The Renault Twizy is an electric quadricycle – halfway between a car and a motorcycle. It has four wheels, but is only 2338mm long and, more importantly, just 1396mm wide.
The two occupants – a driver and a passenger – sit in line, instead of adjacent to each other. The 17bhp/38lb ft electric motor is powered by a lithium-ion battery pack that gives a range of 62 miles and requires three-and-a-half hours to go from empty to a full charge.
That sounds pretty impressive – until you remember that the Twizy’s small dimensions and stripped-out look (even the half-height doors are a £545 option) give it a kerb weight of just 474kg. Renault quotes a 0-28mph figure of 6.1 seconds and from 18-37mph in 8.1 seconds. The top speed is just 50mph, but this is a vehicle unashamedly designed for urban use.
What’s the 2012 Renault Twizy like to drive?
The Twizy is extremely simple to use. There’s a conventional steering wheel and two pedals (it has a single-speed automatic transmission), and just three buttons on the dashboard. Two of these buttons are drive and reverse – hit ‘D’, release the handbrake, and you’re off.
The Twizy’s gearing and throttle sensitivity are nicely judged – around town it’s easy to drive smoothly, yet fast enough to keep up with traffic. You’ll know you’re in an electric vehicle, though; the car moves away in glorious silence, but you’ll soon hear the distinctive whine of the electric motor as you gain speed. It begins to grate after a while, though.
The steering is direct and surprisingly well weighted, the brakes (discs all round) are progressive and the turning circle is an astonishing 3.4 metres; that’s a full half a metre less than Toyota’s iQ, itself a king of urban manoeuvrability.
Altogether less impressive is the ride; it’s far too firm at any speed, and particularly painful over urban potholes. Renaultsport is said to have had a hand in the Twizy’s development – but if that’s true, it didn’t give it any of the damping sophistication we’ve come to love in cars such as the Megane Renaultsport 250.
What’s the 2012 Renault Twizy like inside?
The Twizy doesn’t really have an ‘inside’, just a ‘less outside’. Even with the doors – which open in a supercar-esque scissor fashion – you feel closer to the elements than you do in a car with the windows open.
The fascia consists of one simple digital display, which shows speed, remaining range and how hard the motor is being worked. That aside, the front cabin is pretty bare, which is a good thing given that the Twizy will be open to the elements.
The driver’s seat moves back and forth, but that’s it; there’s no height adjustment, and the backrest’s angle is fixed. The basic position is sound enough – although extra lumbar support would help – and visibility is great.
The rear passenger space is enough for a decent-sized adult, but the luggage space – a meagre 31 litres, not including a pair of modest gloveboxes – is poor. Renault would argue, of course, that this is much better than that of most mopeds.
Should I buy one?
Twizy prices are way lower than any of the other recently launched electric vehicles. A Twizy Urban costs from £6690 on the road, a Color will set you back from £6950, and even the range-topping Technic is only £7400.
Urban trim gets a driver airbag, a storage area behind the rear seat, two front gloveboxes (one lockable), seat belts and disc brakes all round. Color adds a choice of red, green or blue roof, white wheel trims and carpet mats. Technic gets you alloy wheels, metallic paint and a carbonfibre-effect roof.
The aggressive prices come with a caveat: you have to factor the cost of a monthly battery lease on top of it. It varies according to the length of lease (one to four years) and the amount of miles you intend to do every 12 months (4500 up to 9000). However, the most obvious combination – three years and 6000 miles per annum, which should be plenty for town use – costs £49 per month.
You should also bear in mind that the Twizy gets Renault’s ‘4+’ package, which includes free servicing and a four-year warranty, as standard. Running costs should be low; Renault expects a full charge to cost around £1 at British electricity prices.
The Twizy is a great piece of design, at a great price. It has a great sense of fun about it. It’s also a great piece of ‘daring Renault’, the like of which we haven’t seen for a few years now.
Does all of the above make it a truly great car? No. Truth is, the Twizy is extremely good at doing a very specific task, but even then, it could be much better with a little more suspension travel, enough luggage space for more than the most basic of shopping trips, and a little more refinement in its motor noise.
As it stands, it does a good job of slotting into the space between mopeds and cars – but it’s far easier to see it appealing to those in the market for a two-wheeled vehicle than to potential buyers of even a second-hand car.
Smart Fortwo Coupe
What Car? says…
Our reviews are based on hard data and thorough testing in the real world.
Up to the minute news from around the globe