No car has ever created such a division of opinion as the humble REVA G-Wiz. Whether you regard it as a crude, slow, basic vehicle or a style icon that was largely responsible for reintroducing electric cars to our roads for the first time in 100 years depends on your point of view, but the car is undoubtedly adored and hated in equal measure.
Despite its quirky looks, poor handling and low speed, the G-Wiz became a big success, particularly in London where it became a motoring icon ten years ago. It brought electric cars to the attention of the general public and manufacturers took note. The design team behind the BMW i3, for example, used the G-Wiz as an inspiration for their electric car.
The car is known as REVA across the world and only sold as G-Wiz in the UK. In its various guises, it is one of the most successful road-going electric vehicles in the world. The owners' club is also one of the largest and most active electric car clubs in the world, with over 1,000 members.
I owned and used a G-Wiz for several years. I bought it back in 2006 and used it for five years, first for the school run and general pottering around and more recently as my main commuter car. My car is one of the early dc-drive models, which has limited performance and range and is best suited to city-only driving.
In late 2007, Mahindra REVA launched a new version of the car called the REVA i. This model had a redesigned chassis, suspension, steering and braking system, significantly improved crash protection and better performance and range.
In terms of looks, the new car is virtually indistinguishable from the earlier cars. This is a shame since it is a significantly improved vehicle. If the new car had been restyled as part of the update, it would have attracted a lot more attention from people who have just written it off as a minor update to the earlier car.
Compared to other city cars, the G-Wiz i is still small, simple, basic and fairly crude. Inside it is very compact, although front head- and leg-room on the latest model is a significant improvement on earlier cars. The car has more leg-room than the Smart ForTwo.
The REVA G-Wiz i is at its best around town. With sedate acceleration and a top speed of only 50mph (80km/h), the car can happily keep up with the traffic in town but struggles on faster roads.
The car has a lot of charm and is fun to drive. Its sharp and precise steering makes it fun to whizz through the city streets, while its tiny dimensions and incredibly tight turning circle means the car can squeeze through the narrowest gaps and find a parking space anywhere.
The latest G-Wiz does a better job of absorbing the bumps in the road than the older models, but it is still a firm ride. The car does not travel fast enough to ascertain high- speed handling, but it remains reasonably composed up to its maximum speed.
When I first got my G-Wiz, I proposed a race with my wife, with us both driving our cars from one end of a city to the other in the middle of the rush hour. Thanks to its tiny size, which meant the G-Wiz could get through the gaps, I managed to get through the city in just twenty-five minutes. It took my wife three quarters of an hour to make the same journey in her conventional car.
The G-Wiz is very easy to drive. There is a dial next to the steering wheel to allow you to select which driving mode you want - reverse, forward or boost. The floor mounted handbrake twists off and you are away. Steering is light and positive and there are some nice features, such as the anti-roll feature that stops the car from rolling backwards when you are stopped.
Within the car industry, Mahindra REVA has built a reputation for the quality of its drive trains, and the company has carried out consultancy work with a number of major vehicle manufacturers, including General Motors. This is evident in the driveability of the G-Wiz i. As a city car, the G-Wiz i is on a par with a Smart ForTwo ED and significantly better than most other electric quadricycles on the market.
The G-Wiz went out of production at the end of 2011 and was replaced by the vastly superior Mahindra e2o. Thanks to its popularity, second hand cars are readily available with prices ranging from £250 to £3,500. If you want a small electric runabout, but cannot afford a Mitsubishi or a Nissan, there is a G-Wiz available in your price range.
For commuting or travelling across town, the G-Wiz can be a sensible choice. If most of your driving is inner-city and you do not want or need a large car, a G-Wiz is worth considering.
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