We’ve driven the all-electric Renault Twizy on its European launch in Ibiza, with smooth roads and great weather, when it was huge fun, but what’s it like to live with in the UK?
Renault has a range of all-electric vehicles: the Fluence, an electric saloon; the Kangoo, an electric van; and the Zoe, an electric supermini. To cater for even wider needs, there’s also the Twizy, an all-electric cross between a car and a scooter.
Design & Engineering
The Twizy is actually a quadricycle. This means that it’s lighter than a car, and isn’t subject to various items of legislation that relate to cars, such as the same standard of crash testing.
It’s a ‘tandem’ two-seater vehicle – it has a passenger seat behind the driver’s seat. The battery is under the floor of the vehicle, and the Twizy has a one-speed automatic transmission.
In terms of styling, the Twizy looks like nothing else on the road. The interior is somewhat basic in comparison to the exterior design.
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Renault Twizy Driving Experience
The key point about the Twizy driving experience is that you need lots of spare time. Not because it’s slow – although it’s certainly not a performance car (its top speed is limited to 50 mph) – but because wherever you go, everyone will stop and talk to you about the Twizy. This happened on the Twizy’s launch in Ibiza, also in the UK.
The Twizy was delivered in the back of a Renault truck (with around a 50 mile range, it’s obviously not practical to drive the Twizy under its own steam from the London area to Cheshire). By the time the Twizy had exited the truck and landed on the drive, 14 people were also on the drive asking what on earth it was. This consisted of 10 local school boys, plus four neighbours. All of the boys from the school thought it was the coolest thing they’d ever seen, and they all wanted one. The neighbours were intrigued, but didn’t seem to be in any imminent danger of placing an order.
This trend continued throughout our week with the Twizy. Parents on the school run are normally so focused on getting kids into or out of school that all vehicles are ignored unless they’re more outlandish than a bright yellow Lamborghini. The Twizy obviously fitted this description, because every day there was a collection of kids and parents crowded around the Twizy, hoping for a ride.
Even a visit to the local supermarket had the same effect. Returning to the car with bags of shopping, again a small group of onlookers had formed to work out if the Twizy was part of some science fiction film set. You can also fit more shopping than you would imagine, as well as a small child, in the Twizy.
The doors that open upwards add to the shock and awe factor, and the final icing on the cake is when you drive away in complete silence. If ever a manufacturer got huge PR from just giving out press cars, regardless of any published reviews, it was Renault that week with the Twizy.
So, the Twizy makes heads turn everywhere it goes, but what about life inside it? It’s certainly fun, even though it’s not particularly fast. The fact that it’s small and light certainly helps with the go-kart driving experience (sorry MINI, we know that’s your phrase, but it’s also accurate for the Twizy).
Although it may be quiet when observed from the outside, that’s certainly not the case from the inside. The basic Twizy doesn’t have doors, never mind windows. Our test car did have the optional doors, plus windows, but although they do a decent job of keeping the worst of the British weather out, there are still gaps, which results in lots of wind noise. Add to that the whine from the electric powertrain and road noise, and you end up with a driving experience that’s far from quiet.
However the main thing that this test confirmed was that the Twizy has virtually no suspension, resulting in a very uncomfortable ride on the various local pot-holed and speed bump-covered roads. For a vehicle that’s designed primarily for urban use, more forgiving suspension would be a major advantage.
At first you’ll probably religiously recharge the Twizy every night, but after a while you’re more likely to just charge it very second or even third night.
Renault Twizy Economy and Emissions
The electric Twizy obviously has zero tailpipe emissions. A full recharge provides a range of 60 miles according to the official urban driving NEDC cycle, but this is more likely to be around 40-50 miles in real-life, although this depends upon how you drive the Twizy. This is likely to equate to around £1.50, depending upon electricity tariff, for up to 50 miles of driving, which is around one-fifth of the cost of covering 50 miles in an average petrol or diesel car.
Price, Equipment and Model Range
The Renault Twizy Technic costs £7,495, plus a monthly battery rental. This varies depending on contract length and mileage, starting from £45 per month for a 36 month, 4,500 mile lease, increasing to £67 for a 12 month, 9,000 mile lease.
The Technic has the following additional features compared to a basic Twizy: driver and passenger floor mats; alloy wheels; metallic paint; white front seat shell; black upholstery; technic wrap to roof, glove box lids and optional doors.
Our test car also had the following options: scissor doors with clear base (£545); Parrot hands-free phone kit (£290); storage nets (£75); rear storage bag (£85); windows (£295). This resulted in a total price as tested of £8,785.
There’s also an ‘Urban’-spec Twizy.
Renault deserves praise for being brave in bringing the Twizy to market. It’s fun to drive, and it attracts huge amounts of attention wherever it goes. It’s relatively affordable to buy – although you do have an ongoing battery lease to pay for each month – but it’s certainly cheap to run, an overnight recharge should cost less than £1.50, depending upon tariff.
The lack of weatherproofing is a challenge for the Twizy in the UK. The optional doors and windows fitted to our vehicle certainly helped. But the one thing that proved the biggest issue in the UK was the Twizy’s suspension – or rather the lack of any suspension. Using the Twizy for the school run and other urban duties for a week meant that the sighting of every single speed bump and pothole – of which there were many – was dreaded, as such imperfections in the road surface resulted in a smashing sensation being transmitted through the vehicle and into the occupants. For a form of transport that is obviously designed for urban use, it really needs suspension that can cope with the UK’s poorly maintained urban environments. This has resulted in the Twizy dropping a star compared to the rating that we gave it at its launch; it is now awarded a Green-Car-Guide rating of 8 out of 10.