“This is not a car”, is how the inspirers of this Microlino describe their creation. We can’t blame them, because with a length of barely 2.52 meters, space for two and a top speed of 90 km/h, you can hardly call this mischievous little ball a full-fledged car. The Microlino therefore falls completely into the segment of microcars, a segment that until now mainly let uninspired entries infect our roads. Does this Microlino change that?
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Where does this Microlino come from?
First things first: where did this Microlino suddenly come from? Well, the term “suddenly” is perhaps a bit exaggerated, because already in 2016 we got a first glimpse of this Microlino at the now defunct Geneva Motor Show. This Microlino is a figment of the imagination of the Swiss family Ouboter, a family with family members with resounding names such as “Wim”, “Oliver” and “Merlin”. In collaboration with the University of Zurich, they came up with a modern interpretation of the BMW Isetta. While the first prototype was still screwed together in China, the final production model is now being built more than six years later in Turin (Italy) by Cecomp, a company that you may know from – let’s say something – the assembly of the iconic Lancia Delta S4.
To say that the Ouboter family was inspired by the iconic 1950s BMW Isetta is a complete understatement. Because this definitely looks like an Isetta crawling out of a time capsule, including the front opening door! To be fair, in a sea of sporty styled cars and obese SUVs, this Microlino is a refreshing appearance. With just enough futuristic design features to satisfy the young hipster. Just look at those continuous front and rear lights and those two rocket launchers on either side that serve as lights on the one hand but wrap the side mirrors on the other. Although smaller than your pantry, the design is completely mustache.
Can you sit comfortably in this Microlino?
With a length of just 2.52 meters, we completely understand the fear in terms of seating comfort. After all, the wheelbase of a Fiat 500 is almost larger. But that’s just it. The length and wheelbase of this Microlino are almost identical! In other words: this Microlino has just as much interior space as a Fiat 500, but barely has to provide space for 2. The result is that you can easily take place with two adults on the one-piece sofa in this Microlino. As long as you’re not averse to some shoulder-to-shoulder action during the better cornering.
Well, anything for a smaller wheel footprint in traffic, right? What’s more, the limited width has an additional advantage: the fixed steering column and the pedals are not completely to the left, but a few taps to the middle. This makes it theoretically possible to give your passenger control on the road. Although we do not recommend that in practice. Still not convinced of the inner space magic of this Microlino? Then we invite you to take a look at the suitcase. with 230 liters of volume, it is considerably larger than a Fiat 500 (185 liters). Or to put it in Micro’s words; the case of the Microlino has room for 3 crates of beer. Look, now you speak our language.
What about the interior finish?
The minimalism of the interior is somewhat at odds with the frivolous exterior. As if two different design departments got to work. A metal tube over the, erm, front door is the eye-catcher. Thanks to an integrated infotainment screen and Microlino-branded smartphone holder. However, hard dark plastics and a simple finish attract the most attention. Ditto for the handbrake and gear selector on the left side. Those eyes not made for eternity. We can also say the same about the key of the Microlino. Because although this ball has a soft close function for the front door, you still have to ram a classic key into the ignition to wake up the Microlino. Not a problem in itself, but that key always feels two pulses away from complete disintegration.
Well, we do understand Micro’s design reasoning. For example, almost the entire interior consists of recycled plastic and vegan upholstery. As a result, they undoubtedly contribute to the environment. The design is therefore not in the finish, but in the details. Details like Mario’s Bullet Bill icon on top of the sport button or the digital instrument cluster right in front of you that looks (and works) better than the Volkswagen Group ones. We therefore do not understand at all why that cluster cannot show the remaining kilometers in the electric tank. A small effort, right Microlino?
What’s under the hood of this Microlino?
Four wheels and a fun horn. Or, if you really need to know: a compact battery and electric motor. The electric motor is hidden on the rear axle and is invariably 17 hp and 89 Nm of torque strong. For the battery, the Swiss brand gives customers a choice of three variants. There is a petite version with 6 kWh, a variant with 10.5 kWh and a “Long Range” with a battery of 14 kWh. With the latter, the Microlino can travel up to 230 kilometers according to the test method, with the small battery less than 100 kilometers. But let’s be honest, that’s only possible if you live in Downhill City in a moderate climate and the wind happens to be behind you all day long.
For example, we set out with the limited Pioneer Series that can show off a “Medium Battery”. According to Microlino good for 177 kilometers in Downhill City. During our test period, however, temperatures barely rose above freezing, so consumption fluctuated around 10.5 kWh/100 km. Fast calculators will have already understood that we could therefore travel a maximum of 100 kilometers with our copy. More than enough for urban use, of course, although you can see the battery shrinking very quickly while driving. In percentage points, of course! So you never know how far you can still drive.
Range anxiety dus, in zo’n Microlino?
Gosh. Look before you leap, don’t you? This is one of those vehicles where you know that a trip from Ostend to the Signal de Botrange can take up to two days (although). Fast charging is not included (with a maximum of 2.6 kW AC charging), on the other hand, the battery is so small that you literally see the range increase per minute, even at a standard socket at home. There was therefore no question of range anxiety. Because you know that this cart has to prove its usefulness in an urban environment where kilometers are de facto limited. Not unimportant anyway; thanks to its top speed of 90 km/h, this Microlino also holds its own on regional roads. Given our typical ribbon development, this is not an unimportant detail to take into account.
In addition, its acceleration power is also impressive. That is to say: for a ball of this size. With a sprint of barely 5 seconds to 50 km/h, you actually leave quite a bit of comfort at the traffic light behind you. Much to the joy of winner and loser. The advantage of his sympathetic looks, so to speak. We can be brief about the steering behavior: there is… but don’t expect miracles. Due to its curb weight of around 500 kilograms, there is no power steering, which means that steering at low speeds can feel a bit heavy. Although the Microlino looks like a buzzing ball, driving feels a bit less frivolous. Not least thanks to the suspension. Or rather, the lack thereof. Because this Microlino is so thoroughly dampened that your hernia begs to take the bike once a week. Well, the fact that you can secretly slide something with this Microlino more than makes up for it.
A more than pleasant mobility solution, this Microlino. Maybe until we get to the price. For example, the cheapest version with that tiny 6 kWh battery already costs 17,990 euros. The variant with “big” battery? 22,990 euros. That can count per running meter! Unfortunately, the Microlino is therefore completely out of the wallet of the average city dweller. Around 20,000 euros for a vehicle without ABS, without airbags, with space for two and a heater that sounds like a hair dryer (and probably is one)… can we say that the world has gone completely crazy?
Let’s see what this Microlino was developed for – getting cars out of the city – then you can ask yourself whether you’re not better off with a Citroën Ami of 7,800 euros, a shared car or an electric bicycle. Is this Microlino the best microcar we’ve driven so far?
Yes. But also the most expensive.
In an ideal world, this is an ideal vehicle. Only the world is far from ideal and this Microlino is perhaps 10,000 euros too expensive. This is a marketing tool for estate agents, hairdressers or Italian plumbers specialized in tiny siphons. Paste some advertising on this Microlino and you will certainly have positive reactions. There is potential in this, but we are not seeing it at the moment. However, does Micro lose sleep over this, with already 16,000 orders in Europe?
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