Bespoke electric cars like the Th!nk City that don’t look like they’re on the run from the local golf course are thin on the ground. The Norwegian battery car specialist is keen to ensure electric derivatives of regular cars such as the Mitsubishi i-MIEV and Mini E don’t have it all their own way by tapping into buyers who’re put off models such as the G-Wiz by their let’s be charitable – clumsy and somewhat fragile appearance.
Hasn’t Th!nk been around since Noah was in short pants?
Not quite but it feels like it. The zero-emissions company started in 1991. Ford bought into it in the late 1990s, poured in around £90m, then in 2003 decided electric cars didn’t have much future and cast Th!nk adrift. Its current Norwegian owner, probably offended at seeing all that time and money going to waste, bought the firm in 2006. This car is the result.
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Is it the same car that was designed under Ford then?
The answer is yes... and no. Beneath, the torsion beam at the back and MacPherson strut front suspension that was developed by Ford remains. The shape isn’t vastly different either and it retains the original notion of steel bottom half, aluminium frame at the top. But Th!nk employs its own engineering team and the car has evolved, particularly the bodywork and powertrain.
What’s it like inside?
This is going to sell for around £15,000 so bearing in mind the cost of battery propulsion it’s not overly expensive. Inside, the steering wheel is from a US Ford Focus and electric window buttons and instruments are also recognisably Ford while the ventilation is Peugeot and the stereo an aftermarket Blaupunkt affair. Obviously it would be nice if it felt a bit more premium but beggars, choosers and all that.
Is it roomy?
We tried the two-seater (they’re also planning a 2+2 model with rear chairs suitable for up to 12 years old) and the boot is enormous – sufficient for a supermarket stock up to survive a small siege. The passenger compartment is less commodious. The sills are very wide and as the sodium nickel chloride batteries sit under the front two seats, legroom feels a touch cramped. That’s in direct contrast to your upper body which has plenty of elbow, shoulder and head space.
And on the road?
Pull the regular automatic lever back to ‘Drive’ and you’re off with the usual electric car milk float whine. There’s 35kW on tap and 66lb ft of torque so acceleration is more than quick enough to keep up with town traffic. It’ll hit 30mph in 6.5 seconds but thereafter it quickly starts to run out of steam and to hit the 62mph claimed top speed you’d have to hope for a downhill stretch and following wind.
It’s fast enough to travel safely on a motorway but only just. Obviously it’s not a sports car but you can still have fun in it, helped by the low centre of gravity. And the ride has the well sorted feeling of a car that spent much of its early life being tested and tweaked by Ford engineers.
Th!nk wants to market the City as the grown-up alternative to current electric quadricycles. The model we tried had driver and passenger airbags along with seatbelt pretensioners and a solid and secure feeling inside that was very much akin to a Smart. With its short snout and glass tailgate, manoeuvring in tight spaces is easy and it’s comfortable on the move and user-friendly.
Then there’s the dent-resistant composite outer skin to make life in towns bearable and a 100-mile range between charges. Its looks could be a bit funkier but there’s absolutely nothing offensive about the Th!nk. On the other hand cheap running costs aside there’s nothing about it that screams ‘buy me!’ either.