Many of us are eagerly awaiting some new electric vehicles. A new Rimac is something that is news for the real gear-heads. The Roadster with SpaceX package by Tesla can perhaps outperform that Rimac for 10% of the price and is thus another car that has been discussed for years — and the first model still doesn’t come off the line for a while.
On the other site of the spectrum, a smaller group is awaiting the Dacia Spring Electric. Dacia is the European specialist in building the lowest cost cars while still reaching acceptable levels of quality and usability. It is a Romanian carmaker that was bought by Renault after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Now it is a fast-growing brand thanks to its no-nonsense cars with low prices, good quality, and high utility.
I did have high expectations for the Dacia Spring Electric. That is normally a recipe for disappointment, but I was pleasantly surprised by this car. It looks good, if you like the style of a small SUV. I’ll compare it to my Zoe, which is from the same company and costs twice as much. The real leather on the seats of my Zoe is nicer than the imitation leather in the Spring, but the seats are as comfortable. It is a smaller car, but big enough for 4 adults, as long as they are not too obese and not basketball professionals. I am obese and 5’10” and four of me would not be a problem space wise. But it could be that four of me would be too much weight wise — it is a small city car.
The first oddity for me was its old-fashioned car key. It did have a remote open and close function, but I automatically fell back to manually opening the doors. Starting was the same as it has been in cars for as long as I can remember. The selector for drive is a round knob on the center console, as it is in other modern BEVs. The middle is N(eutral), turn it right for R(everse), and turn it left for D(rive). All other controls are where they have been for decades. Even the handbrake is located and handled like it has been for years.
This is really perfect for one of the target customer groups: Older people who are driving their first BEV and are used to the simple small vehicles that are so popular at the lower end of the market. No new tricks to learn.
There is a center 7.5-inch central touchscreen with about the same set of functions as my Zoe has. But above it is a switch to disable all of it. This is also a great way to make this car more accessible to the elder portion of expected buyers. The other group of buyers, members of the youth buying their first car, can have all the functions they like to play with. And if they don’t like to learn something new, Android Auto or Apple Carplay are an option. But personally, I prefer the Renault suite over Android Auto. Apple Carplay I have never used.
Okay, I have to pick up my co-pilot. Jos Olijve is my yardstick for measuring this car. She drives its ICEV nephew, one of the VW triplets, the Seat Mii. She does not like driving herself but is a fairly good driver. She is going to tell me what is good and not so good from the viewpoint of a retiree possibly switching to electric. The first thing we discuss is the storage options in the cabin. They are way beyond what my Zoe offers — better and bigger storage space in the doors, a big bin in the center console, a really huge glove compartment. But no cupholders — that is a minus.
Inspecting the trunk offers another nice surprise. There is a real spare wheel. The tools are in a sack that is fastened with Velcro to the trunk’s floor. For such a small car, the trunk is big. The back seats can be folded down, but only in one piece. Yep, lower cost comes with a cost. I have the feeling you can put large pieces of luggage there, perhaps even a tuba.
The driving is electric, what can I say about that? It does not have the launch capability of Tesla’s performance models, but it is better than normal ICE cars. At a traffic light, we were sitting in the pole position beside a Skoda Enyaq, another electric SUV. It costs nearly three times as much and is gigantic compared to the Spring. Skoda has the same role in the Volkswagen Group as Dacia has in the Renault Group, bringing lowering cost versions to market that offer a high value for the money, but not as low cost as Dacia.
The Skoda driver clearly was happy to show that he has the better BEV. He floored the accelerator, just like I do, with a satisfying result. When reaching the local max speed of 70 km/h (43 mph), the distance between the Enyaq and us was the same as between us and the rest of the cars that waited for the traffic lights. In urban areas, the Spring is more than quick enough.
Reaching the highway, what matters is going from 70 km/h to >100 km/h (62 mph). I must confess that I was prepared for a more difficult maneuver, but the Spring was as agile as you need to merge easily and safely into dense highway traffic.
Urban driving, country roads, highway driving, it is all better than ICE vehicles in the same class or a class higher. On the highway, the steering proved to be very light. It is easy for a distracted driver to steer outside the lane. Perhaps that is just made too easy.
The next destination was a large, empty parking lot. This is where Jos took over the driving. Acceleration, braking, cornering — it was all above expectations.
After the photo session, we conducted our last tests, charging tests — DC charging at a Fastned station and AC charging at our home charger. Both were flawless. Without DC fast charging, you can not charge while travelling. This limits the effective range to less than half your total range, unless you visit a place where you can charge for half a day. I don’t understand why there are even BEVs offered without DC fast charging.
This vehicle offers a lot for its price. If it had been on the market when I bought my Zoe, I would have thought twice before buying the Zoe. What would have made me decide in favor of the Zoe are the larger range, better speed of charging, cruise control, and heated front seats.
The Spring has all the hardware and controls for cruise-control, but only the speed limiter is installed. I have never understood the function of the speed limiter. Is it for people who fear speeding tickets?
What I know now but would not have realized when buying the Zoe is its better sound proofing. On the highway, the Spring is filled with sounds of the wind and the tyres. The sportier suspension of the Spring is also less comfortable on longer journeys.
The Spring is available in two trim levels. The base is €17,890 and the better version is €1,000 more in the Netherlands. For that extra money, the 7.5 inch display is added with all related software goodies, as well as the extra wheel, the rear view camera, and parking sensors at the back. The DC charging at a max of 30 kW is an option that costs €495. Without DC charging, the effective range of the car is about 85 km before you have to decide to go home. The AC charging is just too slow to be of any use during road trips. That adds up to €19,385 for the car. When you add metallic paint, it will still be below the magical €20,000 — €19,980.
Most reviews contain all the specs you might think of interest — or worse, the reviewer is interested in them, but you are not. Besides the price, I will just mention the 26.8 kWh battery, the meaningless WLTP range 140 mi/225 km, the top speed of 78 mph/125 km/h, and the power rating of 33 kW. For more numbers than you care to know, visit ev-database.org.
With exchange rates and taxes adjusted, this would be below $20,000 in the USA for a highway-capable BEV. There is no competition at the moment in Europe. Looking at what are in my eyes the three most important measures of a BEV — price, range, and charging speed — the first competitor is the Fiat 500e Berlina 24 kWh, starting at €24,900.
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