Urban plunge

IMG_5313As I near the end of a trip to Australia, I have taken every opportunity to leap into the water – whether off a jetty or in a creek.  With temperatures at nearly 40C the water was immediately, and intensely reviving, and crystal clear.  Sydney, itself, has plenty of harbour and ocean bathing spots, from the iconic Icebergs in Bondi to the rolling surf beyond.  I love the sense of weightlessness, freedom, and peace when swimming, literally disconnected from the bleeps and pings that crowd our days.  Under, or in, the water the outside world is muffled.  As each breath lengthens, so does each stroke, gliding through the water, creating space to reflect.  Swimming outdoors heightens the senses further, and provides a unique perspective on our surroundings.

For so long the lifeblood of our urban settlements, water is vital to our daily life.  Cities were founded alongside rivers and the coast for pragmatic reasons, providing access to trade, transport, defense, agriculture, and essential access to fresh water.  In the West, water gushes from the faucet, clean, bountiful, fresh and clean.  A couple of days bush camping as a family of four with a long-drop toilet and rainwater is a stark reminder of how casual our relationship with water has become.  The average person in the UK uses 150 litres of water a day.  Boiling rainwater to wash the dishes and rationing water to prioritise drinking water provoked lots of questions from our daughters.  Disconnected from water, we neglect it.

In London, the Thames was at the heart of urban life for centuries from Tudor pageants on the Royal Barge to Victorian floating “bath palaces” such as the 135ft x 25ft structure at Charing Cross.  Caitlin Davies, author of the forthcoming book, “Downstream: a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames” describes, “by the 1930s, the Thames was a resort for families.  There were beaches near the Tower of London and downriver at Greenwich”.  This fascinating history of swimming in London forms the introduction to Urban Plunge: new designs for natural swimming in our cities, an exhibition at Roca London Gallery. Yet, by the 1960s the Thames was declared biologically dead, as the curator of Urban Plunge, Jane Withers, observes “We settled by rivers, we turned them into sewers”.  Increasing river traffic and pollution led to a decline in swimming.  When artist Amy Sharrocks invited 50 people to swim across London from Tooting Bec Lido to Hampstead Heath Ponds for Swim in 2007, the only part they did not swim was the Thames.  However this is beginning to change.

StudioOctopi’s Thames Baths proposal is for a floating freshwater pool at TemThames-Bath-Project-by-Studio-Octopi_dezeen_8ple Stairs off the Victoria Embankment.  The original scheme was predicated on the Thames Water upgrade of the sewer system, but a more recent proposal uses unchlorinated rain or tap water.  Prompted by interest in river swimming, the Mayor’s Office has commissioned a feasibility study into tides, river traffic and possibilities for filtration.

design-image-01If cleaning the whole river is too distant a goal, PlayLab‘s +Pool in New York plans are for a river water-filtering floating swimming pool.  The pool is designed to echo the shape of the cities’ intersections, creating four pools in one: Kid’s, Sports, Lap and Lounge pools.  The Float Lab filtration system is currently being tested in the Hudson River, and anybody will be able to access realtime water quality data via a Dashboard supported by Google Drive.  Crowd-funded “tile by tile” you too can buy one and reserve a first dip in the pool some time in 2016.

The King’s Cross Pond Club, due to open in spring 2015, will be a temporary oasis in the midst of a brownfield construction site.  The bare landscape striped just as beaches and rivers strip us of our layers, observes Pfannes.  Designed by architects Ooze (Eva Pfannes and Sylvain Hartenberg) and artist Marjetica Potrč, the 40 metre long pond will be entirely chemical free, with water purified through a natural, closed-loop process process using wetland and submerged water plants.  Surrounded by wild flowers and grasses, the whole experience will change with the seasons.   The number of swimmers admitted each day will be limited by the capacity of the plants to clean the water, “a symbolic act for the balance of living in a sustainable city” explains Potrč.

house-of-water-appCopenhagen’s five harbour baths offer a vision of the future.  The first harbour bath opened in 2002 after modernising the sewer system and diverting local rainwater to reach safe swimming standards.  The baths are vibrant public spaces linking the city with the water.  Now a new island is planned in the harbour, the House of Water, dedicated to water pursuits and education to inspire local and global audiences to invest in sustainable water solutions to create liveable cities.

