Mahindra e2o Tech X review
Mahindra's e2o is an all-electric city car that marks the first entrance into the UK market for the Indian giant. Featuring compact dimensions, a tight turning circle, zero-tailpipe emissions, and a low starting price, the e2o aims to tempt inner-city buyers into electric motoring. Next Green Car visited Mahindra's UK base to test the new model.
Review by Chris Lilly
The e2o's performance figures are not exactly blistering, with acceleration from 0-50mph - as opposed to the more familiar 60mph. To put this into perspective, the similarly sized Smart fortwo is 1.5 seconds faster, while the all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV - along with identical Citroen and Peugeot models, is 1.1 seconds quicker. These aren't quite fair comparisons though as both of those examples have their performance time quoted to the more conventional 0-60 or 62mph, making the e2o comparatively slower still. More tellingly though is the 4.9 second 0-25mph time, which is a far more accurate example of how this car will be used - pulling out of junctions quickly or darting into gaps in the traffic by using the instantly available torque from the 31kW electric motor.
Figures only tell half the story though and, although the e2o doesn't ever feel fast, it also doesn't feel slow while driving in traffic. On more open roads, the Mahindra holds its own once up to speed, but keep the e2o in its natural habitat and it performs well. Noise from the motor is louder than when compared to the likes of Renault's Zoe, but quieter than the Renault Twizy, while the brakes feel slightly wooden - a common problem with EVs - though perform well enough. The use of brake energy recuperation means you won't need to lean on them as often as in other cars anyway.
Sitting tall, narrow, and on a short wheelbase, do not expect the e2o to match a Lotus for pure driving feel. The steering is extremely light to make driving easier in town, but the offshoot of this is a lack of feedback through the wheel and no great incentive to hustle the Mahindra along when the mood and conditions suit. Again though, everything must be considered in comparison to its brief and the e2o was never designed to be a highly engaging car to drive. Instead it's supposed to be a great city car, and the steering and suspension set-up complement this. The turning circle is genuinely tiny - a radius of just 3.85m - making three point turns a thing of the past the vast majority of the time. With the wheels pushed into each corner of the car too, it is easy to place the car confidently on the road and it wasn't long before I was going through gaps between parked buses and on-coming traffic in a manner that would have seen wing mirrors swiped off most cars - and certainly sharp intakes of breath as you sub-consciously try to suck the car thinner. Wheel it about a car park and you will hate going back to larger, more conventional cars, while around the bumpy, pot-hole ridden streets of London, the e2o coped well. One thing to point out is that the steering is so light and tight that you often find yourself putting too much input into the turn until you get used to the car, with its faster rack creating sharper turns than you might like.
The e2o is a very compact and specialist city car in the manner of the Twizy or Smart - designed with compromises to occupant space in order to maximise urban driving ability. Unlike the Twizy though, the e2o is a proper car, rather than legally being assigned the Renault's quadricycle designation. This means it must meet certain crash test standards, feature ABS and ESP, and is fitted with a couple of airbags. Mahindra is putting the model forward for EuroNCAP testing too, though that is yet to be carried out. The bodywork is not metal, but from colour-impregnated ABS plastic panels, which save weight and improve robustness in case of dings and bumps.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Inside the e2o, there is seating for four and a small boot both up front and in the more conventional rear position, though there isn't a lot of space in any area. Driver and passengers sit very high up, and averagely tall people like myself will feel as though the roof lining is a little too close for comfort. Shoulder space up front is fine and you don't feel as though you are invading each others personal space, but rear seat occupants will feel more cramped. Those back seats can technically fit adults, but there would be few volunteers to climb into the back - children will be absolutely fine though. As for comfort, the seats felt fine during the test drive. A little more side support would be welcome considering the handling on offer, but that would probably impact on passenger space and, on the whole, the latter feature is correctly prioritised. The fit and feel of the switchgear was a pleasant surprise in all honesty. There was a temptation to write them off before using them as too flimsy and plasticy, but this wasn't the case. You can't compare the switchgear to the likes of VW's e-up!, but then it costs significantly less. The rest of the dashboard and steering wheel runs along similar lines. There is little to enliven the large expanse of dark and not particularly plush plastic, but nothing feels as though it's going to fall apart after a few year's use.
