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Nice Mega City (2008) review

Published:18 June 2008

Nice Mega City (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 2 out of 5
  • 2 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

Stroll through central London on a weekday and you’d be forgiven for thinking the green car revolution had arrived. In the hour I spent driving the revamped Nice Mega City, I counted 21 electric vehicles. Mostly the G-Wiz (the Mega City’s biggest rival) but also electric delivery vans. In the congestion charge zone, electricity is almost a mainstream fuel.

Nice? My mother said never to use nice as a description

It stands for No Internal Combustion Engine, the chief talking point of this four-seat electric car, made by the French and sold here for £11,999. The car’s been around for a couple of years already, but the combination of an attractive facelift and the promise by mayor Boris Johnson to reverse the decision to exempt low-emission fuel-burning cars from the London charge zone has boosted the Mega City’s appeal.

Unlike the Think City electric car due here at the end of the year, the Mega City eschews the latest lithium ion batteries for the milk-float technology of lead-acid cells. The 40-mile range and 40mph top speed highlight the weakness of this age-old chemistry, but it is reasonably cheap. To replace the 12 under-seat packs (as you have to do every four years) costs £1800, compared with the £6000 that the Nice Car Company says you’d need for lithium ion batteries.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Nice Mega City first drive

Do I detect a hint of Peugeot?

French maker Aixam is keeping the tricolor flying with its Peugeot-aping front end, a big improvement on the last gawky effort. There’s nothing new inside bar some gaudy heater controls but there’s definitely the illusion of proper car here, unlike the toytown interior of the G-Wiz. The conventional dash places familiar dials where you’d expect them and styles it to modern car norms.

It’s only when a bump of the knee against the centre console lifts the whole plastic fascia that the illusion breaks. The pedalo plastics are just one price to pay for zero road tax and a spotless conscience, but there’s at least decent room; the kids are also much less squashed in the back compared with a G-Wiz.

It’s pretty well equipped too, with electric windows, CD player, rear parking sensors and remote central locking. No air-con though.

Naughty, no, but nice to drive?

Up to a point, it is. The start procedure is basic: turn key, stick gearlever into Drive, check battery charge on the digital display, and go. You could be stepping on a dandelion for all the resistance the accelerator gives and the brake pedal is so offset that I started using my left foot instead, but once attuned you can enjoy the next bit: the getaway. Acceleration is brisk up to 20mph, willing to 30mph but corpsing thereafter.

No matter though, I’m in central London. The ride is crashingly bad despite independent suspension all-round, but the Mega City stays upright in corners and comes close to being good fun in all those back-street cut-throughs. Having to stamp on the servo-less brakes (servoes are too energy-sapping) adds to the feeling of eco-terrorism as you squeeze the narrow car between duelling taxis.

Stopping is more of a joy when it’s to take advantage of free parking in Westminster. A growing handful of roadside charge points within the zone can also top-up the battery if a journey is particularly power-sapping.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Nice Mega City first drive

What’s the competition?

Chiefly the G-Wiz. Despite its hall-of-mirrors profile and woeful build quality, the Indian-built 2+2-seater has nonetheless built a commanding lead in London. Both it and the Mega City use the same battery tech for similar performance, but the French contender justifies its two grand extra over the G-Wiz’s £9000 tag with the increased space, equipment and visual appeal.

Both are classed as quadricycles and so both can become homologated without the need for demanding crash testing. That’ll play into the hands of the tougher, longer-range and faster Think City, but then you’ll pay the equivalent of almost £17,000 for that 2+2 when it arrives.

Verdict

Offsetting the obvious competition of cheaper, better built, superminis is the free parking, the free entry into the congestion zone, the zero tax and the comparatively cheap electricity fill-ups. There’s still the issue of ‘long tailpipe’ emissions from electric cars via power stations, but nothing guides the conscience like concessions. They’re what saves the Mega City Nice.

Specs

Price when new: £11,999
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 4kw electric DC motor, 12 lead-acid (gel) batteries
Transmission: Automatic, front-wheel drive
Performance: 40mph top speed, 40-mile range
Weight / material: 725kg
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 2897mm/1474mm/1470mm

Rivals

Photo Gallery

  • Nice Mega City first drive CAR review: front photo
  • Nice Mega City first drive CAR review: front three-quarter photo
  • Nice Mega City first drive CAR review: interior photo
  • Nice Mega City first drive CAR review: front photo
  • Nice Mega City first drive CAR review: side photo
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