What is it?
We’re no stranger to the Renault Twizy electric quadracycle (as it’s officially known); we drove the Twizy in £7400 ‘Technic’ guise in March along the comparatively silky tarmac of Spain. This time around we’ve swapped sun and shades for the best of British in our first UK drive of the Twizy, which is on sale now.
‘Weirdly thrilling to drive’ were our words in Spain and in the UK it’s certainly no different. Being positioned centrally in a vehicle far narrower than the average person’s arm span (it’s just 1.4 metres wide and 2.33m long) takes some getting used to, but if you’ve ever piloted a moped, you’ll feel quite at ease.
Of course the main crux of our UK drive centres around how the Twizy rides and handles on our notoriously scarred roads.
What is it like?
Unfortunately, the news isn’t good. While you can literally see the suspension components on the Twizy, you will think that they’ve all but disappeared when on the move. Even the smallest bumps, usually glossed over in your average hatchback, are felt right to the core.
On the plus side, however, you’ll relish being able to navigate around potholes thanks to its small dimensions. Sharp steering inputs return direct steering responses and body roll is non-existent, giving the Twizy excellent stability at speed.
Decent traction in the dry is another plus, despite its narrow, low rolling resistance rubber; the Twizy’s Conti.eContact tyres (145/80 R13) have been specially designed for electric vehicles and seem to be a good pairing.
Push harder through a corner, however, and the Twizy’s firm suspension will wash the EV’s front-end wide. While softer spring rates would alleviate understeer, the risk of rolling the high-sided EV would probably be dramatically increased. Let’s also not forget, that Renault plans to introduce a 28mph-capped Twizy in 2013 for fearless 16-year-olds with no driving licence.
You’ll be pleased with the way the Twizy keeps up with city traffic, though. Acceleration to 30mph is surprisingly swift (around 6.0sec) and more than adequate for town commutes. The Twizy’s unservoed brakes are strong, too, (thanks to discs all round) and don’t require a particularly heavy foot to operate.
But back to Britain; our weather at the best of times is on the miserable side of fair, which is where the Twizy really loses its appeal. No doors (just ‘side blades’, which come as a £545 option) make progress in rain and wind particularly unpleasant. Add the fact that cold weather depletes battery life and the Twizy’s impracticality becomes even more apparent.
Should I buy one?
Yes you should, but only if you can answer the following pre-requisites with a resounding yes; firstly, you’ll need a private driveway for trouble-free charging, a thick skin to keep out the cold, and the desire to get noticed the whole time.
Otherwise the Renault Twizy’s impracticalities – including limited storage, no windows, door locks, heaters or radio – and rock-solid ride, plus the initial cost and monthly battery leasing (from £40 per month) will leave you feeling short changed.
Nevertheless, everybody should at least spend a day behind the wheel of a Renault Twizy for its sheer novelty and, weather permitting, open-air thrills.
Price: £7690 (+£45pm); Top speed: 50mph; 0-28mph: 6.1sec; Economy: na; CO2: na; Kerb weight: 475kg; Engine type: Electric asynchronous; Installation: Mid, transverse, RWD: Power: 17bhp; Torque; 42lb ft at 2100rpm; Gearbox: none; Battery 6.1kWh lithium-ion: Boot; 31 litres; Wheels: 13-inch steel; Tyres:145/803 R13; Charge time: 3.5 hours