The Renault Twizy is a unique, affordable and innovative car that will appeal to style, eco and value-conscious buyers. While it’s fun to drive and well built, the windowless doors and 50-mile range limit it to fair-weather city driving. Minimal equipment means alternatives like the VW up! are more comfortable and versatile for similar money.
The Twizy is the third and most eagerly awaited model to join Renault’s electric car line-up, after the Kangoo and Fluence. It’s 2.34 metres long by 1.34m wide, weighs 474kg and is designed as an urban commuter – and it looks like nothing else on the road.
All four wheels are mounted outside the body, while the doors have no frames, glass or handles; you reach inside to open them. They’re light and easily closed again from the driver’s seat.
Video: Watch our video of the Renault Twizy
The Twizy has a 17bhp electric motor and comes in a choice of three trims. Urban is the entry-level spec, priced at £6,690, while the mid-range Colour gets floor mats and brightly coloured stickers and costs £6,950. The top-of-the-range Technic we drove costs £7,400, and adds alloy wheels, metallic paint and a carbon-look dash pod and roof.
The semi-open cockpit has a durable feel. You sit on a padded yet firm driver’s seat, and while the steering column is fixed, the raised central driving position offers good all-round vision and lots of head and legroom.
There’s no air-con or radio in the basic dash pod, but the textured plastic steering wheel feels solid. A digital screen displays your speed, range and charge, including whether you’re reclaiming energy through the brakes or using it up accelerating.
You start the Twizy with a key, and there are buttons for reverse, neutral and drive modes. Release the dash-mounted handbrake, hit drive and you move off in silence. Performance is peppy, with enough go to outpace urban traffic. Once up to speed, the silence is broken by the rising and falling whine of the electric motor.
The Twizy is built for cities, yet the ride is harsh. The firm seat and limited suspension travel mean large bumps bounce you out of the seat. It deals with small bumps better, but speed humps need caution. Handling is good on smooth roads, but corner hard and you’ll slide across the seat.
Cleverly, the doors have perspex panels that let you see the front wheels. Together with a 3.4m turning circle, this makes parking a breeze, although the steering is a bit heavy. It lightens at speed and the Twizy feels composed, despite its semi-open cockpit, and the cabin is free of squeaks and rattles.
The back seat looks small, yet a six-footer will have no trouble fitting in, as they straddle the driver. But this doesn’t leave much space for luggage: we’d like more pockets up front next to the two dashtop gloveboxes.
Renault claims a 50-mile range after charging for three-and-a-half hours from a conventional plug socket. The battery lease starts at £45 per month, with packages varying from 12 to 48 months. That includes four years’ servicing, while road tax is free.
As it’s a quadricycle, the Twizy doesn’t have a Euro NCAP rating, but it’s undergone side-impact testing and has a driver’s airbag.