The schemes exhibited at Urban Plunge are not only exciting natural swimming venues, but invite us to re-engage with our cities and our water.  The schemes challenge us to think about sustainable living in cities, and our shared use of this most precious of resources.  You might just be persuaded to dive in this summer, if not before.

Image credits: Studio Octopi; +Pool; Ooze & Potrč; State of Green

Related links: http://www.rocalondongallery.com/en/activities/detail/129 http://www.museumofwater.co.uk http://www.wildswimming.co.uk http://www.dezeen.com/2014/01/13/swimming-pools-river-thames-london-studio-octopi

Summer bliss at Bedruthan

family_0000_mawgan-porth_large I live in a city, I love the city, but I am not of the city, and I often crave the fresh air and distant horizons of the coast.  So our second annual summer trip to Bedruthan Hotel and Spa with the in-laws was eagerly awaited.  I first heard about the Bedruthan Hotel from Richard Hammond, then editor of the Green Hotelier, now founder and CEO of www.greentraveller.co.uk, when I worked at the International Tourism Partnership, and now, with two young children, I match the hotel’s demographic perfectly.

bed1Bedruthan hotel is perched above Mawgan Porth, a spectacular horseshoe-shaped bay between Newquay and Padstow on Cornwall’s north coast, in the midst of a natural playground.  Our ‘villa’ room, with a children’s bunk room and completely seperate adult king-sized room, had full length windows opening on to a small terrace and then looking out across the bay over the children’s outdoor play area (pictured right).  We could recline on the sun lounger and watch our kids scrabble around the pirate ship, tackle the obstacle course, or the trampoline.  The hotel rooms are in the midst of a refurbishment programme with bright, fresh decor that inevitably takes quite a bashing from younger guests.  The soap and shampoo bars are handmade in Cornwall.  The views are breath-taking, whatever time of day and whatever the weather.

We were blessed with sunshine, so we spent long days at the beach searching rock pools, building castles and wave-jumping.  For £6 a day, we hired a foam surf-board down at the beach and the girls loved their first ‘surfing’ experience.  Older kids were enjoying lessons with Nick, Bedruthan’s resident surf instructor.  I enjoyed swimming out the back of the surf under the watchful gaze of the RNLI lifeguards that man the beach daily from 10am-6pm.  If the swell was too choppy to swim, then a run along the 704%2F1021%2FCarnewas+Joe+Cornish+940x529_thumb_460x0%2C0coast path definitely got my heart rate up.  The first part of my run was a steep climb, but once on the cliff top the bright yellow gorse, brilliant warm hues of the heather and other wildflowers certainly took my mind off the effort.  I ran the couple of miles to Bedruthan Steps, huge rock stacks along Bedruthan beach below the Carnewas National Trust site.  At one time, iron, copper and lead was mined from the cliffs, today you can fill up on tea and cake at the cafe.  Or bring a thermos after dark and marvel at the night sky as the site was recently recognised as a Dark Skies Discovery Site.

There are a range of activities off-campus as well.  Coasteering, swimming through gullies and caves, and kayaking are a couple for those who love the water.  For land-lovers there is the option to cycle the Camel Trail between Padstow (home of Rick Stein’s food empire) and Wadebridge, pony-trekking or wild food walks led by chef Adam Clark (a guide to food foraging is available on Bedruthan’s website).  On a rainy day the Eden Project is not far away, or sample one of the free indoor activities such as making Balinese shadow puppets, singing or a print workshop.  There is entertainment every evening for kids.  Billy Whizz and Chloe the Clown are firm favourites.  Adults can also be entertained every evening from jazz to John Brolly, a brilliant, and original storyteller.  On Sunday evening, a feature-length documentary about getting kids outdoors and reconnecting with nature, Project Wild Thing, is shown.  The film is now a much wider movement, in collaboration with the National Trust and many other organisations, to get kids outdoors as it is better for their well-being. The free Wild Time app offers plenty of suggestions for outdoor fun whether you have ten minutes or a morning.

