Renault Twizy Road Test
Model/Engine size: Technic
Fuel economy combined: N/A
Green-Car-Guide rating: 9/10
The Renault Twizy , which is essentially an electric four-wheeled scooter, felt so much like a go-kart on its launch in Ibiza that it inspired us to take it for a test around an actual go-kart circuit .
The Twizy may be Renault’s vision of a zero-emission solution for urban transportation , but that doesn’t mean that the future for city drivers is dull. In fact quite the opposite; the Twizy is quite simply one of the most fun vehicles that you can drive.
The experience really does bear a remarkable similarity to an electric go-kart, albeit a tall one. Which is why, when the test route went past a go-karting circuit, we couldn’t resist pulling in, asking the owner of the track nicely, and taking the Twizy for a spin. And our suspicions were confirmed – it was huge fun – see the
Renault Twizy go-karting video
Renault makes a big play on the fact that the Twizy has benefited from development input in the chassis department from the Renault Sport people Ц along with some help from the Renault Formula 1 team with the electric motor and its KERS-like braking/deceleration energy recovery system. Although all this may be egged up somewhat for marketing purposes, the Twizy certainly does handle well. It has very little body roll and really benefits from its lightness (it weighs just 474 kg, including batteries).
The steering is unassisted, so it feels direct, although perhaps not as smooth and precise as you might expect. The 6.1 kWh lithium-ion battery sits underneath the occupants, the electric motor is at the rear, and it’s rear-wheel drive Ц in fact it is Renault’s only current rear-wheel drive vehicle Ц all of which gives the Twizy a distinct benefit in the handling department.
All this also meant that the Twizy was as much fun as hoped for on the go-karting circuit. This is despite a relative lack of performance. The Twizy’s electric motor generates only 17 hp, along with 57 Nm torque, resulting in a 0-28 mph acceleration time of 6.1 seconds. But because you’re not in a conventional car that is heavily insulated from the outside world, the Twizy feels fun and exciting despite the lack of power and outright speed. Because it’s light, it’s also easy to stop; the Twizy has disc brakes all around, but without the normal levels of power assistance that you would experience in a car.
It may sound quiet at low speeds from outside, but even with its all-electric powertrain, the Twizy is far from silent from the inside. As speeds rise there is more wind noise, and an increasingly audible whine from the electric motor.
Apart from having no windows Ц and even the doors are only an option – the go-kart sensation is accentuated by the central driving position. It subconsciously leads you to believe that the Twizy has some genes from machinery more commonly found on racing tracks, even though the performance statistics bear no resemblance to track day weapons.
Of course the whole appearance of the Twizy is completely unconventional. With its single seat up front, and a small second seat tucked behind, in a passenger compartment that is sat on top of wheels with a wider track than the rear of the body, it looks completely unique Ц and this image is only accentuated by the ‘scissor half doors’, which open upwards, gull-wing style.
When in motion on the road, the Twizy looks even more futuristic Ц especially when you see a convoy of Twizys together. They look like some sort of space-age personal transportation pods from a sci-fi movie.
In fact we’ve never driven a vehicle that has generated so much reaction from other drivers and pedestrians. Whilst on the launch in Ibiza we lost count of the amount of cars that pulled up alongside, with the occupants asking all sorts of questions about the Twizy.
Horns were being sounded almost continually by passing motorists, and children ran up to the vehicle at traffic lights. At one stage we parked it on the beach and instantly had numerous interested parties examining the strange-looking object. On day two we drove a Twizy through the normally pedestrian-only centre of the city, and if you stopped, you would instantly be surrounded by a hoard of onlookers.
It’s really an Electric Quadricycle
So why the huge amount of interest in the Twizy? Apart from being futuristic and silent, it is completely unique. It’s not a car, yet it’s not a scooter either; it is actually an electric quadricycle . Many people will associate the term quadricycle with vehicles such as the G-Wiz Ц which will probably result in negative connotations. Amongst other things, the G-Wiz was known for its appalling performance in crash tests. Renault has crash-tested the Twizy, and the company is confident that it is much safer than other quadricycles, thanks to a protective cell around the occupants, an air bag, a traditional three-point seat belt for both driver and passenger, plus an extra two-point belt for the driver.
