United Kingdom

Hong Guang Mini is the £3,200 EV that's outselling Tesla in China

China has a new favourite electric car - and it's not a Tesla.

The Hong Guang Mini EV has recently become the nation's best-selling EV, with the super-compact electric model costing from just £3,200 new.

The car, which is produced as part of a joint venture between state-owned SAIC Motor (known locally as Wuling) and American firm GM Motors, is less than three metres long, seats four people, has a claimed range of 106 miles and can be charged from a 240V mains socket.

China's budget EV: This is the Hong Guang Mini, which is less than 3-metres long, has a claimed range of 106 miles on a single charge and costs from £3,200

The most basic version costs around £3,200, though buyers have the option of a version with air-conditioning, which is priced at just over £3,500. The most expensive trim level is around £4,200.

In the most basic form, it is less than half the price of the UK's cheapest new car - the £7,995 petrol Dacia Sandero - and six times less expensive than a Smart EQ ForTwo compact electric vehicle. 

It is being marketed by China's biggest auto brand as 'the people's commuting tool', providing affordable transport for motorists travelling into big cities. 

The Mini EV was only launched last summer but has been a huge hit ever since, with over 50,000 orders within months of it coming onto the market.

The most basic version costs around £3,200. In January, a total of 25,778 Mini EVs were sold - more than any other electric model

The Tesla Model 3 was China's most-bought EV last year, but twice as many Hong Guang Mini EVs were sold last month

The car is being marketed by China's biggest auto brand as 'the people's commuting tool', providing affordable transport for motorists travelling into big cities

Some 112,000 were registered in China in the second half of 2020, ranking second in the EV sales charts behind Tesla's Model 3, which is produced at the US firm's Shanghai factory. 

In January, a total of 25,778 Mini EVs were sold, according to the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA). That compared to 13,843 for the Tesla Model 3, which costs from £27,000 in the country. 

The diminutive plug-in model is just 2,917mm long, 1,493mm wide and 1,621mm high, making it the ideal motor for urban environments and parking in tight spaces.

That makes it around 200mm longer and 79mm talker than the two-seat Smart ForTwo, though the Chinese micro car is around 50mm narrower. 

It's unclear how well the vehicle would withstand Euro NCAP's rigorous crash tests, though the manufacturer says that 'more than 57%' of the body consists of high-strength steel

though buyers have the option of a version with air-conditioning, which is priced at just over £3,500. The most expensive trim level is around £4,200

There is a rear bench for two occupants in the back - and there are even Isofix mounting points for child car seats

Its battery and electric motor produces 13kW of maximum power and 85Nm of torque - enough for a top speed of 62mph.

The range, according to measurements in China and not the European test cycle - is up to 170 kilometres (106 miles) on a single charge and the battery can be replenished by a household 240V outlet - though the maker doesn't reveal how long this will take.

It's unclear how well the vehicle would withstand Euro NCAP's rigorous crash tests, though the manufacturer says that 'more than 57 per cent' of the body consists of high-strength steel. 

In the most basic form, it is less than half the price of the UK's cheapest new car - the £7,995 petrol Dacia Sandero. And it's six times less expensive than a Smart EQ ForTwo compact electric vehicle

Its battery and electric motor produces 13kW of maximum power and 85Nm of torque - enough for a top speed of 62mph

The cabin is pretty basic but the seats have lots of adjustment and the car comes equipped with features including ABS and reversing sensors

It also comes with anti-lock brakes, a tyre pressure monitoring system and reverse parking sensors. 

The rear bench is even equipped with two Isofix mounting points to install a child safety seats.

With the rear seats in use, there is essentially zero boot space. However, with just a driver and front-seat passenger, the back seats can be folded flat to provide 741-litres of luggage space - 'enough to accommodate two 26-inch suitcases or a stroller,' says the maker.

The range is up to 170 kilometres (106 miles) on a single charge and the battery can be replenished by a household 240V socket

With the rear bench occupied by passengers, there is essentially no boot space at all. However, the back seats do fold down to provide some luggage room

With the back seats flat there is 741-litres of luggage space - 'enough to accommodate two 26-inch suitcases or a stroller,' says the maker

Up front, the cabin is mostly two-color textured fabrics and the seats offer four-way adjustment. 

Speaking to the BBC about the sales success of the budget-friendly Mini EV in China, Shaun Rein, managing director of the China Market Research Group, said the vehicle fits the local government's strict pollution reduction objectives and bid to come 'the global lead in adopting and promoting innovation of electric vehicles'. 

'We remain very bullish on the adoption of budget EVs like the Hong Guang Mini to higher end ones like NIO and Tesla,' he added.

One of the biggest reasons why EVs like the Hong Guang are in such high demand is because the Chinese government provides license plates for free and they are guaranteed. 

While this might not sound all that impressive to British drivers, in many Chinese cities it can take drivers years to get a license plate for a petrol car through various auction systems.

And motorists might yet see it sold in Europe.

Reports have linked Wuling to a Latvian automaker who could sell a version of the car. However, the price is likely to be twice as high due to European environmental requirements and the vehicle may need to be adapted to meet tougher safety regulations.

The driving modes are very simple - just reverse, neutral and drive. Electric windows (switches seen here) are available on higher trim levels

Could we see the Hong Guang Mini EV in Europe? Reports have linked Wuling to a Latvian automaker who could sell a version of the car

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