service_0003_Wild-Cafe-dayThe comprehensive list of local suggestions reflects Bedruthan’s wider commitment to supporting local businesses and use of Cornish suppliers and artisans.  Both the main restaurants, the informal Wild Cafe, and more grown up Herring are members of the Sustainable Restaurant Association.  In fact the Wild Cafe has 3 stars from the SRA, their highest accolade, a reflection of their passion for local and seasonal products (85% of suppliers are local, across the hotel they have a business goal to source 70% of consumables from local suppliers).  The food is inspired by food heroes including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to Yotam Ottolenghi.  The evening menu changes daily, as well as offering the stalwart burgers and pizzas. Kids dinner (4.30-6pm daily) is a choice of three hot dishes and, or a cold buffet.  The ice creams are delicious, we were addicted to salted almond.  Downstairs is the more formal restaurant, The Herring, serving delicious seasonal food with a focus on Cornish seafood.  A window table, with a chilled glass of 2012 Camel Valley ‘Cornwall’ Pinot Noir sparkling rose was a real treat!  For an even better view of the sunset, we snuck out one evening for dinner down at The Scarlet, the Bedruthan’s super-sexy sister, complete with natural swimming pool and hot tub with a view.  I can not wait for a weekend away without the kids to indulge in all it has to offer!

gordon-russel-sideboard-lucy-turner-300x200The hotel exhibits a wide variety of work by local artists, such as Sarah Duncan.  The furniture includes eye-catching mid-century pieces, similar to the piece pictured, that have been beautifully up-cycled by local designers such as Lucy Turner (if you like mid-century furniture, Bedruthan are running a Mid-Century Fair in October.  Other pieces are from RE:SOURCE, a Cornish social enterprise that is part of the national drug and alcohol charity Addaction, offers training and work placements to socially excluded people.  Tables and lighting from Unto this Last suit the fresh, contemporary vibe that has defined the hotel since it was built.

The commitment to sustainability is more than aesthetic, it was part of the hotel’s conception.  The parents of the current owners bought a small coastal hotel in 1959 with a vision.  Bedruthan has been innovative from the outset with bold, modern architecture creating less stuffy, open spaces.  Green roofs to improve the view from hotel bedrooms, and insulate, their own bakery and a focus on design (they already had a Scandinavian inspired shop) were ahead of their time. Behind the scenes, there is a strong focus on energy, waste and water conservation.  The building has its limitations in terms of energy, but the hotel purchases from 100% guaranteed renewable tariff.  Other measures have been taken, like using waste energy from fridges to heat hot water in the kitchens saving energy equivalent to boiling 3,250 full kettles each day.  As well as the ubiquitous towel and linen policy, water is conserved in the spa (a newer building) by using rainwater to flush the toilets (not that you would notice).  Elsewhere, toilets have dual flush options and small cisterns, and our taps and showers are fitted with aerators.  The hotel has worked with suppliers to reduce packaging or develop re-usable packaging.  There are recycling bins around the hotel and composting bins for coffee grounds and seaweed from all those spa body-wraps!

New landscaping reflects Bedruthan’s location on the North Cornwall coast, and I noticed many more areas of the grounds and roofs growing wild to encourage wildlife.  The hotel staff organise quarterly beach cleans (last count 25kg of rubbish, plus lots of rope and fishing nets that could not get on the scales).  They are also Business Members of the Cornish Wildlife Trust.  Even the choice of product for treatments in the spa reflects the hotels environmental sensibilities with organic, natural brands of REN, Voya and most recently ila on offer.

