What is it?
Renault’s Twizy isn’t a type of vehicle I’ve driven before – or indeed any of us have driven before. It’s just over two metres long and one wide, has unassisted steering, skinny 125/80 R13 front tyres and 145/80s at the back. And it’s powered by batteries.
The nearest comparison is BMW’s C1 scooter-with-a-roof, but the Twizy has a steering wheel and foot-operated accelerator and brakes. Car drivers will feel at home. I’m strapped in by a combination of a conventional seatbelt and an additional diagonal belt from the other side of the vehicle. There are no doors on these prototypes, but the production cars will be available either with simple beams that open and close, or beams with lower panels to keep spray out.
What’s it like?
Top speed from the 20bhp electric motor is 50mph. That’s enough for a vehicle that’s likely to be used exclusively in towns, as is the claimed range of 60 miles. All-up weight, including batteries, is 450kg. Driven solo, the Twizy’s acceleration feels sprightly, and quicker to the senses than it probably is in physical terms, if only because of the open sides and the directness of all the controls.
The gung-ho Renault test driver we’re following flings his Twizy into the first corner. I do the same, preparing to lean to counteract any two-wheeling. Instead, there’s a fair bit of understeer; with 100kg of batteries under the driver’s backside and barely any weight higher than a couple of feet up, the Twizy swoops around corners.
The track we’re on is super-smooth but the unsprung weight should be low, so ride quality on more challenging surfaces is likely to be good. These really are prototypes with crude plastic panels not properly attached to the Twizy’s frame; there’s a bit of banging and crashing from them that should be gone by the time proper production parts are used.
Should I buy one?
Renault claims it has received four times more interest in the Twizy than it has in its conventional EVs. The beauty of the Twizy, apart from its sense of fun, is that it doesn’t try to be anything other than an urban runabout. There won’t be tales of Twizys running out of juice on motorways because no one will try to use one for over-ambitious journeys.