Chinese Mini Electrics Are Finally Going Global! Wuling Air EV
Issuing time:2023-02-13 08:00
What is it?
If you are one of the many people who emailed me after our review of the Wuling MINI EV to ask, “How can I get one of these?!”, I have good news for you. Wuling’s line of tiny electric city cars is finally going global, starting with the Wuling Air EV. While Wuling has sold other models outside of China, this is the first of their electric city cars that will be making the leap to foreign shores. That move starts in Indonesia, the only country outside of China where the company has a strong presence and a factory. No word on where it will go next, but it’s a safe bet that other Southeast Asian markets are high on the list.
The Air EV is positioned above the MINI EV in the Wuling lineup, with prices starting around 10,000 USD for the two-seater variant, and 11,000 for the four-seater. The MINI EV starts at 4,500 USD.
A more modern look
As a global model for Wuling, the Air EV adopts their new global design language. Gone is the bulldog face of the MINI EV, and in its place is a much more modern and daring aesthetic, particularly the combination daytime running light and chrome trim that runs from side mirror to side mirror. The headlights on base models of the Air EV are halogen, but higher spec models use LEDs.
The Air EV rides on the same Global Small Electric Vehicle platform as the MINI EV, but unlike the MINI EV it will come in two different body styles; a two-seater and a four-seater. The car featured in this review is a four-seater, as indicated by the window behind the B-pillar.
The four-seater version of the Air EV is slightly longer than the original MINI EV, but it’s a bit shorter overall than the latest versions, like the GAMEBOY we drove last year. The wheelbase, however, is the exact same 2.01m, so rear cargo space remains pretty pitiful if you don’t fold down the split rear seats. The wheels also measure the same 12 inches, and all variants except the cheapest two-seater version have disk brakes front and rear.
A step up from the MINI EV
In some ways, the interior of the Air EV is incredibly similar to the MINI EV. The door cards, for example, appear to be exactly the same, as is the overall layout. But the differences far outnumber the similarities. The single 7-inch digital screen in the MINI EV has been replaced by twin 10.25-inch displays. Those are only available on higher spec versions of the Air, but those will only set you back 11,000 USD and 12,000 USD, respectively.
The UI on that screen is pretty basic, but it includes everything you would expect these days, like navigation. You can control that navigation using voice commands, along with the air conditioning, the media, and even the windows. Other features include a 360-degree camera and auto hold.
Since the Air EV’s wheelbase is the exact same as the MINI EV, rear seat space remains unchanged. I am 1.72m (5’9”) tall, and while I have enough legroom, it’s not a place you want to spend much time. The floor is very high and the non-adjustable seatbacks are as upright as a flag pole.
Now with fast charging
The Air EV already felt like a major improvement over the MINI EV, and that was before I started looking at the spec sheet. The two-seater version uses the same rear mounted motor as the MINI EV GAMEBOY, making 30 kW and 110 Nm of torque (41 hp/82 pound-feet), but the electric motor of the four-seater makes 50 kW and 140 Nm (68 hp/104 pound-feet).
Neither is a powerhouse, but that extra 20 kW should make a real difference. What will make an even bigger difference is the fact that four-seater versions of the Air EV will have fast charging. That means charge times for the 28.4-kWh battery pack drop from 8 hours to as little as 45 minutes. That pack delivers 300km of range on the CLTC cycle. Two-seater versions use a 26.7-kWh pack that delivers the same range, but doesn’t support fast charging, so it takes 7.5 hours to charge.
More tech, more features, and more available power means that the Air EV is a significant upgrade over the MINI EV. Fast charging in particular will make it a much more useable vehicle than the MINI EV. But by utilizing the same suspension and platform, it’s hard to believe the driving experience will see the same level of improvement.
Power: 50 kW, 140 Nm
Battery: 28.4 kWh
Range: 300 km CLTC
CDM Price: 12,000 USD
Article classification: Electric Vehicles