Renault Twizy Electric Minicar First Drive Report: Video

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GreenCarReports was invited to the island of Ibiza to test Renault's latest electric effort. The Twizy isn't your average electric vehicle, so this won't be your average review.

Instead, we'll aim to answer some of the multitude of questions we were asked via the site and via Twitter.

What is it?

An urban electric vehicle. In Europe, it's registered as a quadricycle, rather than a car. 'Heavy' quadricycle rules dictate a vehicle with four wheels, and an unladen weight of no more than 880 pounds.

You can make your own minds up on the styling, but we've never had such a positive reaction from such a wide range of people--from children, through teenagers right up to the elderly--to a test vehicle before.

And no, we didn't feel silly driving it. And we virtually guarantee it'd eliminate road rage--it's impossible to get angry at someone driving a Twizy.

What trim levels are there?

The basic Twizy, known as the Twizy 45, has a 5.3 horsepower electric motor and a top speed of only 28 mph. It's essentially a neighborhood electric vehicle, and in Europe it can be driven from 16 years old with no licence, echoing 50cc scooter regulations.

Other Twizys are powered by a 17 horsepower motor, and top speed is limited to 50 mph. There are three trim levels - Urban, Color and Technic. The latter gets alloy wheels and a UV-filtering glass roof.

How long does it take to charge?

From a standard 220-240 volt European outlet, the Twizy should recharge from absolutely zero capacity to full in 3.5 hours. There's no fast-charge option, presumably because as an urban vehicle it won't be used for long enough distances to require it.

Is it fast?

No. But in many ways, that doesn't really matter. Mainly because it's an urban vehicle and 50 mph is way above the speed limits for most urban roads, partly because the windowless doors and small size makes it feel quicker than it is, and partly because initial acceleration up to urban speeds is respectably brisk.

We saw a 53 mph maximum speed. It's actually capable of more (you can feel the motor backing off when it hits the limiter), but Renault has limited it to preserve range.

Is it safe?

In theory, yes. Quadricycles aren't required to pass crash tests, but Renault builds some of the safest cars in their respective classes in Europe, so the company has a reputation to uphold.

For that reason, the body structure is similar to that of the Smart ForTwo, essentially a crash helmet--it's designed to spread impacts right around the frame. Wheels at the car's extremities help absorb the impact too, and the Twizy has a driver airbag. The driver also gets two seatbelts--one a traditional three-point belt, the other a shoulder belt for the other side.

Do you get wet if it rains?

Unfortunately--or perhaps fortunately--we were unable to test this first-hand in any more than light drizzle. Generally, you should be fine, as airflow sweeps water up and over the car. Renault admits that at a standstill in heavy sideways rain you'd get wet, though.

Renault will sell a waterproof leg protector bag, which fits over your lap and knees, but drivers wanting to use the Twizy in the rain would be best to wrap up warm!

How does it drive?

Brilliantly. The brakes have no power assistance (nor ABS), but the firm pedal is incredibly intuitive as a result. Nor is the steering assisted, which means great feel from the narrow tires.

There's not a lot of grip, but you can always tell exactly how much you have left, and it's very stable in corners thanks to all the heavy components--like the battery--being mounted very low in the chassis.

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Comments (16)
  1. Its safe??, have a look to the crash test and cry

  2. I fail to see your point, dear anonymous user. The airbag fires, the safety cell doesn't deform... and I'm not sure I'd wish to see the results of any other quadricycle compared to the Renault.

  3. Body style wise it seems to be a scooter car crossover. And yes with no doors it does seem best suited for sub-tropical climates. I could see the Twizy being used as something you rent from a seaside resort or basic transportation for city going college students. But a scooter would make more sense because two people can ride on one and it takes up less room when parked. Renault is defenatley aiming at a very small niche.

  4. Actually, the Twizy has two seats, one behind the other. As a parent, I've got to admit that I might feel a little happier if my two kids were to drive something like that than a small, underpowered scooter. At least this has seat belts...

  5. Sorry CDspeed, I should have clarified that in the article. Yes, the Twizy is a tandem two-seater. I only mentioned it briefly in the "luggage space" section on page two.

    The rear seat is actually comfortable and spacious enough, but entry is a little inelegant!

  6. No need to say sorry it's my fault for not noticing the second seat.

  7. It is an interesting option on the spectrum of personal mobility. I really don't like the monthly battery lease however.

  8. I like the concept of the lease, but the cost is a little high at some points. I did some math (which I've not shown, to try and keep the article short), comparing Twizy to basic smart fortwo.

    At 4,500 miles a year, even in the UK you'd actually pay no more for gas than you would for battery rental on the Twizy. Double the mileage and the Twizy's battery rental starts to look better value. And of course, the Twizy is cheaper than a smart, if not quite as all-weather.

  9. Why not offer full doors to solve the rain problem?

  10. The trouble with full doors is that it would then necessitate other components like heating/cooling, door seals, window mechanisms and more. It would add weight, cost and complication. While full doors would certainly be useful in some markets (as a UK resident they'd certainly be handy), Renault would have to make significant compromises in other areas to fit them.

  11. Wouldn't a fully enclosed three-wheeled motorcycle be better, cheaper, and more stylish, plus faster and more stable? Since America already has a very large number of three-wheeled motorcycles, they should sell good and even be popular with people who like staying dry in the rain and snow.

  12. It depends how you define more stylish, I guess. Cheaper perhaps, faster debatably (though is 50mph slow for an exclusively-city vehicle?) and as for more stable, I'm not sure how a three-wheeler is more stable than a vehicle with four wheels?

    I'll make it clear here, as I may not have done in the article - the Twizy has zero stability problems. The majority of the weight is very low down, and the front tires are narrow enough that you'll never corner fast enough to cause a Suzuki Samurai-like situation.

  13. Would this be a good alternative to a scooter for those who lack the balance to operate one? I recently went to Tuscany and found towns where a Fiat Panda doesn't fit because they pre-date chariots. (OK small exaggeration, but there's not much space in those old Etruscan towns) This vehicle might do well there.

  14. Apart from excitable little kids, it was other scooter and motorcycle riders who were by far the most interested in the Twizy during the drive. It's certainly a good compromise for those who like the idea of a scooter but don't like the relative lack of safety.

  15. Is there a baby boomer population that have moved away from scooters and motorcycles but miss the freedom and fun? Maybe this would be a hit with them.

  16. It might well catch customers like that. The Twizy is great fun to drive - so much so that I could see people buying it like they might a sports car, or a classic car. Obviously that would negate the environmental advantage of driving it every day, but even without the EV merits and ease of parking, it stands up to scrutiny simply as a fun car to drive.

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