The hotel is award-winning, and it is easy to see why.  At the start of peak season there is the occasional hiccup, but it is always remedied with grace.  The hotel is relaxing, friendly and authentic. The hotel’s policy speaks of its ‘Cherish the World’ ethos, with the aim “to create memorable holidays, experiences and escapes which don’t cost the Earth”.  The hotel celebrates and is sympathetic to its location of outstanding, natural beauty.  Our holiday was a real breath of fresh air.

For full details of the hotel’s facilities please visit their website.

Image credits: Bedruthan Hotel, Joe Cornish, Lucy Turner.

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2013/11/25/be-a-wild-thing/

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2014/03/04/a-conversation-with-unto-this-last/

 

Abundance of blooms at New Designers Part 1

holmesAesthetic beauty was blooming at New Designers Part 1, the first chapter of an exhibition that shows work from over 3000 UK graduate designers over two weeks.  Part 1 showcased textiles, fashion, contemporary applied arts (including ceramics and glass), jewellery and metalwork.

Fauna and particularly flora (Laura Holmes pictured left) provided a deep well of inspiration for many of this year’s graduates, with bold, outsized, colourful prints of flowers greeting you as soon as you walked. Flashes of tropical colour from Sophie Painter,  Loughborough University, who garnered a “John Lewis Loves” label sat alongside, the ethereal, wintry prints from Robyn Dark.  Amy Malcolmson, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, also won a “John Lewis Loves” label for her clean, crisp spring and autumn floral series.  Her hand-painted wallpaper samples echo the fresh, vibrant, if whimsical florals of Dame Elizabeth Blackadder.

cravenLayering images to depth and structure to floral was a popular technique.  Ellie-rose McFall‘s handprinted textiles, which overlay wildflowers on cracked surfaces, are inspired by the Garden Bridge, planned for London in 2016.  Sophie Tattersall, De Montford University, Leicester, uses layered photographs to create delicate floral patterns.  Sophie Thompson, Nottingham Trent University, builds up layers of detail taking inspiration from nature, enhancing hand drawn imagery with digital techniques.  I was drawn to “In the Undergrowth”, with a mix of birds, bugs and silhouettes.  Charlotte Raven‘s wallpaper (pictured right) is a like of snapshot of a summer garden in bloom.  Malin-Charlotte Ødemark work draws on landscapes creating a subtle, earthy palette that worked to great effect as upholstery on Ercol’s classic sofa.

buchanan

Natural beauty went more than skin deep for Emily Buchanan, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.  Her work, Living+Dying displays the wonderful array of colours accessible from nature using traditional craft methods.  Red cabbage, red onion, eucalyptus, and other plants dyes, two mordants, time and a couple of serendipitous accidents were used to dye peace silk a rich spectrum of soothing tones.  buchanan2Peace silk allows the silkworm to emerge from their cocoons. The silk is degummed and spun like other fibre, instead of being reeled.  Conventional silk is made by boiling the intact cocoons, which kills the silk worms.  Emily is a passionate advocate of the joys, and beauty, of natural dyes.  She continues to run workshops with schools and interested groups.  There were a couple of interested parties at the show.

From the natural, to the utterly fabricated, Laura Holmes makes fantastical floral displays from recycled plastics.  Laura works with milk bottles, coke bottles, offcuts of acetates, sequin film and all manner of plastics.  They are cut, painted and flocked inspired by colours from the aquarium.  The result is almost fantastical.

healy2Karoline Healy‘s Domestic Mining is also an ethos that makes good use of the things that we find in our homes.  Karoline was first inspired by reading0 Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.  A visit to India and encounters with street vendors and road-side workshops prompted Karoline to design a kiosk.  The kiosk is constructed from household objects, an old shredder, file, bicycle chain. Discarded plastic bottles are shredded, moulded, marked with the appropriate recycle sign and then a watch assembled from the flat pack kit.  No glues, nails, paints, or varnishes are used, so the watch can be readily repaired or recycled.

rosakSophie Rosak’s table lamp with a shade of naturally-tanned leather, and copper, is simply constructed and so easily dissembled at its end of life. Its industrial style is softened by the warm tones of the leather and copper.  priceA simple aesthetic defines Rebecca Price’s work.  Scouted by the Design Council’s ‘One to Watch’, her food storage jars (pictured left) are covetable for any contemporary kitchen.  The lid of each vessel is also a portion measure.  What is more the vessels nestle snuggly together saving precious space on your worktop.

