Renault is betting big on electric cars, and having been freed from the design constraints imposed by internal combustion, the company’s designers have gone wild with the Twizy, the most unconventional model in the French marque’s zero-emission lineup. With no windows or even doors as standard, it will go down a storm in hot holiday destinations, but what about our rain-batted isle? Motors took to the wheel to find out.
It’s what mobility scooters will look like in the year 2113, we hope. Renault is making no special promises with the Twizy, just that it will provide convenient – and fun – urban transport. It gets off to a good start, seating two in a jet-fighter 1+1 seating arrangement and being narrow enough to exploit gaps usually reserved for bikers. It’s powered by a tiny electric motor, which develops the equivalent of 17hp. It doesn’t sound much, but the Twizy isn’t a liability on the streets, zipping up to 30mph surprisingly quickly. Unlike some larger electric vehicles, the Twizy will happily take electricity from a standard three-pin socket and will take around four hours to charge fully.
More physical than you might be expecting, given its dainty proportions. The unassisted steering is heavy at low speeds and the ride is extremely firm, meaning you brace yourself as you approach speed humps and larger potholes. The electric motor provides strong pulling power from stationary, so the Twizy feels spritely in urban traffic. Above 30mph acceleration slows dramatically with the car topping out at an indicated 55mph. The low centre of gravity – achieved by mounting the heavy battery pack as low to the floor as possible – means corners can be attacked with a gusto that belies the Twizy’s narrow track and skinny tyres, though whether you can keep yourself in the rather flat seats in the process is another matter.
With minimal weather protection (doors and windows are optional extras) the Twizy’s interior has a wipe-clean functionality about it. Getting into the rear seat can be a rather undignified affair, and passengers will find themselves sitting legs akimbo. Room for the driver is more spacious, though the fixed back seat can become uncomfortable on more substantial journeys. Equipment is minimal, with no stereo or ventilation system, though our test car was fitted with the optional Parrot Bluetooth system which allows for audio streaming from a mobile phone.
In a word: No. Storage space is limited to a brace of cubby holes built into the dashboard and a strange, slender space behind the rear seat. The rear seat can be used for luggage when travelling solo, though drivers will find themselves having to cart their belongings with them at every stop, or leave them at the mercy of any light fingered sod who happens to be passing. Practicality can be (marginally) enhanced with the addition of optional luggage nets, which are good for keeping oddments from flying around the cabin, though that’s about it.
For most, the Twizy will be an expensive toy, wheeled out on sunny days for entertainment. However, if you take a biker’s attitude to dressing for the weather, the Twizy is year-round usable, particularly with the optional zip-in windows. It fills the sort of role that would suit a moped, being very well suited to short trips around town, though even then, it’s price – around £1000 more than the cheapest petrol car available – precludes it as a sensible form of transport. That said, take one for a test drive; we defy you not to want one.
Renault Twizy Colour
List price: £6,950
Engine: 13kW asynchronous electric
Top speed: 50mph
0-28mph: 6.1 seconds
Battery range: 62 miles
Euro NCAP rating: Not yet tested
July 19, 2013