With every year that passes, the world of electric cars starts to be more and more populated and we’re glad to see that many new companies have the courage to try their luck n this new industry. One of these companies is Wheego, a small Chinese car manufacturer who recently joined the race of electric cars by launching the LiFe model. Though, new Wheego LiFe wasn’t built from the ground up as a new vehicle, as it’s basically an electric version of the Shuanghuan Noble, a model blamed for being a Chinese clone of the Smart Fortwo.

Leaving behind the critics, the Wheego seems to be an ultra efficient compact city car, but offers room for only two people, so luggage space is pretty limited. Like the Nissan Leaf and other electric city cars, the Wheego LiFe runs on lithium ion batteries which offer a maximum range of 100 miles. The new LiFe made its debut in 2010 and is available with a pretty peppered price of $32995 excluding taxes.

With this huge price tag, has the new Wheego any chance to compete against the Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi i?

Design

2011 Wheego LiFe High Resolution Exterior
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Unfortunately, Wheego started off on the wrong foot with its new LiFe, as the entire exterior design is just a cheap copy after the iconic Smart Fortwo model. This fact alone raises a lot of suspicions about the product, so the company will find it hard to gain the trust of its potential buyers.

The resemblances with Smart’s design start up front, where the LiFe shares the same hood and bumper lines with the Fortwo. Though the headlights, front air intake and fog lamps are slightly different, but aren’t as refined as Smart’s units.

The similarities with the Smart Fortwo continue with the front fenders and the entire side body panels. Around the back however, the LiFe received a unique set of taillights which even if they aren’t as good looking as those from the original design, they cope well with the rest of the body.

Like the Smart, the Wheego LiFe is pretty small, measuring only 3010 mm long and 1605 mm wide, which make it perfect for city driving, the compact dimensions permitting you to surf flawless through the traffic.

Interior

2011 Wheego LiFe Interior
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Inside we find a unique cockpit design which unfortunately is far from being as refined as the Fortwo’s cabin. Once inside, you are met by a pretty dull dashboard made of grey plastics and dark shades materials which betray the Chinese origins of the car.

A close inspection will also reveal that the build quality it’s pretty poor and every bit of plastic sounds hollow when tapped with a finger. Fortunately, the steering wheel doesn’t feel as cheap as the dash, and it helps you gain more confidence in the abilities of this tiny Chinese car.

Space is of course limited, so don’t expect to get acres of head- or leg-room. On the other hand, the seats are pretty comfortable and also come with enough adjustments to keep you happy. Vision from the driver’s seat is good in all directions as you are surrounded by a pretty generous glass area.

The cabin is fitted with standard power windows, power locks, keyless entry, electric mirrors and AM/FM radio with MP3/USB, but you’ll have to pay extra money for air conditioning. On the safety side of things, the Wheego LiFe gets driver and passenger airbags and ABS.

Engines and performance

2011 Wheego LiFe High Resolution Exterior
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Under the hood, the Wheego LiFe is fitted with a small electric motor which delivers a maximum power of 60 hp and 95 lb-ft of torque. The motor is connected to a 115 volt lithium battery pack which can be completely charged in 5 hours on a 220V/240V outlet. You won’t need to worry about the charging, as it’s rated at a reasonable time of 5 hours.

On the other hand, the vehicle’s range isn’t impressive, as you can drive only 100 miles on a single charge, which is a bit shorter than expected. Though, as we are talking about a city car which isn’t intended to cover hundreds of miles in a single day, we can say that it’s a pretty reasonable figure.

Unlike its more upscale rivals, the Weego LiFe won’t start from the instant you push the accelerator pedal, as first you’ll have to wait a few seconds. Once it takes off however, the LiFe’s motor builds up power decently, but it still feels slightly sluggish than other cars in the segment. The electric motor reaches its limits at a maximum speed of 65 mph which is at par with most of today’s electric city cars.

Verdict

2011 Wheego LiFe High Resolution Exterior
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We embrace Weego’s courage to launch its new LiFe on the market, especially in a time when models like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i seem to make all the rules.

In the end, the car does its job well. It deals great with city traffic, it can get ahead of other cars if it needs to and it’s also very efficient. On the other hand, we remain skeptical about its future success, as it’s too far behind its rivals.

Firstly, is less roomier, unrefined and poorly built. Not to mention about the inferior performances offered by its electric motor and the price which is about the same as the Nissan Leaf and more expensive than the Mitsubishi i.

Video: Wheego LiFe

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