Before driving the Dacia Spring, I thought it was going to be a mess. It’s a little city crossover, called the Renault Kwid, originally launched in 2015 for developing markets, then updated, given a fully-electric powertrain and rebranded the Renault K-ZE. Now it’s been updated yet again, this time to make it a tempting buy in Europe.
But with a history like that, can a vehicle make sense in Europe where car buyers are some of the most savvy and discerning in the world? Well, based on my very limited time behind the wheel of one, it makes perfect sense, especially if you keep reminding yourself how cheaply you can get one.
In Romania where I am based, the government will cover up to 45,000 RON, roughly €9,150 / $11,060 of a new fully-electric car’s price. However, the government grant can’t exceed half of the car’s price, which is what applies to the Dacia Spring - my tester cost €18,200 / $22,000, so the end use would pay exactly half that and have a brand new electric car sitting on their driveway.
That’s a great deal, especially considering that what you’re getting is a fully-featured car with remarkable range (for the price). How much range? Well, Dacia says that according to the WLTP City cycle, the Spring should do 305 km (189 miles) in town, while its combined WLTP range rating is 230 km (143 miles).
The battery pack that provides this range (which is better than many much more expensive electric city cars) is a 33 kWh pack, whose net capacity is 28.6 kWh. It is air-cooled and it powers a single front-mounted electric motor that makes - brace yourself - 33 kW (45 horsepower) and 125 Nm (92 pound-feet) of torque.
Gallery: 2021 Dacia Spring - First Drive
And as you would expect, even though it weighs well under a ton, the acceleration figure can’t be very impressive. Dacia quotes the Spring as being able to sprint to 100 km/h (62 mph) in a more than leisurely 19 seconds. It has to be said, though, that up to around 60 km/h (37 mph) it’s actually not that bad, although if you approach its top speed of 125 km/h (78 mph), it doesn’t feel quite as stable and surefooted as you’d like.
However, this is a car not meant to do its top speed all that often (if ever) because where it is in is element is in the city. Before driving it in the city, I also did a range test in the Spring and the results were very pleasantly surprising: I drove it to a neighboring city and back, a round trip of around 125 km (78 miles) and after completing the loop, it still said it had 60 percent left in the battery, thanks to a very impressive electricity consumption figure of 11.8 kWh/100km, which equates to 5.26 miles/kWh.
From a visual standpoint, the Spring is very clearly designed to look like a crossover, and it pulls this off quite well. It is a tall, boxy thing with 15 cm / 5.9 inches of ground clearance, riding on 14-inch rims shod in skinny 165-section tires. It still looks like a modern vehicle, even though the design is a few years old, and the same can be said of the interior.
However, be warned that the interior is not an especially pleasant place to be. At first glance everything looks pretty good, but when you start touching the plastics, buttons and switchgear, you are immediately reminded this vehicle has been designed down to a price. But while nothing inside is especially pleasant to touch, it has plenty of kit.
My tester was the top of the range model, so it got a touchscreen infotainment system (with an old style resistive touchscreen, which is very old tech by now), autonomous emergency braking, four electric windows (with no way to operate the rear windows from the driver’s seat), manual air-con, automatic headlights, alloy wheels, faux leather seats with contrasting blue stitching, electrically-adjustable side mirrors and a rotary knob to put the car in reverse, neutral or drive (there’s no parking position).
While I would have liked to spend more time with the Spring, I sadly had to give it back rather quickly, but I still learned a lot in my time with it. Honestly, it’s a pretty good deal, considering what you’re getting for your money - the only thing I really, genuinely missed was rake adjustment for the steering wheel; you sit quite high, but there is no height adjustment for the driver’s seat, or any adjustment for the steering wheel, so you have to adapt to the car, not adapt the car to your preferences.
Other than this, I actually didn’t mind any of the cost-cutting measures applied to get this car to market so cheap. It’s a great first impression and I think there’s a good chance this vehicle will become one of Europe’s most popular new EVs in the near future. In Romania, on the day Dacia opened pre-orders, the entire first batch of some 4,000 cars found buyers in a matter of hours, so first signs are good.