What is it?
This is the real eye-catcher of the Renault electric range, a four-wheeled tandem two-seater barely wider than a scooter and intended to tame Europe’s most traffic-stuffed capitals.
The idea is that you’ll be able to keep moving - and find a parking spot - in (on?) your tiny Twizy, even when more conventional traffic has long since become gridlocked.
What's it like?
Think of the old BMW C1 scooter, lengthen it a bit, widen it by 20cm so there’s room for four small wheels (all independently sprung), then kit it with a 20bhp electric motor (under the passenger’s backside), fed by a lithium ion battery (under your own). Make it look much more handsome and modern; then you’ve just about got it.
There are lots of great details. There are honeycomb matrix displays front and rear that allow you to display the “mood” of the car. The very basic instrumentaion is like nothing you’ve seen before: imagine a yellow plastic flower straight ahead of you, whose petals gradually close as your power runs out.
It’s not fast, the Twizy. Renault has deliberately built it with the performance of a normal 125cc scooter, which means decent acceleration off the mark, but a top speed just under 50mph.
Yet when you’re at the wheel, it feels amazingly comfortable and natural. All the low-set mechanical gubbins give it a very low centre of gravity, so it feels very stable. And the steering is direct and very high-geared. Others may have used handlebars, but this set-up feels very good.
Another virtue is the weather protection. Although Twizy is windowless, you're protected surprisingly well from the elements, especially when you’re on the move.
Whether Twizy makes it or not depends rather a lot on the development of infrastructure. As it stands, it’s just a bit too big to “filter” through traffic like a regular scooter, and charging points are extremely thin on the ground. But with support, it could be the answer.
Should I buy one?
If you live in a capital like Paris or London in 2012, you travel a lot in heavy traffic, and you’re open-minded enough to consider it, you certainly should.
Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but expect to pay less than £5000 for the Twizy when it arrives.
It’ll be a classic choice for early adopters who don’t mind paying a solid price for an unconventional car.