Microlino electric bubble car review: urban delight

“Wow, what an entrance!” said a well-coiffed woman as other customers sitting in the cafe on the terrace, now standing, began to cheer as I stepped out of the electric bubble car, as if I was stepping out of a limousine.

That really happened in one of the richest neighborhoods in Amsterdam, on a street full of Range Rovers and a G-Class Merc that cost almost ten times as much as the small BMW Isetta heritage I was driving. What followed was a whole series of questions that I had answered dozens of times during my week with the car: What is it? How much is it? Can I drive it on the highway?

It’s an Italian-made Microlino from Swiss company Micro, with prices starting at around €18,000 (about $19,500). Yes, it’s highway legal.

While cars in general are becoming increasingly popular, a new breed of electric microcars is emerging in some cities. They are cheaper to buy, easier to park, use less public space and energy, and maneuver around obstacles that would otherwise block large SUVs and impede traffic.

And you know what? Some, like the Microlino, are so much fun that maybe, just maybe, they will help reverse the trend of people buying bigger and heavier cars. Assuming that by the end of the review (more on that later) they’ve fixed a software issue that was messing up my test car.

Let me start by saying that I don’t have a car, but I drive one regularly. I have long subscribed to a car-sharing service with a special fleet parked in special places around the city, which allows me to select the right car for my current needs: compact, wagon or panel van; gas or EV. But not everyone lives in a city that has spent the past fifty years trying to break dependence on the car and perfect multimodal transportation. all the car stuff is understandable.

But even here in Amsterdam – a city dominated by bicycles and with easy access to good public transport – there are still many private cars that suffer from car obesity and, according to some, sit unused on the streets 96 percent of the time. That is space that could be used for public walkways, cycle paths, benches, cafes, greenery… or about three microcars parked next to each other.

The mid-range Microlino Dolce I reviewed starts at €20,000 (about $21,700) and is an absolute delight for quick trips to the market or dropping a kid off to school while staying warm and dry in bad weather. It has a top speed of 90 km/h (55 mph) and a range of up to 228 km (142 miles) for destinations well outside the city center.

Last weekend I drove to the sea and back with my wife and dog, returning to the dunes the next day for a trail run before needing to charge the Microlino, for a real-world range of about 70 miles. I plugged it into one of the twelve public 11 kW AC chargers in the parking lot with about 20 percent left, and returned from my run 90 minutes later to find a 50 percent charge — more than enough for the 30-minute ride home.

The Microlino is no speed demon, but it is still an EV and so light that I would beat unsuspecting taxis off the starting line and ‘win’ the merged lane. The small and responsive steering and super stiff suspension add to the go-kart feel when you’re racing around corners and through traffic circles at I-must-be-better speeds. “It feels like a real car,” is how one owner of a €15,000 (about $16,300) Biro – one of the first and most popular electric microcars to seduce Amsterdam residents – described driving the Microlino.

However, it is not without its faults. For starters, there’s a lot of plastic in the Microlino (but the windows are all glass, unlike some microcars). One plastic clip that helped hold a plastic service panel in place broke off in my short time with the car, which I received with just 10 miles on the odometer. The motor makes a distinct buzzing sound, the phone holder rattles when empty, the wiper motor makes noise and the fan has two settings: loud or louder. The only thing that isn’t loud is the included portable Bluetooth speaker.

I also once saw the main display restart while driving, but without any impact on the engine or controls (thankfully!). And while the front door has a nice soft-close mechanism, the trunk needs a solid hit to absorb it. The sloping roof also exposes the interior to rain when the door is open, and I experienced some dripping while cornering due to water likely collecting in the door latch.

The “vegan” (faux) leather on the seats and steering wheel were nice touches on my Dolce Edition, as was the intuitive mechanical sunroof, but overall I would describe the fit and finish of the Microlino Dolce as basic. At least until I drove a top of the line Biro and realized how superior the Microlino was in comparison. A Microlino is a small, expensive car, while a Biro is a small, expensive golf cart.

However, the Microlino suffered a total failure after being left on an 11 kWh public charger for about four hours. When I returned to what should have been a fully charged car, it wouldn’t turn on. After transporting it on a trailer, Micro identified the problem and assured me that it will not affect future cars. They blame the problem on a system that protects the car against peak voltage from the charging station, which was ‘not properly adjusted after a software update’.

Micro tells me my poor little guy is fine after the update. Fine, but such a failure would have been a huge hassle if I had been the owner of the vehicle, and without the priority attention given to journalists.

Still, despite the accident and all my nitpicking, none of the above issues are enough to discourage my enthusiasm for the Microlino – it’s So much fun.

1/55

a:hover]:text-gray-63 [&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-black dark:[&>a:hover]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a:hover]:shadow-underline-gray [&>a]:shadow-underline-gray-63 dark:[&>a]:text-gray-bd dark:[&>a]:shadow-underline-gray”>Photo by Thomas Ricker / The Verge

As much as I enjoyed my week with the Microlino, I’m not a convert yet. There is simply no faster, more convenient or healthier way to get from door to door than by bike in cities with good cycling infrastructure, despite the rain and rain. cold that I can dress for. And less capable but very attractive microcars like the Opel Rocks (sold in some markets as the Citroen Ami) are available for half the price: €8,700 (about $9,470).

The Microlino is not for everyone. Hell, microcars aren’t even for most people. But they’re for anyone who wants a car that’s more agile, efficient, cheaper and more fun to drive than a full-size car.

Pleasure…there’s that word again. I can’t help but come back to it, even though it’s impossible to quantify. But anecdotally, my time with the Microlino produced more smiles per city mile – both inside and outside the car – than any car I’ve ever been in, and I’d wager more than any new car on the market today regardless of size or format. price.

Photography by Thomas Ricker / The Verge

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