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Changan Benni E-Star: Attainable EV

By Ghaith Madadha - Oct 25,2021 - Last updated at Oct 25,2021

Photos courtesy of Changan

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Launched last year as an updated version of the Changan Benni EV, the E-Star is positioned to potentially be of particular relevance to the Jordanian auto market, where it arrived in recent weeks.

Among the smallest and lightest electric vehicles in Jordan, the Benni E-Star is also currently the most affordable brand new EV with official dealership warranty. 

Well suited for busy Amman roads, the Benni E-Star also crucially boasts a 301km driving range — longer than many EV hatchbacks popularly available on the independent import market.

Fresh faced

Freshened up, face-lifted and bearing a new designation, the E-Star is a more assertively styled incarnation of the Benni EV, which first arrived in 2016, just two years after the regular combustion version of Chinese manufacturer’s small city car.

More contemporarily styled, the Benni EV features a revised headlight signature, with a boomerang like inner element creating a more purposefully scowling effect. It also receives a new front bumper design, with huge sculpted faux side intakes with wavy bright green gills and sportily jutting lower lip.

With a body coloured panel both replacing and mimicking a traditional grille with its textured pattern, air is instead fed to the Benni E-Star’s cooling system through a lower intake vent.

A short and narrow city with a high roofline, the Benni’s proportions may not instinctively allude to a sporting character, but its new 5-spoke 15-inch alloy wheels, shark fin style aerial and tailgate spoiler well complement its sharply rising and prominently ridged side crease line and descending roofline to create a more athletic and eager aesthetic.

 

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Compact and confident

Positioned about as deep under its tall bonnet as the lower intake, the Benni E-Star’s low-mounted electric motor is powered by 32.2kWh capacity lithium-ion battery system, which itself is mounted low and under the boot at the rear.

Driving the front wheels through a single-speed automatic gearbox, the E-Star’s electric motor develops 74BHP and 125lb/ft torque. With much of its torque instantly available when accelerating from standstill, the E-Star launches with confidence and is particularly responsive at lower city speeds, where it achieves 0-50km/h in 4.7-seconds.

Responsive in town with its significant and generous torque bias, the Benni E-Star remains confident on inclines and when overtaking, while its rate of acceleration remains reasonably robust until around 80km/h before trailing off slightly. Adequately powered to make good city progress in its default “D” mode, the E-Star, however, unleashes it full output for feistier performance when driven in “S” mode, as accessed through a Jaguar-like electronic rotary-action gear selector. Driven briefly on urban roads, the E-Star’s top speed is meanwhile estimated at around 130km/h.

Small and silent

A sprightly city car, the E-Star drives in eerie near silence at the press of a button. However, with artificial driving sound enabled to alert pedestrians, the E-Star also becomes more engaging, with its supercharger-like whining sound rising and becoming more intense as power and velocity increase to better communicate an instinctive sense of speed and effort.

As an EV, the E-star demands slight driving style adjustments in reducing accelerator input when wishing to coast, rather than full lift-off, which automatically engages kinetic energy regenerative braking.

Measuring just 3,770mm long and 1,650mm wide, the small E-Star is an agile and very manoeuvrable car, happy to zip through busy streets, tight corners, narrow roads and into confined parking spaces with ease and no need for reversing camera or sensors. 

If not quite the featherweight that a similarly sized car like the Suzuki Celerio might be, the 1,180kg E-star is nonetheless a lightweight as EVs come, and drives with the adjustability, responsiveness and nimbleness that make cars of its class so rewarding in urban settings.

Tall and low

Tall and narrow with a comfortable ride, forgiving suspension and terrific outward visibility, the E-Star’s potential body lean is nevertheless reduced by its low centre of gravity. Bobbing and bouncing over road bumps with ease, the E-Star drives with an alert and involving fashion, yet feels reassuring and reasonably settled and stable for its class. 

Steering is meanwhile light and quick, if not highly nuanced in feel and feedback. However, tall and narrow 175/60R15 tyres help with steering intuitiveness, ride compliance, durability and low running cost.

A small, practical and economical city runaround, the E-Star is fresh and contemporary inside, with futuristic motifs and details. Making the best of its materials, the E-Star features contrasting glossy black and white panels, green outline accents, touch activated functions, sporty contoured flat bottom steering wheel, and dual instrument and infotainment screen panel. 

Practically, charging time is 8-hours, 35-minute, while 150-litre luggage volume expends significantly with split rear seats folded. Slightly narrow, the E-Star’s cabin, however, features generous front headroom, while rear space is reasonably accommodating for most.

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Engine: Front-mounted electric motor
  • Battery, capacity: Lithium-ion, 32.2kWh
  • Gearbox: 1-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
  • Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 74 (75) [55]
  • Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 125 (170)
  • 0-50km/h: 4.7-seconds
  • Top speed: 130km/h (estimate)
  • Range: 301km
  • Charging time (0-80 per cent), 240V at 13.6A/10.7A: 8h, 35m/11h, 30m
  • High capacity fat charging (30-80 per cent): 30-minutes
  • Length: 3,770mm
  • Width: 1,650mm
  • Height: 1,570mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,410mm
  • Loading height: 136.5mm
  • Luggage volume, minimum: approximately 150-litres (estimate)
  • Kerb weight: 1,180kg 
  • Steering: Electric-assisted rack & pinion
  • Suspension: MacPherson struts/torsion beam
  • Brakes, F/R: Ventilated discs/discs, regenerative
  • Tyres: 175/60R15
  • Price, on-the-road, with comprehensive insurance: JD14,500
  • Warranty: 5-years or 150,000km
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