Renault Twizy review
The groundbreaking Renault Twizy electric car claims to be the perfect solution to urban transport
The word odd doesn’t do justice to the Renault Twizy. It’s a tiny two-seater electric city car that looks like a futuristic motor show design concept but is actually a fully-fledged production model that sits at the base of Renault’s electric car range.
Any when we say tiny, we mean it. The Renault Twizy is just 2.32-metres long, 1.19-metres wide and 1.46-metres high. Officially, it’s classed as a quadricycle, which means it’s part-car, part-motorcycle, and it seats its passenger directly behind the driver.
Although the sides are open to the elements, optional scissor doors and zip-on windows provide some protection, while a 31-litre lockable cubbyhole that’s designed to take a briefcase serves as the ‘boot’.
The Twizy is powered a 17bhp electric motor that produces 57Nm of torque, ensuring silent but nippy performance around town and a top speed of 50mph. It can be fully charged in three and a half hours from a domestic power socket and provides up to 62 miles of emission-free driving.
There’s a choice of three trim levels, Urban, Colour and Technic, but, unbelievably, Renault also offers a Twizy Cargo commercial vehicle version with the rear passenger seat converted into a bijou load area.
The list prices for the Renault Twizy don’t include the lease on the lithium-ion batteries, so conventional city cars like the VW up!, SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo are significantly more affordable. Plus, with a range of more conventional small EVs now available to UK buyers, the Twizy has its work cut out. You’ve really got to love the way it looks, or the attention it inevitably gets, to take the plunge.
Our choice: Twizy 17hp Colour
Engines, performance and drive
The Renault Twizy couldn’t be easier to drive: just hit the Drive button on the dash, press the throttle and you pull away in silence. The gearbox is operated via push buttons on the dash, and the handbrake is activated by a lever underneath the steering column.
As it carries most of its kerbweight low down between the wheels, the Twizy offers plenty of grip and hardly any body roll, thanks to its stiff suspension. But the firm set-up means the ride is uncomfortable, with even the smallest bumps leading to shudders through the cabin. Big bumps can send you flying out of the seat, while the whining electric drivetrain and constant buffeting mean the Twizy can very quickly become tiresome to drive.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
As the Twizy is classed as a quadricycle, it doesn’t qualify for the Government’s electric car grant. However, it does have the lowest list price of any EV on sale in the UK. It starts from just £6,895, with the higher-spec Technic costing £7,595. But buyers will also need to factor in the monthly battery lease cost, which is £49 based on a 36 month, 6,000-mile per year agreement. That means it’s equal in price to more traditional city cars like the Volkswagen up! and Skoda Citigo, but more expensive than the larger Dacia Sandero.
However, the Twizy’s real trump card is that it should be cheaper to run than all of these. Renault says that its lithium-ion batteries can be recharged via a household socket for about £1. This takes three and a half hours, and should give the car a range of up to 62 miles (although, we found that 50 miles is more realistic). Plus, as it emits zero tailpipe emissions, it’s exempt from road tax and the London Congestion Charge, too. It falls into insurance group 11, though, which means it will cost far more to insure than the up! or Citigo, which both fall into bracket two. However, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive is available for a few thousand pounds more and is faster, more comfortable and has a 90-mile range.
Interior, design and technology
Any electric car will turn heads, but not even a supercar can attract attention quite like the Renault Twizy - it looks like nothing else on the road. The scissor doors – a £545 option - provide real drama, but they’re only half the usual height and they’re the only barrier between you and the elements. In colder weather, you’ll need to wear a jacket and gloves, and you'll have to resign yourself to the fact that you might get wet when it rains. The driver sits ahead of their passenger in a tandem layout, so there's not much room in the back.
A simple display screen shows the car’s speed and battery range, while the rubber and plastics are weatherproof not plush. There are three trim levels to choose from. Entry-level Urban comes with 13-inch wheels, a heated windscreen, a lockable glovebox, an onboard computer and a three-metre-long charging cable. Colour trim comes with white bodywork and a roof finished in Urban Blue, Ivy Green or Flame Orange, while top-of-the-range Technic cars get alloy wheels and special trim. Optional extras include zip-on plastic windows for £295.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Twizy isn’t as practical as the latest city cars, but then Renault would argue this isn’t a fair comparison because it’s around half the size. Its tiny dimensions make it perfect for driving around and parking in town, while the 6.8-metre turning circle gives the Renault black cab-rivalling U-turn ability. However, despite its narrow stance, the Twizy is still too big to drive between rows of stationary cars.
There’s just 31 litres of luggage space, plus two gloveboxes (one of which is lockable) up front, although that’s more than scooter owners have to play with. The driver’s seat slides back and forth, but doesn’t adjust for height, while the tiny passenger seat is really only suitable for children. In fact, buyers can specify an optional child booster seat, as well as storage nets and a passenger blanket. But that’s where the create comforts end - if you want a heater, look elsewhere.
Reliability and Safety
The Renault Twizy doesn’t qualify for Euro NCAP’s rigorous crash test programme, as it isn’t classed as a car. However, the Twizy will be much safer to drive than a scooter. Every model comes fitted with a driver’s airbag and seatbelt pre-tensioners for the driver and passenger - although you don't need to wear a seatbelt to drive it. An immobiliser is also fitted as standard, while an anti-lift alarm can be added as an option.
Reliability is still something of an unknown quantity for electric cars. There have been no reports of any major problems with the Twizy since it went on sale at the beginning of 2012, though, and the battery leasing system means that getting a replacement unit will be simple. Plus, the Twizy also comes with Renault’s excellent 4+ package, which gives four years’ free roadside recovery, servicing and warranty.