Plastic Fantastic – Microcar MC2


It’s not too often that I completely condemn something I feature. This time that is the case, as I openly loathe these things. The plastic box you see is a French-built Microcar MC2, a four-wheeled penalty box in other words. These trinkets populate the roads here, driven by youth too young to drive an actual car (the licence age here is 18). Synonymous with blocking the highways and causing energy drink fueled mayhem in town centres, these only do 45 km/h or so with the pedal to the carpet, make a terrible racket and aren’t particularly safe. Still, they’re sure to be seen in every town.

Since my annoyance is so obvious, the commentary here will be very biased. Try to bear with me.


The engine in these is a four-stroke, 500cc Lombardini FOX diesel engine that produces all of 4kW, and is coupled to a variator.

The power output of every microcar or moped car is throttled to 4kW, so they’re hideously slow and mostly only produce clatter and vibrations. Some of them have been fitted with outrageous sound systems so they also boom and thud.


The Microcar manufacturer is owned by Ligier, the once-famous French motorsport brand. Ligier also manufactures microcars under its own name, but the line-ups are separate.


I’m seeing a certain amount of Fiat and Ford design languages in this thing. Underneath the plastic body panels is a tubular chassis, which is seen to somewhat bend when colliding with a proper car that weighs over 1000kg. These weigh 350kg, and tip over quite easily. They all also wear a fluorescent orange triangle, so that every approaching driver realizes that they only travel at a speed roughly half of anyone else’s.


The Microcar MC2 is the long-wheelbase version of the shorter MC1, which uses the same doors. You can easily make that out from the door shape.

How much do these cost, then? New, some 12-15 000 euros. I’m not kidding. Used they go for 4-5k, which is still the kind of money one pays for a real car or two. These, then, are the car substitute for teens, often bought by parents. I’d still hold on for the precious couple years, save up money by biking instead and buy something made out of metal when the time comes. You can buy a hell of an E36 for the price of one of these.

[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Antti Kautonen]

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22 responses to “Plastic Fantastic – Microcar MC2”

  1. mdharrell Avatar

    Hmmm. I sense my battle for the international acceptance of voitures sans permis is suffering a bit of a setback.

  2. Vavon Avatar

    If I didn't have a drivers license, I wouldn't mind driving an Aixam 500 GLI…
    I don't know why I fancy that, but the 500 GLI has a certain "je ne sais quoi!"
    <img src="; width="650/">

    1. Devin Avatar

      Welcome to the magical world of shrinky dinks!

    2. Marto Avatar

      That's just a newly hatched Pug 205

  3. Devin Avatar

    A Canadian company called ZENN tried to make electric cars out of these. They did not succeed, mostly because Transport Canada didn't like the idea of them being on the road so they mostly weren't especially legal. Eventually ZENN gave up.

  4. bhtooefr Avatar

    Although, the idea isn't a bad idea, if you go up to the heavy quadricycle class, where power levels are much more useful.
    My vision for automotive licensing in the US is something like this:
    CDL classes:
    Class A: 26,001 combined GVWR plus 10,001 GVWR trailer (same as current)
    Class B: 26,001 GVWR, can have 10,000- GVWR trailer (same as current)
    Class C: Anything that gets safety, emissions, or fuel economy exemptions for being a truck, 8501 GVWR, or 2001-10,000 GVWR trailers (those restrictions would be new, right now those fit under Class D), 16 passengers, hazmat
    Standard classes:
    Class D: 1751 curb weight, 5 passengers, top speed over 70 mph, power over 70 hp or under a power to weight ratio of 25 lbs per hp, and near CDL-level driver training standards, 2000- GVWR trailers allowed
    Class E/Q/whatever you want to call it: Reduced safety standards, restricted to 1750 pound curb weight, 4 passengers maximum, top speed 70 mph (and that only because of how things are designed around interstates), minimum of 25 lbs per hp (70 hp for a maximum weight vehicle), current Class D driver licensing standards (that is, nearly non-existent).
    Basically, because of how car-centric our infrastructure is in many areas, it's impossible to completely remove bad drivers from the roads. So, don't remove them from the roads (around here, people who lose their license just drive anyway), restrict the amount of damage they can cause, and reduce safety for them so they're scared into driving safer. And, it would make lightweight and efficient vehicles that might otherwise struggle to meet safety standards available in the marketplace.
    Why 1750 lbs? That's the line that the EPA and NHTSA have drawn for when a three-wheeler ceases to be a motorcycle, and becomes a car. So, regulatory frameworks are already designed around that line. And, absolutely atrocious Chinese three-wheelers are already on our roads through that rule. If we're going to get atrocious shitboxes, let's at least get them with a stable number of wheels (and I even like my recumbent trike, but for a highway vehicle, four is the correct number of wheels.)
    The "class E" would be far better than the useless NEV class that was done…