The Twizy will never perform to the same crash test standards as a car, and one reason for this is that the basic Twizy doesn’t have doors Ц they’re an option. You can specify doors, primarily for some degree of weather protection rather than security, as you can’t lock them (but you can specify an alarm), but you can’t have windows. This is because the Twizy is designed to be as simple and as lightweight as possible, and if you have a passenger compartment fully encapsulated with doors and windows, then you need a ventilation system. That’s when things start to get complicated, heavy, energy-draining, and expensive.
So the Twizy’s interior is pretty basic. Apart from a traditional-style ignition key , you get:
That’s pretty much it. There are two small gloveboxes at the left and right on top of the dash, and one is lockable. There’s also a 31-litre stowage area under the rear seat. There’s a 12V socket, and at launch this was used this to power a TomTom SatNav (which actually worked surprisingly well). It’s possible to have a hands-free phone system, along with speakers and connectivity for an MP3player; the Parrot Bluetooth hands free kit costs £270.
You can specify other options such as doors (which cost £545), a luggage bag that sits in the rear, and even rear parking sensors. You’d think that such a small car (just 2.34 metres long and 1.24 metres wide) wouldn’t need this technology, but you can be caught out when reversing, as when you look in the mirrors you can see the outer edge of the bodywork and assume that this is the width of the car, but the wheels, which can be difficult to see in the mirrors, protrude wider than the body at the rear of the vehicle.
The Twizy comes in three equipment levels: Urban, Color and Technic. Urban is the entry-level; Color provides more two-tone paint options; and Technic is top of the range, coming with alloy wheels, metallic paint and a transparent roof as standard. Four colours are available: white, black, grey or red.
The Twizy produces 17 hp or 13 kW from its all-electric powertrain , 57 Nm torque, reaches a top speed of 80 kph, and has a range of 100 km, or 62 miles (drive like most people did on the launch and you’ll see a real-life range of much less than 100 km). It costs £6,690 in Urban form, £6,950 for Color, and £7,400 for Technic. It takes three and a half hours to recharge, which is a simple operation involving pulling out a cable from under a cover at the front of the vehicle and plugging it in to a domestic energy supply.
There’s also the Twizy 45 (the one in black and red in the photos), which generates 5 hp or 4 kW, has its top speed limited to 45 kph. You may be able to drive the Twizy 45 without a driving licence, depending on the country; this is due to be possible in the UK from January 2013 . Neither version of the Twizy requires the wearing of a helmet.
On top of the purchase price, you also need to lease the battery, rates for which start at £45/month, for 4,500 miles per year, over a minimum of 36 months. For 9,000 miles per year over a period of just 12 months, this rises to £67/month.
Because it’s a quadricycle, the Twizy doesn’t qualify for the UK government plug-in car grant (25% of the purchase price up to £5,000).
The Twizy is on sale in the UK now.
Because it either has no doors or no windows, the Twizy is open to the elements, and so although it is ideal for markets such as Ibiza, the likely uptake in places such as the UK is more questionable. Of course you could use it in winter in the UK by wearing lots of cold/wet-weather clothing, but a conventional car would be more practical.
Despite this lack of weather-proofing being a limiting factor in some markets, the Renault Twizy gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 9 out of 10. This is because Renault is really showing leadership with the Twizy; being small and zero-emission, it’s a ground-breaking concept that offers an innovative solution for urban mobility. But the real bonus is that in addition to being a responsible solution for our cities, the Renault Twizy is fun. We hope Renault’s leap of faith with the Twizy is rewarded with success.
Official electricity consumption: 63 Wh/km
Battery pack: 6.1 kWh lithium-ion
Recharge time: 240V charge 3.5 hours
Range: 62 miles (urban cycle)
CO2 emissions: 0 g/km if recharged from renewable energy
Weight: 474 Kg
Company car tax liability (2012/13): 0%
Price: £7400, plus £45 per month for battery hire
(Doesn’t qualify for £5,000 UK government grant)
Insurance group: 11
Power: 17 hp
Max speed: 50 mph
0-28mph: 6.1 seconds
With thanks to the Ibiza go-kart circuit www.gokartssantaeulalia.com
More Renault Reviews >>