More covetable vessels were on display as part of One Year On, which showcases the work of 50 emerging designers in their first year of business. I was delighted to catch up with Isatu Hyde, who I met at New Designers 2013.  hydeAfter a stint with Kilner to develop her foraging project, Isatu is now an apprentice with Marches Pottery in Ludlow.  Isatu has worked with terracotta for the first time to throw distinctive coffee drippers, carafes, cups, and milk jugs, as well as continuing to develop her own distinct style.  I fell in love with these bowls, inspired by those used by Medieval monks.

boonsNext door was Sofie Boons, the Alchemical Jeweller, a graduate of the RCA, 2013.  Available as a recipe book and kit, with an elegant silver pin, I was lucky enough to experience Sofie’s solid perfume.  Grapefruit zest, TicTacs, mint, cardamon, coconut and salt were put in small pouch and pinned as a brooch to my chest. My daughters thought it smelt good enough to eat.  I was reminded of Lauren Davies Alchemists Design Table, encouraging a transparency and honesty about what we put on our skin.

The show was a feast for the senses.  Appreciation of the environment was visually evident, but scrabble around in the undergrowth and the homage rarely has the opportunity to go deeper.  There was a desire to design textiles and surfaces that take their appreciation of the natural world to a more tangible level, constrained by cost, college facilities, and a sense that demand is limited.  As the exhibition for emerging design it would be great to see more innovative and sustainable textiles on show as they begin to be adopted more widely, especially by contract clients.

New Designers Part 2 will be at the Business Design Centre in Islington from 2nd until 5th July.

Related links:

https://carefullycurated.co.uk/2013/07/08/new-designers-2013-2/

My, my i3

gwiz My love affair with our little electric car, the G-Wizz has been long, but flawed.  We had a lot of fun whiz-zing around town, sneaking down side streets (and the occasional cycle way such is its size), squeezing nose to kerb, and revelling in free parking in Westminster and zero congestion charge. But our family has literally outgrown its diminutive proportions, and there are safer, and sexier options available.

i3So here is our new i3.  As an early adopter, and optimist, I was hopeful when the BMW Park Lane showroom opened last July, but quietly concerned the realities of battery performance in the changeable British climate would still be a challenge. The i3 is all I hoped for, and more.  A great leap forward, and testament to BMW’s attention to detail and engineering.

It is a hot hatch, without compromise.  The high-voltage lithium ion battery provides 125 kW/170hp of power and torque of 250 Nm.  With electric motors full torque is available from standstill, instantly propelling the car 0-37mph in 4 seconds, and 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds.   And it is a very comfortable ride with super soft suspension.  Driver and passengers are all up high, sitting on top of the battery pack,  and my small children love the view. I may no longer be able to park nose to kerb, but it does have a turning circle to rival a London black cab.

interieur-design-02.jpg.resource.1375355091340The i3 is certainly eye-catching with a distinctive ‘Black Band’ that runs from the bonnet over the roof to the rear of the car and large 19inch alloy wheels.  The lightweight Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) passenger compartment is matched by the use of innovative, natural, and sustainable materials inside.  KENAF a fast-growing member of the cotton family is used for door panel livery.  The leather has been naturally-tanned, using olive leaves.  25% of the plastic used in the interior comes from recycled material or renewable resources and all the seat textiles are from recycled fibres.  I only hope as much design consideration was given to the end of the car’s life-cycle.

