Wuling Is Showing A Gleefully Bonkers Retro Version Of Its Tiny EV City Car

Wuling Top

If there’s one category where it seems China’s car industry is well on its way to becoming a global leader, it’s in the all-important category of giving not one single shit. By that I mean I’ve been seeing some genuinely fun, oddball designs coming from major Chinese automakers, the kinds of things that can not be the product of focus group thinking, unless perhaps the process of finding focus group participants involves stuffing a handful of the fun kind of mushrooms into their mouths. A great example of this is the recently-shown Wuling Hongguang Mini EV Retro Car Concept. I mean, just look at this thing.

Wuling1

It’s based on what has been the best-selling EV in China, the roughly $5,000 Wuling Hongguang Mini EV. It has the same 27 horsepower electric motor, and a choice of 9.3 kWh lithium-iron phosphate battery good for about 75 miles or a nearly 14 kWh battery that’ll take you about 105 miles. Both can be had as nickel-metal-cobalt batteries if you have metallic preferences. There’s even a long range one that’ll go almost 175 miles. It’ll also hit 62 mph, just enough for highway use, so it’s a small city car but pretty damn usable.

As you can see the styling is clean and modern and, for something with the proportions of a cartoon, pretty serious. This new retro variant, I’m happy to report, is very much not.

Let’s look at this thing:

Wulingretro1

Oh boy. It’s bonkers. I love it. According to our pals at Car News Chinathe design and modifications were done by an outside firm, but the car is showing up on official Wuling sites, so they speculate that actual production of this concept is a real possibility.

A good amount has been modified to make the EV look like a retro fever dream, with the whole front plastic clip replaced with the retro fascia seen here, complete with those round headlamps and the chrome bumper, mounted low and likely mostly for looks. If you look at the side view, you can see the cutlines where the original car’s headlamp units would have been mounted:

Wulingretro Side

Those rear wheel skirts may actually add a tiny bit of range by providing some aero advantages, though I suspect any improvement will be killed by the big-ass roof rack on top. The roof is the color of rich, fragrant leather, but I suspect it’s just paint. I also love the little wicker basket on the back, and I like the chrome trim and odd tiny indicators and all the fussy madness.

Plus the deeply strange concentric-ovals grille reminds me of a car that, otherwise, I’d never think of in the context of this thing: A Bristol 411. Look!

Wuling Bristol411

See? Yes, the shape is different but the set of cars that use concentric anythings for a grille design is a terribly small set. It never doesn’t look strange and spider-webby to me, but I think it kinda works here.

The interior seems to have a significant upgrade from the baseline edition, with plusher-looking seats, contrasting color panels, and a generally clean and airy look, no small achievement in a car this tiny.

Interior

I hope this thing makes it to production, if only because I love seeing big companies do crazy shit like this. These sorts of projects remind me a bit of Nissan’s famous Pike cars, lighthearted adaptations of mass-market econoboxes with some fun retro design elements, and I adore those. With EVs, you’re already giving up a certain amount of idiosyncrasies that were byproducts of different combustion car engineering approaches and designs, so the visual design and materials used in an EV become more important, which means that there should always be a place for strange, fun experiments like this.

Let that freak flag fly, Wuling.

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31 Responses

  1. My grandmother had this exact same refrigerator in her cold room. Same color everything. Since China is not opposed to ripping off anyone you’d think they could plagiarize a much better looking design.

  2. Of all the faces, on all the cars I’ve ever seen, this is the first one that embodies the expression of someone actively trying not to look stoned, but who is definitely stoned. Especially with the headlights on. Just completely panicked, trying to figure out how to answer the officer’s question: “can you tell me what you were doing back there, son?”

  3. I dig it. We really need city cars in the US. I’d go for that.
    OT: I was watching X files- Mulder and Scully are sitting in a dark car on a stake out. I was able to identify the car as a Ford Taurus just by the dashboard. Should that be a contest? Show some dashboards (steering wheel / logos fuzzed out) and everyone try to identify the vehicle? Seems like a fun challenge.

  4. OMG this has to be one of the best car faces ever. With the squinty eyes and the braces on the teeth and the dimples under the eyes. And I love that they gave it a cute little squiggly nose. I’d buy that in a minute. It would make a great companion for my little Fiat 500E with his mustache over his cheesy grin.

  5. I’d love one of these if only so I could add motorised eyebrows over the headlights. You could tilt them inwards for intensity when accelerating and tilt them the other way for surprise when braking hard. Hours of fun ????

  6. That lil car is super cute and it gave me an idea..
    I was wondering: would it be possible some collaboration between the Bishop, Mercedes and David to think about and design the (rusty-c) Smart ForTwo of the seventies built IRL by/for David?

  7. The grill seems to be planetary orbits around the sun. I’ve no idea why it would be that, but that definitely seems to be what they’ve gone for.

    Love it otherwise, and agree with the Nissan Pike cars comparison, maybe EV car platforms will allow cars like those to exist again.

  8. Ah, Jason, our automotive guru, so Hunter Thompson-like, except for with Pedialyte instead of Vodka, and Tylenol instead of whatever that stuff was HT was on. I knew you would have something to say about that grill, and you didn’t let me down.
    I live in the suburbs, so no want of a city car, but would love to see these tooling around and getting their little clocks cleaned like so many latter day Reliant Robins. I drive a hybrid sedan, but I think there are still quite a few miniva… wait, what do they pretend they are, oh yes, “SUV” or some such nonsense, flying around downtown. These cute little beasties have no chance.

  9. Wow, that car looks legitimately great. So often the styling cues from big cars shrunk down to city car size make the thing look bulbous and weird. Aggressive and little don’t mix, but cute and little sure do.

  10. Note. I’m commenting here since the posting I would like to comment one- like the we want your comments, dump me into log off when I log in. Is anyone else seeing this? My usual device is an iPad. Seems like half of the posts dump me off when I open them. When log in again, I get dumped off when I open the post.

    ELse, love the new added content from the new editorial staff. I’m not a young spud. More like an aging boomer. And been a gearhead for 50+ years. So maybe not your target audience. But I still get it.

    And love most all of DTs posts. (But moving to CA…. Do it while your young. And when you get rich and famous you van afford to stay.

    JT…. You’re obtuse. Don’t change. But when you get technical it’s amusing….

    MS…. Welcome. Love your perspective on cars, cycles and planes. However…. Working on carbs on 4 cyl cycles is not as amusing and one lungers. And…. Low wings are definitely cooler. Aspire to a Bonanza

    TH… very good write ups. However.. don’t forget the GWN is a different country than the US. And visa versa. But you’ve got some great traditions. Hockey, back bacon. But we still don’t get the Tragically Hip…

  11. I think this is up there with the Nobe in terms of accurately interpreting vintage elements into a new design that looks familiar and retro but doesn’t actually copy any prior car. Unlike Nobe, this does have a chance at being more than vaporware

    1. Also Alpha. Love their EV concepts, seriously doubt the world will ever see them in the metal. I really hope we do because their designs are fantastic… but last I heard they were only a step or two above a couple of guys playing with Autodesk down at the local Starbucks.

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