In-depth reviews

Dacia Spring review

The first Dacia electric car boasts an attention-grabbing price, although there's no sign of it coming to the UK. It's not perfect, but it still offers a remarkable amount for very little money

Dacia Spring
Overall rating

3.5 out of 5

Pros

  • Well equipped
  • Fairly practical
  • Incredibly cheap

Cons

  • Pretty slow
  • Only really for city use
  • No current plans for UK launch
Car typeRangeWallbox charge timeRapid charge time
Electric140 miles5hrs (0-100%, 7.4kW)Under 1hr (10-80%, 50kW)

This is the Dacia Spring, the first electric offering from the famously no-frills, Renault-owned, Romanian car brand. It seeks to answer the question "just how cheap can an electric car actually be?" And it is a proper, four-seater car – not a two-seater 'quadricycle' like the Renault Twizy or Citroen ami that doesn't have to meet the same safety standards as your average family hatchback.

Depending on where you buy, the Spring can be very cheap indeed. In Germany, heavy government subsidies for electric cars mean you can be driving one for not much more than €10,000 (around £8,600), while the slightly less generous French government grant sees a starting price there of around €12,000 (about £10,500). Without grants, the actual starting price is closer to £15,000, but even that would make the Spring cheaper than the vast majority of petrol and diesel superminis on sale in the UK if it were offered here.

The problem for interested parties in the UK, however, is that the Spring is not on sale here. Renault says it has no current plans to develop a right-hand-drive version for these shores, but such is the value on display, we wouldn't be surprised to see the odd personally imported example popping up in the UK before long – as happened back in the 1990s with the cheeky-looking first-generation Renault Twingo city car.

So what do you actually get for your money? Quite a lot, actually. As is the case with Dacia's petrol-engined models, most customers are expected to skip the very cheapest entry-level version in favour adding a few creature comforts. Air-conditioning and electric windows are standard, but a 'Comfort Plus' pack, priced at €1,300 in Germany, adds leather-look seat covers, metallic paint, a full-size spare wheel, parking sensors, a reversing camera, DAB digital radio, sat nav and smartphone integration. Rapid charging capability is also a €600 optional extra, which is actually a sensible move, as it allows people who'll just charge up at home overnight to avoid an unnecessary expense.

And that's the typical use case envisaged for the Dacia Spring: charged up overnight from a wallbox and used for short, routine runs around town during the day: commuting, school runs, shopping trips and the like. So is it big enough for the job? Maybe. There's no shortage of room up front, but adults will probably feel a bit squeezed in the back – especially when it comes to headroom.

The Spring's compact dimensions make it an absolute breeze to thread through busy traffic or manoeuvre around a tight multi-storey car park, while raised ground clearance means it's not perturbed by a typical urban assault course of speed bumps and potholes. It's also light, tipping the scales at just 1,045kg. That's partly due to the battery having a capacity of just 27.4kWh – enough for a claimed range of up to 140 miles (likely to be closer to 100 in real-world driving).

That's obviously less than a lot of more expensive electric cars will manage, but with a modest 44bhp power output delivering a top speed of just 78mph and an extremely leisurely 0-62mph time of just over 19 seconds, you probably won't want to venture onto a motorway in a Spring for any great distance.

You'll also want to keep your journeys on the short side when you realise the Spring is not exactly a paragon of comfort. Neither the steering column nor the driver's seat are height-adjustable (all in pursuit of cost savings, no doubt), so depending on your height or shape, you may struggle to find the perfect driving position. And the seats don't offer much in the way of side support; you find yourself sliding one way and then the other as you negotiate corners and roundabouts.

Make no mistake, then, the Dacia Spring is definitely a city car and no more – even more so than most small electric models. But there's nothing wrong with that, as it's extremely fit for purpose to sit alongside a larger electric model, or a plug-in hybrid, on a household's driveway.

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