Renault Twizy: First report

28 Aug, 2012 12:00pm Jack Rix

Want to be the centre of attention? The radical Twizy is the answer, as our man is finding out

If you’re thinking about shelling out on a supercar to turn some heads, forget it. Take my advice, save yourself several hundreds of thousands of pounds and go for a Renault Twizy instead.

It’s causing a blur of activity wherever it goes. What’s remarkable is that all the comments so far have been positive – and that certainly wasn’t the case when I had a Ferrari 458 Spider for the weekend a few weeks ago.

Whether I’m stopped in traffic, climbing out or even standing in its general vicinity, everyone has a question to ask. “How much does it cost?”, “is it electric?” and “how far can it go before running out?” are the most popular, but my favourite was the lady who pulled up alongside me at the lights and asked: “Did you build it yourself?”

For those who don’t know, the Twizy is the quirkiest member of Renault’s electric car family, which also includes the Fluence saloon and ZOE supermini. In fact, because of its tiny dimensions and 450kg kerbweight, it isn’t a car at all; it’s a quadricyle, so sidesteps normal crash regulations. Maybe it’s best to think of the Twizy as a safer alternative to a scooter, rather than a flimsy car.

Electric cars only really make sense for a tiny percentage of the population – which is why sales haven’t lived up to the hype. Luckily, I’m among that small percentage. With our office based in central London, there’s queueing traffic, the congestion charge and parking to deal with – areas in which the Twizy excels.

My commute from South London is a little over six miles, so the 40-mile range is more than enough. A full charge takes just threeand- a-half hours from a normal household socket, although I use the plugs in our underground car park to charge up while I’m working in the office.

My girlfriend might not agree, but I think the motorbike-style two-seater layout is a brilliant piece of packaging, and when you’re travelling alone there’s space for a big bag or two behind you. Two extra cubbies in the top of the dash, one lockable, and a series of stretchy nets dotted around the interior are useful, while the optional Bluetooth streams music or Internet radio from your phone, even if the roof-mounted speakers are a bit weak.

Downsides? Well the suspension feels unnecessarily firm, and when it rains, the lack of windows means the top half of your body gets a soaking. That said, the compromises so far are relatively few. If you spot me around town, don’t forget to come and say hello...

Our view

"The Twizy draws more attention than most six-figure supercars. But the ride is too firm, so you have to look out for potholes and speed bumps."
Richard Ingram, Special contributor

Your view

"Congratulations to Renault for daring to be different.We need this type of vehicle to change our city traffic, and the appealing aspect of the Twizy is that it’s great fun to drive."
CarsDefineUs via www.autoexpress.co.uk

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Why oh why do all car writers insist on shunting the Twizy into the Urban car ghetto?. You don't need a car in the city walk or use public transport. However for those of us who live in in deepest wales up a mountain and spend our lives driving with journeys under 10 miles the Twizy is the answer and fun as well. AND YOU DO NOT get wet when it rains as the driver - and even if you did wear a coat!

I disagree that "Electric cars only really make sense for a tiny percentage of the population..." as there are a lot of 2 car families in this country and I expect the majority of them could run an EV as a second car for the school run, shopping, driving to work and the like. Hopefully when cheaper cars like the Renault Zoe go on sale in a few months, it will appeal to this market.

My brother has been looking at the Nissan Leaf as with leases now available at £250 per month, then including the tax benefits, it's cheaper than his petrol bill. That's basically free driving. He is not considering this for urban commuting but to travel all over the South West.

If an EV doesn't work for you, then there's always the Extended-range EV option like my Vauxhall Ampera. I do 300 motorway commute miles a week only using electricity, but I still have the petrol back-up for longer trips such as Cornwall and Wales. Since I got the car in May, I've already saved £1000 on fuel. After almost 6000 miles, all things considered I think it's the best car I've ever driven.

I fell totally in love with the Twizy, even went for a test drive, but at the end of the day was expensive when taking into account battery hire and unbelievably high insurance quotes (Im in my 40's with full no claims) so I opted for a Smart Fortwo diesel. So close Renault but falling at the final hurdle, try harder.

The only one of these I have encountered, in rural Devon was surprisingly noisy and, according to the landlady of my B&B, had left its owner stranded on occasions. It seems like the Sinclair C5 revisited!
It is perfectly true to say that EVs are urban and suburban biased

Key specs

  • On fleet since: August 2012
  • Price new: £8,445
  • Engine: Electric motor, 17bhp
  • CO2/tax: 0g/km/£0
  • Options: Scissor doors (£545), coloured alloys (£340), Parrot Bluetooth (£270), metallic paint (£195), storage nets (£50)
  • Trade-in now: N/A
  • Insurance group/quote: 10/£365.42
  • Mileage/mpg: 176
  • Costs: None so far
  • Any problems?: None so far

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