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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