    1. bhtooefr Avatar

      Oh, and I'll note that light quadricycles (like the crapbox described in the post, as opposed to heavy quadricycles) really only make sense for the elderly that need to get somewhere and are too infirm to cycle under their own power, as far as a transportation strategy goes. Everywhere else, set things up for cycling to get to public transit.
      And, the European heavy quadricycle regs are 400 kg curb and 200 kg passengers for a car, 550 kg curb and1000 kg cargo for a truck, batteries not included for electrics, maximum net engine power 15 kW. Legally, they're considered equivalent to a three-wheel motorcycle. My idea would be much more generous on mass and power (even though, with proper streamlining, 70 hp would be a damn rocket in a car weighing 1750 lbs – really, 35 hp would be adequate with enough low-end torque or a CVT of some sort keeping it on the HP peak).

  5. Mr. Smee Avatar
    Mr. Smee

    It's like the 'pocket' motorbikes that were all the rage a couple of years ago.

  6. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    I can't believe nobody has mentioned the designers desperate attempts at applying MK1 Audi TT styling elements. The evidence is all over the place. I've pitied these things for ages.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      And yet ,I'm getting a renault sort of feel coming through as well!

  7. duurtlang_ Avatar

    These really are hateful things. I primarily see the elderly in them though, not kids. 16-17 year olds ride mopeds here, as the license age for cars and motorcycles is 18 here as well. Anyway, I just don't understand how you can produce such a shitbox of such poor quality and still be able to ask more money for it than for a 'proper' new car. And get away with it.
    A 'proper car', like the Skoda Citigo (the cheapest car available here, at €7895 including 21% VAT) is quiet, comfortable, safe, durable, can go 160 km/h (100 mph), has 4+ airbags, ABS and even frigging traction control and a stop-start system. Yet people pay north of €10000 for a 2 stroke plastic crapbox with a top speed of 45 km/h (30 mph) and a 2 stroke moped engine. I just don't get it.
    <img src="; width="600">

    1. bhtooefr Avatar

      They can get that money because it's quite expensive to get a driver's license in many European countries, I thought. And, if you've lost it entirely…

      1. duurtlang_ Avatar

        Getting a license certainly is expensive here. I can only speak about my own country (the Netherlands), but most people will need between 25 and 40 hours of driving with an instructor. Driving schools (which are mandatory) charge between €30 and €35 an hour for this I believe, so that's €750 to €1400. Then you'll need to take the actual test (€250-ish), which many fail the first time. I know I did. Before that final test you'll need to pass the theoretical exam, which will require many hours of study and probably an additional €100 (pure guess) or so.
        So you won't find many spending less than €1000 ($1350) to get a license. Most spend significantly more. But that doesn't explain why you'd want to spend many thousands of € more for a Microcar shitbox in stead of an actual car like the Skoda I mentioned before. Especially not if you've already got a license.

  8. Perc Avatar

    I tried one of these things once. A fully tricked out ligier x-too (I think) with leather seats, power windows, keyless entry, a stereo and dual exhaust tips.
    It actually felt like a proper car until I started it. The best description I've come up with of what it felt like to drive was an 80s riding mower with a vibrating, jiggling, creaking plastic shell around it.
    They are hugely expensive because they are made in small numbers by hand using off the shelf parts. No scale of economics like the Skoda citigo and its siblings.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      That's more like it. I told everyone these things are great!

      1. Rover1 Avatar

        Are you self medicating? : )

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          Yes, in a sense. When I need a break from VSPs I employ my early-'80s Austin Rover products as calmatives.

          1. Vairship Avatar

            From VSPs to VdPs?

  9. danleym Avatar

    How modifiable are these? I mean, are there many 16 year old kids who try to hot rod these things and bump them up to 5, maybe even 6 kW?
    The price is just plain stupid. I was going to say I understand them, but not for that price. Not when there are real cars available for the same cost.

    1. Perc Avatar

      They're restricted to 4 kW via gearing and electronics. Derestricting it is probably just a case of cutting the right wire. Not sure how easy the CVT gearbox is to modify though.
      But I've seen these plastic boxes doing 80-90 on the open road.

  10. dgate Avatar

    This class of car is no different from the bubble cars of the mid fifties but a lot more sophisticated. Shaving weight off makes for efficiency but like motorcycles mixing with other traffic the minimalist design can be lethal in an accident. Used in the right environment by mature drivers it could have a place but they are sorely in need of a better engine or electric drive._They will never be cheap unless widely adopted.

    1. Paul Avatar

      What no one has said, to legally tow behind a motorhome or rv on a trailer. These are legal, as even with the trailer they come in under 750KG

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