Vive la difference

Ryan Borroff
DRIVING the Peugeot iOn is certainly unusual. Until now the only electric cars I have driven have been the excellent Tesla sports car that looks like a Lotus Elise, and the considerably less good G-Wiz which looks like Noddy built it on his weekends from a kit. These cars exist at opposite ends of the electric car market. The iOn is slap bang in the middle. It is a real-world electric car, the first of a few on the road this year. It is stylish and has four doors, four seats and a boot that you could fit your weekly shop in. It still packages an electric motor and battery pack in its body without compromising on interior space. Inside, it has some quite poor plastic trim on the doors, piano black trim around the audio and air-con controls, and except for its dashboard instruments which indicate charge, range and power it is like any other small, city car except there is absolutely no sound at all to let you know it’s ready to go.

Driving it around London, the iOn proved almost completely silent. There is a small amount of wind and road noise, but really all you can hear is a very slight whining of the 47kW motor. It is actually quite peaceful and more fun than I expected. The availability of instant oomph does make driving in traffic a tad easier – though I seem to drive more slowly, a bit more gently. This is not at all a bad thing, because in an electric car putting the air-conditioning on, even the windscreen wipers, cuts down the car’s range. The steering is a little light, which is all the more surprising because I expected the car to feel heavy on account of all of those batteries under the seats. It’s a perfectly acceptable driving experience that’s a bit more engaging than I expected when the car just needs the inputs of steer, brake and go.

The question of whether you should get one for the daily commute is a bit more complicated. You’ll need a calculator and a good deal of chin-scratching before such a decision can be made. It takes seven hours to fully recharge the battery at home using a household socket; a special charger can charge 80 per cent in 30 minutes. With a daily commute of 50 miles or less, on a full charge driving the iOn would be anxiety-free, but a spontaneous decision to travel further afield would be dependent on whether charging points are available en route. And that’s an issue of infrastructure too big to deal with here.

And the price is prohibitive for many. You can only lease the car, not own it, at £415 a month – but this includes maintenance and full warranty. Running costs are estimated to be just £185 per 10,000 miles which compares to £1,950 in a car that averages 30mpg. If you are used to paying the congestion charge each day (£2,520 annual charge) – which is free for electric car drivers – and expensive parking charges (eg.£2,000 annually) – which are free in some London boroughs for electric vehicles, plus free VED road tax, then owning an iOn may make financial sense. But park the car outside your front door for 90 per cent of the time like most people do, and adopting an iOn is almost certainly not for you.

But if you are an urban commuter committed to the car, who won’t ride a bike and for whom public transport just won’t do, then a car like the iOn is worth a look. Calculator in hand, of course.


PRICE: £415 per month
0-62MPH: 15.9 secs
TOP SPEED: 81mph
CO2 G/KM: 0g/km