Renault Twizy review (2012 onwards)
Summary: an awesome concept from Renault that could seriously work in the real world for urban commuters. Bye bye ghastly G-Wiz.
We like: mad styling, connected feel, central driving position
We don't like: limited range and lack of weatherproofing could prove annoying
This is a vehicle unlike anything we've seen before. According to Renault, the Twizy is the "beginning of the all-electric revolution", designed to provide a solution to the age-old problem of city congestion and the associated pollution.
It's not a car though, or at least not officially. Designed to carry two and be simple to use - "Twin" and "easy", hence Twizy - it sits somewhere in between city car and moped. Renault draws parallels to vehicles such as the Smart ForTwo and Piaggio three-wheel scooter.
Somewhere between a city car and a moped
It's actually classified as a heavy quadricycle, meaning it weighs under 400kg (450kg including the battery pack) and produces less that 20hp. Which sounds a little weak.
But the lowly power output means you can go everywhere flat out and still be under the speed limit - which in the sunny countryside around Ibiza makes the Twizy brilliant fun.
How well this translates to a rain-soaked urban commute in the depths of UK winter remains to be seen. There's no doubt the Twizy can do the job, but would you be better off in a normal city car? That's the burning question.
At £6,690 for the entry-level Twizy Urban, rising to £6,950 and £7,400 for Colour and Technic trim respectively, it's a fair chunk of money for what could prove a rather limited mode of transport.
A brilliant and brave idea? Or too soon and foolhardy? Let's decide.
As per the above, think more scooter level performance than car. With 17hp and 42lb ft, the Twizy will accelerate from 0-28mph in 6.1 seconds and 18-37mph in 8.1 - performance Renault claims is the same as a 125cc moped over a distance of 50m.
On the road it actually feels good, helped by the linear torque provided by the electric motor driving the rear wheels. Even with the Twizy's £545 optional scissor "doors" (there's still a void left, it's more marginal weatherproofing) the wind rush makes progress feel faster than is strictly accurate.
The wind rush makes progress feel faster
Top speed is just 50mph, but the Twizy has been designed almost exclusively for urban use - when was the last time you did/could do more than 50 in a town?
The Twizy's throttle pedal is progressive once you get going, but off the mark it seems to take a bit more of a stab than is usually necessary in a conventional auto to set the Twizy away.
A ploy by Renault to stop heavy-shoed EV numpties from mashing the throttle, then having to brake again too soon and wasting valuable charge? Quite possibly.
Ride and handling
The Twizy was punted in the direction of Renaultsport for the development of its chassis and powertrain - and it shows. It's not all that fast, but it's refreshing, engaging and superbly intuitive to drive.
With no ABS, power steering or stability systems, you feel a real connection to what the Twizy is doing underneath. Which, incidentally, is where the majority of the car's mass is located, meaning despite its narrow track and tall canopy, it stays pretty flat through the turns.
Low rolling resistance tyres help improve efficiency, but mean that the limit of the Twizy's abilities are reached at much lower and - importantly - safer speeds. Steering is direct, and combined with the central driving position you feel confident placing the car on the road straight away.
The suspension is fairly stiff, with severe bumps shocking the chassis, but this helps give that flat cornering stance - with a short wheelbase and width, there's not much opportunity for the chassis to flex either.
The Twizy isn't going to be a vehicle that gets thrashed every time it's used - in some cases you wouldn't have enough range left to get to your destination if you did. All the same, it's a charming car to drive and its comparative lack of power places more emphasis on the fun chassis.
It might look like a single-seater, but the Twizy actually employs a tandem seating arrangement, with the rear seat positioned directly behind the driver's. And actually, it's not that uncomfortable a place to sit.
Employs a tandem seating arrangement
Legroom is good as your lower limbs straddle the most forward chair, while the slightly raised stance of the second seat makes room for a lockable 31-litre storage area underneath - enough for a laptop or a handbag.
A further 3.5-litre bin and lockable 5-litre box either side of the steering wheel provide more storage room, but space for your possessions is the Twizy's largest drawback. Renault offers a 50-litre bag that sits on the rear seat to help, but then the ability to carry two is gone.
With the Twizy being an open car, the interior is fairly rudimentary. It's designed to cope with getting dirty and therefore being cleaned down, so there aren't too many interior flourishes, either.
Economy and safety
Renault is being quite open about range forecasts for the Twizy. The firm says a maximum of 62 miles is available from the 6.1kWh lithium-ion battery pack and brake energy recovery system, but that real-world use will drop that to 50 miles - 34 miles in "severe conditions with repeated hard acceleration."
The battery pack isn't included in the cost
Renault is expecting it to cost around £1 for a complete charge in the UK - and this is performed using a conventional three-pin plug and socket. Drawing 10 amps, fully topping up an empty 'tank' will take around 3.5-hours.
However, the battery pack isn't included in the cost of the car. Instead owners must lease this from Renault at around £45 a month (based on a 4,500-mile / 36-month contract). You aren't completely locked in, though, so it is still possible to sell the Twizy on.
As a quadricycle it doesn't have to meet any crash test legislation. But Renault is keen to promote the Twizy's safety. All versions are fitted with an airbag and a four-point seatbelt system as standard - and there's an energy-absorbent safety-cell type chassis similar to that used by the Smart ForTwo.
The MSN Cars verdict
Will the Twizy change the public's perception of EVs? Does it provide a viable solution to congested urban motoring? Yes on both counts, in our opinion.
But whether the image change will prove a positive one - rather than a wacky reaction to a vehicle nobody wants to buy - remains to be seen at this stage.
Still, Renault is pioneering zero emissions technology. Computers, mobile phones and MP3 players all started somewhere, and look where they are today. The Twizy is doing the same with electric cars and Renault should be commended for its bold decision to build something so far off the beaten track.
The Twizy is fun, but also massively competent when measured against the vehicle's brief. Overall, it's a really likeable piece of kit, and while it isn't going to make the city car redundant, it might just prove the commuter alternative buyers didn't know they were looking for.
Need to know
Engine: Electric motor with reducer gear
Torque: 42lb ft
Top speed: 50mph
Range: 62 miles
CO2: 0 (local emissions)