Mia electric car driven

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

Mia-electric-carMia electric car

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. They’re 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 VW’s iconic ‘Camper’ van – is by ex-VW designer Murat Gunak.

What’s 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 wasn’t enough to form a definitive verdict, but Mia UK sales director Richard Deslandes’ assertion that the Mia will put a smile on driver’s faces doesn’t seem far-fetched.

Initial acceleration is brisk and the single-speed transmission operates smoothly. The steering is responsive too, and the Mia’s 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 Mia’s small wheels clunk noisily over sharper bumps. We’ll reserve final judgement until we’ve driven a production car on real roads, though.

What’s it like inside? If the Mia’s exterior looks pretty funky, the interior is less so. It’s 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 driver’s seat - plenty of space up front.

There’s a minimal range of adjustment for the driver’s 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 passenger’s feet (for all but those in the central seat in the long wheelbase model) rest on either side of the driver’s seat. Legroom is reasonable, but the seating position (and the seat itself) isn’t especially comfortable.

The boot is fairly small and has no load cover, but it’s 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 Government’s 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.

There’s 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 driver’s airbag and anti-lock brakes, while air-conditioning isn’t 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. It’s 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.

  • Electric ‘microbus’
  • From £22,012, including grant
  • Available from February 2012

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