Last week I drove the future. This wasn't some adolescent fantasy or questionable concept. It was a full-blown electric production car designed in California and built in India. In some circles of London society, the G-Wiz has become a fashion accessory, a potent symbol of a social conscience. It's green, it's cool-and it's rubbish.
I drove the car for a film shoot in Liverpool, the depressed British city that is now, officially, the European Capital of Culture. The plan was to take three cool city cars-the G-Wiz, the Fiat 500 and the Mitsubishi i-to a trendy urban center.
In the UK, the G-Wiz is sold only in London and although its hypothetical range is 50 miles, the nice lady in the dealership explained that, in January, on proper roads, its real range was about 25 miles. Liverpool is 220 miles from London.
So I put the car on a trailer and hooked it up to the back of my V8 diesel Range Rover Sport. For 220 miles, I averaged 16.7 mpg and emitted more than 198 pounds of carbon dioxide. Not exactly green.
Now I could enjoy some emissions-free motoring. And maybe the womenfolk of Liverpool would love me for my bunny-hugging, new age sensibilities. In California, ladies love you for your Prius, but Liverpool is not Los Angeles and the G-Wiz is definitely not a Toyota.
The ladies didn't love me in Liverpool because the G-Wiz looks ridiculous. It was styled by a man desperately seeking the sack. The G-Wiz looks crap from every angle. It's not even inverse cool. It's just nasty.
The build quality is laughable. Three people approached me to say that I'd left the door open. Except I hadn't. It was just that the panel gaps were wide enough to fit a small child. It's even worse inside. The windows slide-awkwardly-instead of lowering, the driving position has been tuned to the world's smallest man and the plastics have the integrity of a politician's smile.
It also feels monumentally dangerous. The G-Wiz went through a Euro NCAP crash test last year and the results were retch-inducing. The dummy's head hit the windscreen and the devastation was such that the poor chap had to be cut out of the wreckage. It was one of the worst performances by any car... ever.
To counter criticism, Reva, the company responsible for the G-Wiz, has introduced a raft of improvements, including a 30-percent increase in braking capacity. It has also put it through an independent crash test... for quadricycles... in India. I haven't felt that unsafe since I last drove blindfold at 160 mph.
Then there's the problem of range. Although the nice lady reckoned 25 miles was feasible on a single charge, the juice gauge started twitching nervously after just a couple of blocks. It was a freezing cold day, but I didn't dare use the heater, or the stereo. Air conditioning is an extra, but the G-Wiz website warns that not only is the system naughty and 'un-green,' it also wipes 12 miles off the already pitiful range.
The car has an automatic gearbox: twist a rotary knob for 'go' and give it another twist for 'boost.' The latter is a prerequisite if the gradient is anything other than flat, but it ruins the range. The ride is uncomfortable, there's no trunk to speak of and the rear seats are reserved for legless children.
Then, when the misery is over, you have to find a place to charge it. I tried to plug it into my hotel room, but the Health and Safety police spotted the loose cable and literally pulled the plug. Eventually I found a multi-storey car park and sweet-talked the attendant. And so I left my little car plugged into the mains and went to the bar. Next morning it was still there and fully charged, which was great. Until it broke down. I'd been driving for about 10 minutes when there was a pop from the rear and that was that. No more drive. In desperation, we attached a tow rope to the back of the Range Rover, but after less than a mile the car's towing eye sheared off. "They're badly designed," said the guy from G-Wiz. "We keep telling the factory, but they don't listen."
Ater this thoroughly deplorable experience, I strapped the car back onto the trailer and returned to London. The G-Wiz might be trendy and voted Best City Car by hemp-wearing types, but it doesn't work on any level. It doesn't even make environmental sense because you'd always need another car. It's a joke, but I've saved the biggest laugh for last. The cost of this madness is nearly $20,000. If this really is the future, I need a new job.