Autocar drives the Renault Twizy EV 15kW Technic
Originally Posted by Autocar
What is it?
You might hope that it's a eureka moment. A bold statement that we've experienced the future of motoring. Because that's what most will be thinking when the gloriously sci-fi looking Renault Twizy glides down the road in 2012.
But given there is still some uncertainty whether electric cars are the long-term answer to the renewable fuel question, we'll leave the crystal ball gazing to others. Still, we have now spent some time in the final production version of Renault's innovative new two-seat pure-electric urban car, and it entirely lives up to expectations. Not just as super-functional town transport, but also as an exciting and entertaining thing to drive.
The driver sits centrally in the 1.4-metre wide, 2.33m long body, whilst the passenger sits directly behind them. Beneath is a floor-mounted lithium-ion battery. It will give the 17bhp, 475kg Twizy a range of 62 miles on a good day, although 50-55 miles is more likely in the real world.
Added to the bike-sized body is a surprisingly sophisticated suspension setup of Pseudo-MacPherson struts at both ends. It's also mostly developed by Renaultsport.
What's it like?
Taking all this into account it's no surprise the Twizy is weirdly thrilling drive. It feels very scooter-like yet delivers many of the practicalities of four-wheeled vehicles including stability, substantial weather protection and better safety standards than two- or three-wheeled equivalents.
The steering is nicely weighted, the interior well thought-out, and though the one-piece seat only adjusts forwards and backwards it's fairly comfortable even for longer stints.
The compromises are still obvious. You don't just have to pay the £6690 base price (£7400 for the top spec Technic tested here), you must also hire the battery at a minimum of £45 per month.
Doors are a £545 option and even with them you're quite exposed to the elements given that there are no windows. There's no heater and your rear passenger will be less than comfortable. Leathers and a helmet might be unnecessary, but you'll still want some cold weather gear for all-season Twizy-ing in the UK.
Also, whilst its diminutive size means it's capable of skipping some traffic queues, a conventional motorbike will give you that gloating freedom more frequently.
Even so, the appeal is clear. Apart from the immediacy of its controls and the overwhelming novelty of it, the Twizy makes sense for those solely after a functional urban commuter. It's incredibly manoeuvrable and easy to drive, costs £1 per 60-odd miles of motoring (a full charge will take 3.5 hours), is congestion charge free and ridiculously easy to park. Sadly you can't legally park it in a motorbike bay.
The acceleration may look unimpressive on paper but in reality the Twizy is sprightly enough, thanks to the immediate delivery of its 42lb ft of torque. The brakes are also worthy of mention. Discs all round and unassisted, you'll need firm pressure but they work impeccably around town.
There is one flaw in the dynamics some prospective buyers may find hard to forgive, and that's the ride. We haven't experienced the Twizy in the UK yet, but on Spanish roads it was mercilessly firm at higher speeds and more unforgiving than you'd expect even at an urban crawl. This does translate into confidence-inspiring body control and stability, and it settles over smooth tarmac. But there's no avoiding how wooden the Twizy is over bigger intrusions, and it's not going to get better on British soil.
Is it a deal breaker? Unlikely. The Twizy is aimed at such a specific task and does it so well, that if you feel it would benefit your lifestyle and you can justify the purchase cost then you are unlikely to be deterred.
Should I buy one?
The question of cost is a thorny one for the Twizy. Take into account its limited repertoire - monthly contract, range and intermittent bodywork included it can end up looking expensive. Particularly if you compare it to less restrictive, and barely any pricier, conventional city cars such as the Hyundai i10.
But the Twizy will only ever be bought as a second or third vehicle where a standard city car would be unnecessary. If you look at the engineering involved in the Renault and consider the more specialised benefits traffic-busting size, free' fuel, clean conscience, free entry to London, easy parking and a distinctly eco-chic image, it begins to look really rather cheap.
Looking at how much more expensive anything else with four wheels and electric propulsion will cost only backs up the Twizy as a budget purchase.
So there's the answer. If the Twizy makes sense in your life, then do it. It's fabulous. If it doesn't then currently you'll probably struggle to look past the familiar benefits of a conventional city car.
One thing's for sure, whilst the Twizy is an unlikely vessel for it, its vivid charm and engaging dynamics proves that the enthusiast community can find a fix even in cheap electric cars.
Renault Twizy Technic
Price: £7400 (+£45pm); Top speed: 50mph; 0-28mph: 6.1sec; Economy: na; Co2: na; Kerbweight: 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: 13in alloy; Tyres: 125/80 r13(f) 145/80 r13(r)