Uniti One adopts style for its 3-seater urban runabout
Based and manufactured in Lund, Sweden, but engineered by a British team from Norfolk, reports Iain Robertson, Uniti One is a brand-new urban mobility concept that is set for launch next summer and embodies the best of EV within its tiny form.
Until the arrival of the ingenious smart car, the archetypal city car was either based on minuscule Japanese ‘kei-class’ machinery, or the smallest, least salubrious versions of mainstream tiddlers. It has always been a market segment by necessity but not one that has been particularly well-serviced by the motor industry.
The upshot has been a notional upgrade in ‘public transport’ (what there exists of it in areas outside of London), or the near automatic licence for local authorities to introduce congestion charge zones, usually associated with a sham tale about ‘reducing pollution’. One of these days, the truth will ‘out’ on the subject of ‘sick buildings’ emitting more pollution than all of the transport buzzing around its ground floors.
With the emphasis on EVs at present, while I remain unconvinced about manufacturer claims of ‘zero pollution’, I can understand more readily the value of sub-compact city cars, powered by electricity, where range anxiety and performance shortfalls are just not issues. In fact, the smart car has more than proved its point over the years and spotting them parked two-abreast, nose/tail to the kerb, in spaces filled normally by typical medium class family cars, reinforces the impression.
Accepting that there is a greater return-on-investment with an electrically powered SUV that retails for more than £55k, as the maker of a small car would be forced to work five times harder to obtain similar profits, has been singularly responsible for a broader shortage of interest by carmakers in the city car scene. However, Uniti has just released early details of its One EV model, which deserves to earn its crust in our urban environments.
Placing the driver amidships, with two passengers occupying the rear seats, is a design stance originated by the McLaren F1 supercar. At just 3.2m long and 1.7m wide, Uniti is significantly more compact and is supported by a 23-feet turning circle, which is around the same as a London taxi. Yet, it is packed with interesting technology, including an electro-chromatic glass roof that shades automatically in bright sunlight, like a new pair of RayBans.
Of course, it is an electric vehicle (a choice of 12, or 24kWh battery packs), providing a posted range, with the larger power unit, of up to 186-miles and a recharging potential from 20-80% in 17 minutes, using a 50kW charger. Despite its narrow track, which makes it perfect for tackling city streets, a low centre of gravity enforced by its platform filled with battery-pack helps with its overall stability and handling agility, which are both said to be excellent. Its performance envelope is also respectable, with the Uniti capable of despatching the 0-60mph benchmark in 9.6s, with a top speed of 75mph.
Its clean and minimalist design features flush door handles and LED illumination fore and aft. The profile is enhanced with a rising belt-line and arcing roof accentuated by the choice of just three metallic grey paint and satin finishes that factor-in a most classy appearance. There are no door-mirrors to be damaged, as a wide-screen rear-view camera system, which includes blind-spot recognition, provides an unrivalled view of what lies behind, with lateral sensors providing circumferential protection. The three-seat layout places the driver at the centre of the cabin, while the twin rear seats can split-fold to increase the boot capacity from a mere 155-litres up to a practical 760-litres of space.
Ahead of the driver is a full-width, individual unit programmable, digital dashboard. It sits within a good quality dashboard moulding that brings all most-used switchgear within fingertip’s reach of the driver. Thanks to Uniti’s development work with Android Automotive OS, the full range of Waze, Google Maps, Spotify and an array of available apps are provided for users. It is an expandable system that allows a Uniti user to keep up to date with the latest online developments, which also include mobile-phone and music connectivity.
Despite its compact dimensions, safety is an inherent part of the Uniti One’s Swedish design philosophy. Unlike the roll-cage structure used by smart, a high-strength in-board, upper structure keeps interior deformation to a minimum, in the event of an impact, and the Uniti One comes equipped with a host of passive and active safety equipment as standard, including driver’s airbag, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).
In Uniti’s first iteration of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), customers can choose to specify Intel’s MobilEye 6 collision avoidance system, with their Uniti One. Equipped with Forward Collision and Lane Departure Warning as well as a speed limit indicator, this advanced system also warns the driver of potential pedestrian and cyclist collision, providing lifesaving alerts in real time. Early adopters can become members of a ‘Founder’s Club’, as long as they pay a 50% deposit (for a car that will not have been built!), which provides many benefits that include lifetime free subscriptions to upgrades and support packages. All potential owners can specify and accessorise their Unitis online right now (www.uniti.earth).
Conclusion: Priced from £15,100 (pre-discount but including the government contribution of £3,500), deliveries will commence from early next summer.