RANGE & RUNNING COSTS
This section is the e2o's trump card as, even in a sector where running costs are low already, the e2o looks to trump them further. The 15.5 kWh lithium-ion battery doesn't take much electricity to charge - half as much as the top-of-the-range Nissan Leaf for example. Mahindra quotes a monthly fuel cost of £10 for those on Economy 7 energy tariffs. That battery is enough to give an official range of 79 miles according to the e2o's specifications, and that seems more attainable than most EV's figures after my drive in it, though that could be because an e2o will spend most of its life in town at lower speeds. Mahindra does quote a 60-70 mile range in warmer weather and 50-60 miles in British winters. To charge, the e2o will take nine hours from the standard three-pin-Type 2 cable supplied, or faster if a Type-2 to Type 2 cable is bought. The top of the range model also comes with a 'rapid' CHAdeMO socket, which manages to offer a recharging time between the standard Fast and Rapid designations used in the EV world. A 0-95 per cent charge using the CHAdeMO connector will take an hour and a half, where other EVs using the same Rapid charging system will see a 0-80 per cent charge in one third of that time. The reason for this slower charging rate is that, although the e2o is able to take high ampages, the size of the car's powertrain means it isn't able to cope with high voltages. This, and the desire to maximise battery life mean the longer 'rapid' charge time. It isn't though that many drivers will be using rapid chargers - and using them for three times the amount of time of other EVs - and that home or on-street parking will cover the majority of charging needs.
Apart from its zero-tailpipe emission powertrain, the e2o has a number of green features from Mahindra's work behind the scenes. Assembly for example takes place in an Indian factory that was the first car plant to receive the country's Green Building Council Platinum rating thanks to use of solar power, harvested rainwater, and natural light and temperature control. Both e2o models feature a boost mode, which increases both power available to the motor, and also significantly increases the braking regen strength. Tech X customers are able to get the e2o Remote app which allows for pre-conditioning, timed and remote start/stop charging, driver coaching, and an EV specific route planner. According to our calculations, the tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 22.
There are two models on sale, the City and Tech X. City spec is fairly sparse and includes steel wheels, fabric trim, fog lights, and electric windows. As such, Mahindra reckons that most of its sales will be of Tech X models which come far better equipped. This specification adds the Remote app, vehicle telematics, Blaupunkt touchscreen infotainment system, air conditioning, reversing camera, steering wheel controls, rear windscreen wiper and washer, CHAdeMO socket, and battery revive. This last function will add around nine miles to your range if you run out of charge, and is completed by using the Remote app. It is only to be used up to three times a year though and is intended to be an emergency safety feature, as any further use will damage the battery.
Mahindra is doing things differently with the e2o. It has been confirmed that the model is just the start of an EV push from the Indian manufacturer, while even sales and servicing systems are different to conventional models. Here, you book a test drive for your area - with London, Birmingham, Bristol, and Milton Keynes the first priorities for product roll-out, though it is available nationally - and meet with a customer service adviser. Should you become an e2o owner, servicing will be carried out at your home or workplace by mobile technicians. The e2o almost sits in a class of its own too, filling a very small gap in the market. Unfortunately, the cost of an e2o, combined with outside competition, means that few will decide the Mahindra is right for them. Those looking for a basic commuter tool will probably opt for the smaller but cheaper Renault Twizy, while a second-hand Renault Zoe would make a good alternative to the e2o for drivers wanting more refinement and a more 'car-like' driving experience. The final problem is that Citroen and Peugeot have slashed prices of their C-Zero and iOn models to clear existing stock, bringing a slightly larger car with more range into the same price bracket. Still, some will be tempted by the e2o, despite its odd styling, and those that do will find an easy to drive and cheap to run car that rivals mopeds for inner city manoeuvrability.
Model tested: Mahindra e2o Tech X
Body-style: Two-door city car
Engine / CO2: 31kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: City and Tech X
On-road price: From £12,995. Price as tested £14,995 (both inc. Cat 1 PiCG)
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 2.5 stars