Reva G-Wiz - The Verdict

With a 40-mile battery range and immunity from certain traffic wardens, is this runabout a gift to urban eco-warriors? Sean O'Grady has his doubts

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Price: From £6,999
Motor: D/C electric
Performance: Top speed of around 42mph; 600mpg equivalent
CO2: Nil (at point of use)
Worth considering: Smart ForTwo, used Honda Insight
Available from: www.goingreen.co.uk 020-8574 3232

OK: if you're so concerned about global warming that you think driving a Fiat Panda, say, is tantamount to being an accessory to the murder of Gaia, then the G-Wiz ought to calm you down. It's powered by an electric motor, runs on batteries, and you just plug it into the mains to power it up.

So yes, when I was testing it I really did unplug the DVD player and plugged in the car, with the other end of the long lead going out through the letterbox on to the drive and then into a slot in the side of the G-Wiz where you'd normally expect to find a petrol cap. It does the equivalent of 600 mpg. Roughly. Or, more topically, a G-Wiz will consume as much energy in a year as a lumbering SUV will on just one tankful.

It doesn't, directly, use any fossil fuels and if the electricity used to power it were renewable its effect on the environment would be negligible. The G-Wiz is made in India from plastics, though, so you ought to count that in, but you can't argue with its green credentials compared with most powered personal transport. It even has four seats, although the rear ones are suitable only for small children.

As urban wheels it works, after a fashion. In London, where the vast majority are sold, it is exempt from the congestion charge, can be parked and powered free in parts of Westminster and in the Canary Wharf estate, and it has a zero-rate car tax. "Filling it up" (recharging overnight) costs about 30p, depending on your electricity tariff. So you might be able to make quite a financial case for a G-Wiz if you work in central London or Docklands and live in the suburbs.

Like me, in fact, and I did, indeed, manage to travel from Ealing to Canary Wharf without running out of power. Some 40 miles is the maximum range, but that depends on the time of year (winter is hard on the batteries), whether you use the heater (knocks 10 miles off the range) and whether you drive in the "economy" or "full-power" mode in the automatic gearbox. Full power, I should say, is relative; top speed is 42mph.

That lack of pace is rarely a problem in congested London. What is more troubling is that there isn't anywhere to fill it up, apart from your home, work, possibly and the odd car park.

Worse, you must have off-street parking to recharge your G-Wiz - so it's no good for flat dwellers. If petrol stations were fitted with three-pin sockets everyone could run a G-Wiz and Gaia would be happier. For now, a Smart ForTwo, about the same size and price as a G-Wiz, makes more sense.

Lindley Baptiste, 44, and Luke, 8, public relations consultant from south London
USUAL CAR: VOLKSWAGEN GOLF

The styling as such seems to be a curious retro, which did nothing for me. It was like being in a stealth golf cart (disconcertingly quiet and no feel of power "kicking in" when you increase speed). Believe it or not, it is a head turner: draw your own conclusions. A tall passenger had to sit with his head bent to one side and there was no obvious height adjustment for either "front" seat. I'm convinced we have to embrace vehicles like this, but I won't be putting my name down for one just yet.

Luke found it claustrophobic because he had to practically lie down in the back and could not get his legs into the seat-well.

Daniel Bicknell, 29, flood management officer from west London
USUAL CAR: RENAULT MEGANE 1.6

I was asked if I wanted to borrow the G-Wiz for the day. I might have done, had I not needed to make a trip to north London and back, a round trip from west London I didn't fancy my chances of completing on one battery charge. This would, no doubt, be a frequent problem associated with owning a G-Wiz; never knowing whether you were going to make it home. In full power mode it keeps up with other vehicles reasonably well in town. But it looks ropey, corners poorly, feels like it is made of plastic (which it is), and has zero headroom. However, if used for a commute, it should save its owner a few quid.

John Stephenson, 47, manager of a print company from Ruislip, north-west London
USUAL CARS: RENAULT LAGUNA, MG B

Cheeky is probably the word best used for the G-Wiz. Think a combination of old Mini, go-kart and motorbike and you'll be in the right place. The steering is very direct and the accelerator best used as an on/off switch. It's nippy, but with two children, the G-Wiz wouldn't be for me. It simply hasn't enough seats or space or range. The important point, though, is that it has a serious place in the motoring world. With global warming and dwindling natural resources we need a feasible alternative to conventional cars. Issues of range and size can be overcome - yet think what mobile phones were like not that long ago.

THE VERDICT

If you would like to take part, e-mail motoring@independent.co.uk or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

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