This car isn’t based so much on older models from Renault or Nissan like other Dacia products; instead it has been engineered to sell in huge numbers in China.
Mass production brings down costs, meaning that this little SUV should cost less than any other electric car. In fact, Dacia claims that it will be cheaper to own than any other car of any sort, be it petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric.
The five-door supermini has proved a resounding success throughout Europe, with more than 120,000 customer orders placed since its launch. Three quarters of all sales have been to individual private customers rather than fleets, with Spring is the main means of transport during the week for households, even when there is another car they can use.
Dacia has officially confirmed that the Spring will be coming to the UK in 2024, with an 'enhanced' version which has improvements in design and equipment over the car we tried. The basic hardware - battery, motor, etc - will be the same though.
Dacia Spring design and quality
First, let’s look at the design. This isn’t a boring hatchback or cutesy city car; instead it’s a modern looking baby SUV. It only takes up the same sort of road space as something like a VW Up though, being just the size of a playing card longer.
There is a choice of two variants – the Spring Extreme ELECTRIC 65 and Spring Essential ELECTRIC 45. Besides the extra power in the 65, which we'll get to later, the Extreme has some funkier bits of trim inside and out which are designed to make it look more rugged.
Inside the quality is pretty solid too. The seats in the Extreme are covered in a faux hide, but it is certainly more faux than leather. It will certainly be practical for families with messy toddlers and pets, but it feels fake and becomes uncomfortably sweaty in warm weather.
But the cockpit is attractive, modern and surprisingly digital. The consoles are colourful, but there are areas where the Spring feels very bargain basement. The doors shut with a clang which makes it sound like there’s an empty drinks can in the door pocket and the trim lines are hard and mismatched in places.
Oddly it is the only car we’ve come across that smells cheap too, with a plasticky/rubbery aroma which became a little overwhelming. Perhaps it’s a plot to get drivers to open the window instead of using the power-sapping air con. .
Dacia Spring Interior, practicality, boot space and technology
Settle yourself inside and it’s reasonably spacious in the front, partly because you’re more upright than you’d be in a traditional city car. Anyone over six foot might find themselves staring at the sunvisor rather than the middle of the screen though, and broad-shouldered occupants might find themselves uncomfortably invading personal space zones occasionally. The steering wheel doesn't adjust either.
The rear seat only has two seat belts – worth bearing in mind if you need to carry five occasionally – and will be a squash for anyone above primary school age. There's little in the way of legroom and the door openings are tiny, which makes it a chore to get in and out of the car if you are tall, chubby or less mobile.
There is better news in the boot. It holds 300 litres – that’s bigger than some cars from the class above. A Peugeot e-208 has 265 litres, for example.
However, the opening is small, narrow and there is a tall ‘lip’ which will make loading large and heavy items trickier. As you you’d expect in a hatchback the seats fold too, but there is no 60/40 split in the bench.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the legal payload of the Spring is 330kg. That could soon become an issue if you’re carrying chunky passengers or loads.
Dacia Spring performance and driving
Those numbers in the model names – the 45 and 65 - aren’t the battery sizes as you might expect if you follow trends in electric car naming. Instead, they refer to the power output, meaning the Spring is available with either 45 and 65 horsepower. The 65 isn’t too bad – it’s about the same as that Kia Picanto with a 1-litre petrol engine. The 45 hp is a bit of a challenge though, as it will be the least powerful car on sale in the UK by some margin.
Shall we talk about 0-60 times? The 65 will manage the sprint in 13.7 seconds. Which is slow, but not disastrous and actually quicker than some of Dacia’s . The 45 though takes a rather more leisurely 19.1 seconds.
But that’s not what this car is about. It’s designed for use in towns mainly, and at speeds of up to 50mph the 65 we tried felt perfectly adequate.
Venture higher than that and the Spring’s performance tails off but its never an embarrassment and you won’t find yourself causing traffic jams like you will in a Citroen Ami.
The driving dynamics are perfectly suited to town driving too, where the tiny 14-inch wheels do a fine job of soaking up potholes and dealing with speed bumps. The steering is quick and weighted to make parking a breeze, although if you try and spin the steering wheel too fast or rush the change from Drive to Reverse it can take a fraction of a second to react. That seem petty, but it is frustrating if you have other cars bearing down on you in a car park or on a side road as you try to sneak into a space.
On faster roads the Spring bounces around a little more than other city cars and is susceptible to side winds, but it’s actually good fun. Don’t expect much in the way of refinement at speed though. Even compared to other city cars which engines, the Spring has little in the way of refinement with plenty of wind noise and tyre roar.
Dacia Spring battery, charging and efficiency
The battery size is a smudge under 27kWh, which is actually more than the original Nissan Leaf but half the size of cars like the Vauxhall Corsa Electric. The range though is a claimed 140 miles – which is more than some rivals like the Honda e and Mazda MX-30, even though they have bigger batteries.
You’ll be using less electricity too of course, with a claimed consumption figure of 5.2 miles from a kWh of power putting the Spring near the top of the efficiency tree.
The lack of performance means efficiency can be increased. Which means the battery can be made smaller and still give a decent range. This makes the car lighter, and with less weight, other parts such as the brakes can also be made smaller.
Even with the more powerful 65 motor the Spring weighs 975kg, which is about half that of something like a VW ID.3.
But you won’t be charging particularly quickly. This is a car which is designed to be charged at home, slowly – the speed is limited to 6.6kW which is slightly lower that the norm and means a dead-to-full charge on a home wall box takes just under five hours.
Rapid charging is an optional extra, but ups the feed speed to 30kW. That's still low compared to rivals, which generally take at least 40kW. A car like the Corsa Electric will take power on three times as fast.
The real disappointment is the lack of any regenerative braking capability. There is some ‘engine braking’ effect when you lift off the throttle pedal but there is no extra regen when you touch the brake.
This is a key part of all other EVs and adds noticeably to the efficiency, as the braking energy get put back into the battery. But it’s expensive and tricky to engineer and this car is all about keeping cost low.
Dacia Spring Verdict
We are a bit torn about the Spring. We welcome cheaper ways to get into an electric car and hope Dacia can get the finance costs to a level which make it really attractive to drivers who want a funky looking and fun to drive city car with just about enough space for a young family.
Hopefully the upgraded version we will get next year will answer some of the criticisms of this car. There’s the lack of regen braking for a start, but more concerning is the ‘sub-optimal’ safety score.
While the model we tried is indeed expected to be the lowest-priced ‘proper’ electric car on sale, it really does feel like it. Unlike other city cars, the Spring feels cheap rather than good value - in contrast to Dacia’s other products.
Until the new VW ID.2 and Citroen eC3 arrive the Spring’s main competition will be a used electric car, and there’s a decent selection of lightly-used hatchback EVs which can be procured for the Spring’s expected asking price.
But while securing lease and PCP-type finance on a used car can be tricky, it is going to be the way most buyers will buy this car. If Dacia can get it right and make the costs attractive, there could be electric Dacias springing up everywhere.