It is a revolution.  Driving an electric car is no longer an act of enlightened self-interest, but a pleasure, even in London traffic.  Now heads turn from awe and admiration, rather than amusement.  As Elizabeth Farrelly said “the best, most dramatic and most reliable motivator of human behavioural change is beauty”.  Judging by the looks on people’s faces as I drive by the i3 is desirable.  All reputational risk has been removed.  I have even spotted drivers usually associated with a Land Rover Evoque gliding through the West End in an i3.

So how far can you go?  The all electric i3 has a real world range of 100 miles (depending on driving style, traffic situation and road conditions) in the Comfort setting.  The ECO PRO+ mode extends the range by about 25% by reducing the top speed to 55mph, and deactivating heating and air-conditioning.  The Range Extender (a small petrol engine) enables a range of up to 186 miles, with the usual caveats about driving style.  In 2012, the average trip length in the UK was 7 miles (according to the National Traffic Survey). It is an average, so some of us drive much further, but 66% of trips are less than 5 miles and 95% of trips are less than 25 miles.  The average car in Britain travels around 20 miles a day, so well within range.

For longer journeys, the electric super highway is becoming a reality.  In fact, the BMW i3 we test drove had made a trip to Old Trafford.  In July 2011, Ecotricity installed their first electric vehicle charge point at a Welcome Break.  Ecotricity are also installing charge points at IKEA.  AC fast-charging can take less than 3 hours (0-80%), so a typical IKEA trip would probably top you up enough to get home!

stand2Electric cars are kinder to urban air quality, but they can not improve congestion levels.  To have fewer cars on the roads we need different transport models.  Car clubs and car sharing have grown in popularity in recent years.  Although London accounts for around 137,000 car club members (80% of the national total, Carplus annual survey 2013/14) and 2,230 cars, schemes are being rolled out in a number of other major UK cities.  At Show RCA 2014 this week, I met Jaana Tarma (pictured left), graduating from the RCA MA Service Design programme.  Her final project, Worksparks, is  a platform that provides ad-hoc, immediate travel for commuters who could even be matched to drivers with similar interests.  The app for geo-location enabled smartphones allows commuters to request a lift from colleagues either in advance, or in real time.  In an organisational setting, participating drivers could receive preferential parking or even financial rewards as savings from building or leasing few parking spaces provide a saving.  I wonder if I can get the new school run Mums to trial it in September?  The incentive, a ride in the i3.

For a the full technical specification visit the BMWi3 website.  The BMW i3 is around £25,ooo including the government grant.

Image credit: BMW, Jaana Tarma  & my own!

 

 

Be a wild thing

m-5242c3332abbaLast night I went to a screening of Project Wild Thing, a film to prod, prompt and inspire us all to get more kids playing freely outside and reconnecting with the natural world around them.  As someone who used to be Wilde by name, and often in the wild by nature, I was taken aback to reflect how little time I, and so my children, now spend in nature.

The film looked at the pressures that have lured children to swop wild time for screen time,marketing, the increasing health and safety culture of fear, and literally shrinking amounts of green space, particularly in urban environments.  David Bond, the film’s director, and self-appointed marketing director for nature, asks some big thinkers does it matter?  A UNICEF study from 2007 placed the UK at the bottom of the child well-being league table among developed countries.  More recent research by Ipsos MORI for UNICEF UK has shown that children in the UK feel trapped in a “materialistic culture”.  The children in survey reported that things important to their well-being were time and good relationships with family and friends, and a range of activities, particularly outside of the home.  The RSPB published a report last month, Connecting with Nature, that found only 21% of children are said to have achieved a level of connection to nature that is ‘realistic and achievable’ for all children.  So what can you do?

Watch the film, or at least the trailer, and ask yourself, “How is my relationship with nature?”.  You too might be prompted to join the Wild Network, the network of charities and organisations that are working to tackle some of the issues raised in the film.  You might be curious enough to take the RSPB’s Connection Measure to see how connected you are to nature.

