Driven: Renault Twizy
It’s been 16 years since Renault did anything quite this outlandish. Back in 1996, the company launched a limited run of the Spider, a two-seat sports car which – rather like the Twizy – looked like a road-going concept car. Basic features were optional then, too, but in the Nineties it was the windscreen that’d set you back the extra cash.
Distinctive styling isn’t the only shared DNA here. The Spider was built by in-house tuning arm Renault Sport, responsible for overseeing the carmaker’s high performance road cars and motorsport efforts. Sixteen years forward and that same team has developed an infinitely agile chassis for instant thrust of the electric motor powering the Twizy’s rear wheels.
It’s a lot of fun. The steering is incredibly quick and direct, and because most of the weight is mounted just off the floor it’s also very stable. There’s only a miniscule 17bhp to play with, but with so much grip and torque available in such a light package, it’s the most fun you can have at well under the speed limit.
This all translates well for inner-city use. There’s a mental readjustment when parking it, but it seats two in tandem and has cubby holes dotted around the cabin to store small items. The back seat isn’t a place to spend long trips, as it’s quite claustrophobic, but it’s well sculpted and surprisingly comfortable. With doors that open upwards, just like a Lamborghini Murcielago, it’ll fit into the tiniest of spaces and still offer easy access to the bare bones cabin.
But this really isn’t a vehicle suited to the UK. The optional doors are a must, but Renault doesn’t sell windows for them. Wind deflectors either side of the dashboard stop the driver getting wet on the move, but expect to carry a towel to dry the seats if it’s parked outside. Clip-on windows are available, albeit from an aftermarket supplier, and they’re well worth having.
Weather problems aside, Twizy’s ride quality is back-breaking, which can make trips through pothole-riddled, speed bump covered British cities uncomfortable.
Pricing is also very steep. Battery leasing works well for larger electric vehicles which are more likely to cover long distances, but they’re not so ideal for the Twizy. These start £45 per month, over a three-year contract at 4,500 miles per year.
Fitted with the optional doors, the Twizy Colour tested here costs £7,495. That’s only £500 cheaper than a Citroën C1, which could cover 1,100 more miles per year using £45 of petrol per month. It’s not as extrovert, but it’s VED and congestion charge exempt, has seating for five, a usable boot and locking doors with windows. That’s a lot of useful features for the money.
All of which is likely to make Renault’s smallest model a bit of a rare sight in the UK. It’s brave move going against the grain, and one which should be a valuable marketing tool for electric and conventional Renault models alike, but against cheaper scooters and more accomplished city cars, it’s a rather hard purchase to justify.
For businesses with in-house couriers, or needing something safer and less bracing than a scooter for inner-city staff transport, Twizy is a really entertaining way to get about and a good company billboard if signwritten. But it’s really a heart over head model, and thus hard to recommend it on its practical merits.
Type: Battery-electric vehicle
Price: £6,690-£7,400 (battery leasing packages from £45 per month)
Electric range: 60 miles
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 0g/km
Charging port: Captive lead – domestic plug connection