RAC Cars News


Not your average city car

By raccars Published


Could the city car segment lead the electric vehicle revolution?

While the larger and sportier cars such as the Tesla Model S, BMW i8 and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV are receiving plenty of media attention for revolutionising the way in which we see electric cars, in a quiet way there are plenty of small cars leading the electric vehicle charge.

The city car segment has changed dramatically in a number of ways over the last decade or so, becoming incredibly modern and sophisticated, and now electric power is rewriting the small car book once again. The following are three very different versions of a city car, showing just how much variety is now open to those who need something compact and practical for busy urban living.

Each are very different cars in one way or another but they have certain features in common, notably that they are economical and great fun for zipping around town. All are also great value on the used market.

Toyota Yaris Hybrid supermini

Having led the hybrid charge with the Toyota Prius, in 2012 Toyota then squeezed its market-leading technology into the much smaller Yaris, while cleverly maintaining the supermini's practical interior and spacious boot.

The result is excellent fuel economy; think 85.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 75g/km for newer versions. The clean, green supermini is powered by a 1.5 litre four cylinder petrol engine, tuned to extract maximum economy, which is backed up by a 44kW electric motor. The battery for this is neatly housed under the rear seats and is recharged by regenerative braking, so there are no worries about plugging in.

On the road the Yaris feels like a standard automatic to drive and offers a relaxing driving experience. You'll notice a fair amount of engine noise if you push your right foot down hard and you'll need to become accustomed to the constant rev rate of the hybrid drive versus the almost eerie silence when using electric power only. But overall the Yaris is a very user friendly ownership prospect.

Renault Twingo rear wheel drive city car

With the third generation Twingo, Renault has finally managed to recapture the quirky brilliance of the first generation model, which somehow got lost in execution with the Mk2 version. What distinguished the Twingo is its rear wheel drive and rear engine layout, which are not usually found on cars of this size.

However some clever design and engineering means that the result is a surprisingly spacious, comfortable and nippy little run-around. The five door format means that the smart interior is easily accessible and buyers can choose between two very economical three cylinder petrol engines producing 70bhp and 90bhp. The Twingo is an interesting, funky and surprisingly practical alternative to the usual city car suspects.

Renault Zoe electric car

A small electric car is a great option as a second family car; smaller less glamorous than the main vehicle and used for everyday running around rather than major family outings. Something like the Renault Zoe performs this role admirably, economically and with a certain amount of style.

Expect about 90 miles from a full charge, which can take nine hours to achieve from a household socket and is usually best done overnight. You can cut the charge time with a dedicated charging point installed at home. The electric drivetrain makes the Zoe super quiet and silky smooth to drive, while a five star Euro NCAP crash test rating is reassuring.

When working out the cost, do bear in mind that you may need to pay a monthly battery rental fee, for which costs vary quite dramatically according to usage and commitment term.

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