Fisker is a new electric brand out of California emerging from the ashes of car designer Henrik Fisker’s previous company, and its slinky but ultimately doomed Karma coupe. Fisker may be Danish by birth but influences of the West Coast culture of the company’s home are everywhere, with quirky touches like an opening boot window and cool surfer vibes throughout. If that sounds fun this is the medium-sized electric SUV for you, although it’s a shame the spartan interior features so much dull black plastic. In fairness the lowest of the three trim levels offers excellent value for money, although most people will go for the middle version with its bigger battery. More broadly think of the Ocean as an electric Range Rover Evoque, or a Volvo XC40 Recharge competitor. If you want to take a look, Fisker doesn’t do dealers but does have a store at Westfield shopping centre in west London.
“The Ultra with the larger battery is the ideal blend of a decent distance between charges and value for money”
There are three trim levels, comprising Sport, Ultra and Extreme. Sport, has a very competitive price tag but considerably less range as it has a smaller battery (see ‘Performance’). Still, for many people, this will feel like a lot of electric car for the money. For those with a slightly bigger budget, the Ultra with the larger battery is the ideal blend of a decent distance between charges and value for money. As usual, electric-car running costs are cheap if you can charge at home where electricity costs less as it’s not subject to VAT, and ultra-cheap if you can get a two-stage tariff from your provider with discounted electricity overnight. Our one caveat is the exorbitant rise of insurance premiums for electric cars. Not Fisker’s fault, but the fact remains that premiums have risen by 72 per cent for electric cars compared with last year, while there has been “just” a 29 per cent increase for owners of combustion-engined vehicles.
Expert rating: 4/5
Reliability of a Fisker Ocean
“Some reassurance comes with the fact Fisker has outsourced production of the car to Magna Steyr, a highly reputable company which has built cars for Mercedes, Aston Martin, BMW and many others”
We’re taking an educated guess here because it’s the first model from Fisker, the Pear hatchback and Ronin supercar following in due course. Some reassurance comes with the fact Fisker has outsourced production of the car to Magna Steyr, a highly reputable company which has built cars for Mercedes, Aston Martin, BMW and many others over the years. So, there may be a few teething problems, but we wouldn’t expect any serious issues with build quality, batteries or software. The only slight alarm bell is the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which Fisker says is intentional, and will come. Tesla aside we wonder who would seriously choose to leave out that now-standard offering from its cars at launch.
Expert rating: 3/5
Safety for a Fisker Ocean
“The base version Sport trim comes with everything from blind-spot warnings to automatic emergency braking”
Most of Fisker’s controls for everything from regenerative braking to wing mirror movements are, like Tesla’s, hidden at least one sub menu in on the central touch-screen, which we really don’t like on the basis it takes your eyes off the road for too long. Bring back buttons! On the plus side, the base version Sport trim comes with everything from blind-spot warnings to automatic emergency braking and automated steering inputs to nudge you back into your lane if you run wide. The top model comes with a 360-degree camera, adaptive drive control and Fisker’s Intelligent Pilot semi-autonomous system, to accelerate, brake and steer with minimal intervention from you.
Expert rating: 3/5
How comfortable is the Fisker Ocean
“The glass on the boot door, and the quarterlight windows by the rear passengers, all open fully”
There are some really clever design touches providing passengers a surprising amount of space, such as the hollow beneath the central armrest that allows the middle passenger in the rear to stretch out. Legroom for the other two passengers is good, with carved-out front seat-backs providing extra space. But the best feature is the windows. The glass on the boot door, and the quarterlight windows by the rear passengers, all open fully. Fisker says it’s designed to allow dogs to stick their heads out. We like. And if you have the top version with its massive and fully opening panoramic sunroo, the entire car turns into a high-class beach buggy, with air everywhere. Fisker calls it “California mode”, and we sense there will be more call for it there than in the rainy UK. Still, on those summer days, it propels this SUV above the competition for sheer fun. The one downer, for which we’ve docked a point, is the huge amount of dull black plastic inside the car, especially at the front, where storage trays are black moulded affairs with no lids, or variation in colours and materials. It’s not very pretty.
Expert rating: 4/5
Features of the Fisker Ocean
“There’s also a nifty little shelf folding out from where the glove box would be which Fisker calls the “taco tray””
There is plenty of personality in the car, from the names for the three drives models - Earth, Fun and Hyper - to the large, revolving touch-screen which can be set in landscape or portrait mode. There’s also a nifty little shelf folding out from where the glove box would be which Fisker calls the “taco tray” but which is also a handy little arm rest. There’s one for the driver too. We also like the dual wireless phone-charging pads up front, for each occupant. You can specify solar panels for the glass roof on the top version, which will give you an extra five to 10 miles for each journey … if you live in California. If you don’t and are more accustomed to grey British skies you’ll probably decide against, especially as you can’t see out of the roof with them on. We also really like the sustainability story behind this car, which has come out of a factory that is intent on decarbonising its manufacturing as much and as quickly as possible.
Expert rating: 5/5
Power for a Fisker Ocean
“One way to take a chunk out of the range is to put the car into Hyper mode while driving and hit the boost function”
The maximum official range in the cheapest Sport model with the smaller battery is 288 miles, which is very good for the price. Or you step up to the Extreme or Ultra versions with the bigger 105kWh battery and get a quoted 440 miles. Even if you barely touch 400 miles, that’s still darn good. One way to take a chunk out of the range is to put the car into Hyper mode while driving and hit the boost function on the screen, which propels the car from a standing start to 60mph in 3.7 seconds. Which is quick.
Still, we prefer to keep as much charge as possible so pottered round at a more sedate pace for our LA-based test drive, through the streets and along the freeway. The steering is a bit spongey and the brakes lack the instant sensitivity of some rivals, but the ride isn’t as hard as that of some electric cars. The overriding impression is one of great value and you cannot find much to complain about when you have such a great-looking car with so much range at this price.