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This Chinese EV Sells At Just Over $5,000. So We Tried It

Wuling’s Mini EV, made in partnership with General Motors, outsells Tesla’s Model 3 in China and costs less than adding CarPlay to a Ferrari.
Wuling Mini EV
PHOTOGRAPH: WULING

THE MINI EV costs around $5,000 new. It would cost more to spec the cigar humidor glove box option on a Rolls-Royce or add Apple CarPlay to a Ferrari than to buy the Mini EV outright.

So successful is Wuling’s Mini EV that not only are Chinese producers rapidly coming up with copycat cars, Wuling itself is busy making different versions of the vehicle, including a forthcoming cabriolet and a “long-range” version.

This EV is not available outside China, but we got behind the wheel of the “luxury” Macaron version in China to see if this super-cheap electric car was any good, and what US and European manufacturers could learn about how to make more affordable electric cars.

Luxury is relative, especially when you are dealing with a car as bare-bones as the original Mini EV. At the end of last year, professor Masayoshi Yamamoto at Nagoya University took apart a car shipped to Japan to see how it was possible to produce the vehicle so cheaply.

Yamamoto discovered that the parts were largely off-the-shelf and consumer-grade, rather than automotive grade. The Mini EV is therefore likely to have issues more frequently, but it will also be cheaper to repair.

The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV is the result of a three-way joint venture. SAIC Motor is the largest partner, with 50.1 percent ownership. One of China’s biggest automotive companies—in 2021 it was second by volume—SAIC is perhaps best known in Europe as the new owner of MG.

Casual observers of the auto industry may be more surprised to learn that the second-largest Wuling owner, with 44 percent, is General Motors (the small remainder of the joint venture belongs to Wuling itself). But GM and SAIC have been working together for 24 years. In 2003, China became, for a time, the second-largest single market for GM, selling Chinese-only versions of Buicks and launching Chevrolet in the jurisdiction in 2005.

Colors by Pantone
Wuling Mini EV parked on sunny street
PHOTOGRAPH: WULING

Externally, the Macaron version distinguishes itself from the standard Mini EV with a choice of funky pastel colors. WIRED’s is in avocado green, but the model is also available in lemon yellow and white peach pink. That the colors are a collaboration with Pantone speaks volumes; the Mini EV has managed a cult following, and the Macaron is clearly aimed at the young and cool. “Macaron” is written on the driver’s side rear pillar black insert, and the car features color-coordinated white wheels and roof.

Inside, the Macaron gets exterior color-matching inserts for the door pulls and highlights around what pass for controls. These are very limited, with three dials for climate control and a very small LCD screen for the radio.

Source : https://www.wired.com/story/review-wuling-hongguang-mini-ev/