Under the Upside

Not a lot of information exists on this car. I think it’s a 2007.

It is a Microcar MC-2 and appears to be a peculiar blend of the Renault Avantime and Audi A2. It’s one of three microcars I’ve spotted recently. More can be read here. One sees a lot of them in Germany and none in Ireland or Denmark.

UK deliveries of the MC-2 began in 2006. Microcars-Ligier have their plant in Nantes where design and engineering take place. The MC-2 is the longer wheelbase version of the standard MC-1. These vehicles’ main advantage is that they can be driven without a license. That desperate, captive audience means that the industrial design tends towards the less-refined end of things. One sees a similar slackness in assistive technology, another product category where purchase is less than discretionary.

If the company were to lure a seasoned designer from a mainstream manufacturer (they shed them constantly – it’s a cruel game) they could impose more discipline on the detail design of these cars. Small cars such as the Smart ForTwo show that small doesn’t have to mean mean.

I haven’t identified this one (above). It’s not much smaller than a Mk1 Twingo yet has none of the charm.

And for comparison…

Fiat 126

… a Fiat 126 seen in Innsbruck recently.

The funny thing with microcars is that the market is left to marginal players like Ligier. These cars (or ones this size) are capable of doing maybe 75% of what more normal cars do: carry one or two people 10-20 km at about 80 kmph. By comparison even a Polo is wildly over-engineered.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

9 thoughts on “Under the Upside”

  1. I suspect that the poor design detail is more about cost than lack of talent. These small volume manufacturers have to use existing expensive to tool and approve parts such as windows and lights while making the cars affordable, small and light.

    1. My view is the job of a designer involves managing the conflicts of many requirements. So, I tend to assume a decent solution is usually possible. These cars have so many odd joints it is clear designers didn’t try hard and engineers didn’t try hard.

  2. The front of Le Papillon seems to have been inspired by that benchmark of compact car designs: VW’s legendary Fox.

  3. Good Lord. It’s good to see an area of life where EU bureaucracy exhibits tolerance of whimsy and hasn’t ruined a person’s freedom to meander in a motorized seat without a full licence on public roads chopping off pedestrian’s legs at the knees like any common oblivious cyclist convinced they’re saving the eco-world. The latter happened to me while the culprit sped off from the hit-and-run scene disguised in designer Tour-de-France clothing and headgear so that nobody had a hope of recognizing him. Unfortunately, there were no certified connoisseurs of hairy legs present who could give definitive identification of the criminal, although a nice old lady had a darn good think about that before confessing failure, apparently rummaging through her thoughts of lovers past. Or something.

    Another major manufacturer of quadricycles is Aixam, who appear to be even less artistic than Microcar. And in a complete brain fart, Renault came up with this quadricycle concept in 2009 called the Twizy. After a dose of LSD fortified with oxycodone, a sniff of this and that, some designer drugs and many bottles of wine no doubt!


    Of course, the production version ditched the super-splash crazy avant-garde-ism and merely looks like a startled insect. 15,000 of these things have been produced for semi-blind connoisseurs worldwide. But at least the details are professionally done! And flexi-doors are an option for driving in chilly weather in case frozen fingers and tootsies are affecting one’s driving concentration. Nice to know it has a crash-tested deformable structure. Well done indeed. Although one still has to ask the question: Why?

    Tazzari in Italy also make their own freaks, and there seem to be others like Grecav. Amazing that so many companies are chasing a nearly non-existent market, and which in the UK at least seem to attract usuriously high insurance premiums.

    Thanks again to DTW. I spent several hours chortling at this wacky side of the automotive world in my “research”. Why don’t these folks crash the designer golf-cart market? Maybe they have and I missed it.

    1. Well, yes, it is a tiny market to judge by the many I don’t see.
      Where are all those Twizys?
      Many must be driven infrequently over small ranges. Airports? Or are they too exposed?

    2. I know of two Twizys – one located in front of a house I used to cycle by on my way to work, and one belonging to a real estate agent in our city. I’ve never seen them in any other state than stationary, though.
      The real estate one might just be a marketing trick – such a vehicle doesn’t go unnoticed, and it has the agent’s name on it in large print.

    3. Chuckles aside, I think (and I’ll admit to probably being alone here) the Twizy, for all its flaws, is a concept with some merit. The execution was a bit disappointing, but something along those lines would make a lot of sense in an urban environment. I quite like them in a slightly mad way. (They do seem to crop up at airports I find).

      There’s an Axiam parked outside a house in the small West Cork town I spend periods of the year in, which by the way, shares intimate road space with a Figaro. But as we know the Irish sense of humour is regularly leavened with the surreal.

      Careful now…

    4. I’m not very much against the Twizy, but I can’t help finding the concept a bit lacking. It doesn’t occupy much less space than a small car and doesn’t protect much more from weather conditions than a scooter. It would be much more useful the other way round.

  4. Sir Stirling Moss owns and drives a twizy plus it’s his “only car” which surely must add some justification for the concept. His central London domicile is the ideal environment for the Twizy and the man cannot fault it.
    I would choose a tilting design as in the Toyota i-Road which provides the dynamics of a motorcycle in a more modern package taking up even less space, problem is they have not chosen to release them for public consumption.
    Sad to see the microcar builders have not been innovative in producing something like a revived Issetta, Messerschmitt or the i-Road.

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