If like me, you realise you have been neglecting the call of the wild, download the Wild Time app.  Depending on how long you have, 10 minutes to half a day, the app will give you and, or your kids, some pointers on what you can do in your window outdoors.  For a longer list, check out the National Trust’s outdoor explorer programme, “50 things to do before you are 11 and 3/4”.

Give nature a new home for Christmas with a insect habitat, nest box or tree.  Check out your local garden centre, or look at the online shops of the RSPB, or Woodland Trust for some ready made homes, or advice on how you can make your garden more inviting.

national-tree-week

Climb a tree with Monkey Do or Go-Ape

Or as it is National Tree Week, (23rd November-1st December), to mark the start of the winter tree planting season, have a look at the Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives site for a tree activity pack, including a brilliant tree identification set and conkers advice!

 

My day with Mia

gwizI have been driving  a Reva G-Wiz electric car around London for over four years now.  My brother in law lent me his G-Wiz when I was heavily pregnant to get to ante-natal appointments, and I was hooked.  The G-Wiz’s poor safety record is well documented in the press, but I have always felt safe, and our second generation G-Wiz is safe(r) than its predecessor.  The G-Wiz is a tiny completely electric two door car, with two seats in the rear.  It has a driving range of around 40 miles.  The blurb says 48 miles, but I found 40 miles is more likely, and less in cold weather.  It is only 2.6m long, and 1.3m wide, with a 3.5m turning circle.   It is a bit like driving a dodgem, but that is part of the fun. You can whizz through narrow side streets, and dodge rubbish lorries, deliveries and sneak into the tiniest of parking spaces.

The second generation G-Wiz is surprisingly nippy at the traffic lights, and with average traffic speeds in London of 20 m.p.h, we all roll up at the next set of lights together.  At a cost of around 1.35p per mile,  with free road tax, low insurance, free parking (Westminster) and no congestion charging in London, the G-Wiz is cheap to run.  And it puts a smile on your face.  How many cars can you just hop across and get out the passenger side straight onto the pavement.  But our family has grown, and while I have had 4 adults in the G-Wiz (!), two car seats in the rear is not comfortable.  And there are more options on the market now.

mia

Today was the turn of the Mia.  It is a three seat electric city car with sliding doors, built in France, and designed by former VW design boss Murat Gunak.  It is a cut above the G-Wiz.  It has a central driving position, which my husband found novel, with two passenger seats in the rear with lots of leg room due to the arrow configuration.  The seats are snug, but all have great visibility, and the boot is a decent size for urban shopping trips.  All in all, it is a roomy interior.  The longer Mia L family model has three rear passenger seats across a bench with ISOFIX fittings for a child seat.

Measuring 2.87 m in length, the Mia is 20cm longer than the G-Wiz, and that small amount makes a difference.  No more sharing parking spaces, or nose to kerb parking, and the turning circle is 4.3m.   The Mia has a range of 80 miles, so it is still an urban or suburban car.  Though with average trip length of 7 miles (in 2010, National Traffic Survey, Department for Transport), it is probably practical for more us than we realise to drive an electric car.  The modern, digital dashboard clearly displays the charge level, and number of miles remaining, which is a pleasure after the G-Wiz game of guess how far you can go.

The Mia is easy to drive, like most electric cars, turn the key, press a button, and off you go.  It is more sluggish to accelerate than the G-Wiz, but soon comfortably speeds along, all be it with a bit of cabin noise.  Visibility from the rear view mirror is not great with an adult passenger in the rear, and this made parking harder.  It does feel safer than the G-Wiz.  It is a comfortable ride.  And it is cute.  At around £14,000 and with no battery leasing cost, the Mia’s price has been cut from early marketing.

We had great fun in the Mia, and it compares well to the G-Wiz as a city car, but Nissan Leaf is keenly priced at the moment, could be time for a test drive to compare.