How Much EV Can You Get For Just $7,300: Changan Lumin
Issuing time:2023-03-20 21:50
What is it?
As much as I like to review of the most advanced, expensive, and complex Chinese electric vehicles I can get my hands on, sometimes it's nice to just get back to basics. That's why I was delighted when I finally got a chance to drive the Changan Lumin, another entry in the mini electric category. The Lumin starts at just 7,300 USD, and while it is neither advanced, expensive, nor complex, it certainly has its charms.
Full-on anime face
It's impossible to talk about any car in this category without addressing the very tiny elephant in the room, the Wuling MINI EV. That car is responsible for creating, or at least popularizing this entire segment here in China. But while the Lumin Corn is clearly grasping for the crown of the MINI EV, it is doing it in a very different way, starting from the exterior design. While, the MINI EV is cute in the sense that it looks like a larger car that was hit with a shrink ray, the Lumin looks more like a cartoon character. They even saw fit to give the headlights “eyelids.”
Those headlights, while adorable, are halogen on all three trim levels, whereas the MINI EV has LEDs available on higher trims. The Lumin trades that for pop-out concealed door handles, adding to the more rounded look. At 3.27 meters in length and 1.7 meters wide, the Lumin is longer and wider than the MINI EV, though it is slightly shorter in terms of height. The real difference makers are the wheels, which measure a positively massive 14-inches, versus the 12-inches of the MINI EV.
Bigger wheels won’t make up for the fact that the Lumin has a shorter wheelbase than the MINI EV, making for a rear cargo area that is next to useless without folding down the rear seats. The rear seats are also incredibly cramped, though the real problem is the very high floor pan.
Roomier and higher tech
The extra width of the Lumin is noticeable immediately upon sitting inside the car, particularly in the shoulders. The interior is plastic fantastic, but so is the MINI EV and every other car in this segment. The overall style does feel more like a real, grown-up car than the MINI EV, though some would argue that makes it less charming.
All Lumins come standard with a 10.25-inch center screen, whereas the MINI EV makes do with an instrument cluster and tiny radio that looks more like an alarm clock. The extra 2,500 USD the of the over the MINI EV is starting to make a little bit more more sense at this point. The rest of the interior is reminiscent of any other economy car, with basic AC controls and a hand brake. There are two USB ports, one for the front row and one for the second row. One thing that did surprise me was the fact that our mid-spec test car had electrically adjustable side mirrors.
Better, but also worse than the MINI EV
I was relieved to learn that the Lumin has both driver and passenger airbags as standard, something that isn’t true on the MINI EV. Still, neither of them has anything in the way of traction control or electronic stability programming, so I had to resist my urge to push the tiny EV to its performance limits. The standard driving experience for this segment is just above an ox cart, and I would say the Lumin fits right in with its competitors. Despite its shorter wheelbase, the Lumin managed to provide a ride that doesn't have you bucking back and forth as much as the MINI EV. Perhaps it has to do with the rear suspension, which uses which uses trailing arms instead of the non-independent multi-link of the Wuling.
But while the ride might be slightly better than the MINI EV, the steering is rubberier and vaguer. It almost feels like they installed power assisted steering onto a golf cart. The other inputs, like the brake pedal, are surprisingly stiff for such a light, small car.
The base and mid-spec trims of the Lumin match the 30 kW of the MINI EV, but there is a “performance” version available that makes a meatier 35 kW. It appears Changan hasn’t released torque figures for the Lumin. Entry-level cars squeeze a claimed 155 km of CLTC range from a 13-kWh battery pack, mid-spec cars get 210 km from a 17.7-kWh pack, and the previously mentioned “performance” version is said to deliver 301 km from a pack measuring 28-kWh.
The Lumin and its ilk are intended to be used as city runabouts, not autobahn burners, but even at low speeds NVH is an issue. That starts with the single front mounted electric motor, which whines during acceleration and regen to a distracting degree. There's also the fact that they seem to have increased cabin space without increasing the amount of insulation. I base this suspicion on the fact that having a conversation with someone inside this car feels like talking inside of an empty soup can.
The Lumin, like its competitors, is only available with slow charge, not fast charge. This proved a serious inconvenience when we picked it up and realized it had only 35 kilometers of range. After charging it for nearly two hours, that number leaped to 66 kilometers. Fast charge would make cars in this category much more useable, but that kind of electrical architecture would likely make them considerably more expensive to produce.
The specs and features of the Lumin arguably make it a better value than the Wuling MINI EV, and its driving experience is just as good, or just as bad, depending on how you think of it. Which you choose depends on your budget, and which you think is cuter.
Changan Lumin Corn 210
Motor: Front mounted
Battery: 17.7 kWh
Range: 210 km CLTC
CDM Price: 8,000 USD
Article classification: Electric Vehicles