the best light, but this is a specific car with a specific purpose, so although it’ll lean round corners and only do 80mph, that’s absolutely missing the point. Around town there’s enough initial grunt to keep up with traffic flow quite easily, it rides reasonably well despite the short wheelbase, and because it’s a Mitsubishi underneath it’s got the best steering I’ve experienced in a Peugeot in a long time.
Refinement is fine, too, even though the lack of engine noise (there’s a faint hum from under the bonnet) brings all the other road and tyres sounds into sharp focus. But the silence and novelty of electric cars is still new and it’s such a joy to quietly drive around that it just brings calm and serenity to your car. Of course, that might change when you’re stuck in traffic.
The problem faced by the Ion (and the iMiEV and Citroen C-Zero) is that the Nissan Leaf is just around the corner – along with other electric Renault offerings – and offers something bigger and more conventional in terms of packaging, and it has a nicer interior.
It’s a stopgap, a quick solution that provides Peugeot with a perfectly decent electric car until it can build its own. Plus the company only hopes to sell 500 a year in the UK to begin with, and reckons it will easily do that to just councils and eco-conscious companies.