First drive: Peugeot iOn

  • First drive of Peugeot's electrically powered iOn city car
  • Electric plug-in produces zero C02 emissions, 80-mile range
  • Powered by a 330-volt lithium ion battery, 64bhp power output

French maker Peugeot has made a bee-line for car buyers with a green conscience with the launch of its iOn, a zero-emissions electrically powered car due for launch in autumn this year.

If you think the Peugeot  iOn looks familiar, that's because it is. It shares the same underpinnings and basic shape as the Mitsubishi iMiEV, which is currently being on lease to businesses for a trial period. So, it's pretty much the same although one major difference is that the Peugeot will get the second-generation regenerative braking system that offers better braking feel, is more responsive and more efficient.

Peugeot has not confirmed a starting price yet. The initial cost of the iOn, according to Peugeot is subject to government subsides.

Power

The car is powered by 330-volt lithium ion battery. This is mounted low in the centre of the vehicle to give a good centre of gravity and maximum passenger protection. It produces 64bhp and is rear-wheel driven, while the range is good for about 80 miles.

Charging

It takes six hours to recharge the iOn when plugging it into a domestic socket. However, plug into a dual-phaser socket (these can be found in Bristol, Gateshead, London, Manchester and Southampton) and the vehicle can be recharged to 80% power in 30 minutes.

Practicality and comfort

The iOn can seat four adults of average size in comfort. With the rear seats in place the iOn has a luggage space of 227 litres and with the seats folded this load space expands to 860 litres. The vehicle is longer than the Peugeot 107 by 50mm and taller by 130mm.

It delivers quite a firm ride but no so much that it become an issue on rough city streets. The seats aren't that supportive, though, and the cabin's a bit bland.

On the road

Predictably it is eerily quiet. Twist the keyless ignition and the only way to tell that the engine is on is the warning tinkle from a buzzer. Engage 'D', release the handbrake, press the throttle and the iOn drives off silently.

Acceleration is surprisingly swift: 0-62mph takes 13 seconds, which isn't too bad for a car with only 64bhp. It's quite fun to drive and although it isn't fantastic around corners, body lean is kept in nicely check.

Because the car is silent you do have to keep an eye out for pedestrians and cyclists. Early buyers will have to get used to the 80-mile range between charges and the range will fluctuate depending on how you drive. If you are heavy with the accelerator pedal then you will have less of a range, just like a standard powered car.

There are ways of improving the economy: flick the gear lever into the B setting and this will produce more regenerative braking when coming to a roundabout or descending a hill. This will give the battery more power and the car a longer range.

Safety

The iOn is quite impressive in this area. It comes with ESP and six airbags and has a four-star rating from Euro NCAP.