Renault Twizy first drive, IbizaEnlarge Photo
The turning circle is tiny, and you can see all four wheels from the driver's seat. It's short enough to park nose- or tail-in to the curb, and because the doors open Lamborghini-style, you can even park it incredibly close to things and still get out of the car.
We'd heard rumors of an uncomfortably hard ride, but it's certainly no worse than scooter riders will be used to, and no worse than a Smart ForTwo either. One huge benefit of the narrow body is that you can simply avoid most potholes and drain covers without straying from your lane.
Will it drift?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this question pops up frequently when people discover a car is rear-wheel drive.
No, the Twizy won't "drift" as such, but on unpaved roads we found you could make it slide briefly. Thank narrow tires and decent torque from the electric motor for that.
What's the horn like?
LOUD. Surprisingly so, though this might be down to the absence of sound insulation in the car. If you've ever driven in Paris you'll know why a loud horn is necessary. Renault is developing what it calls the "Z.E. Voice", a quieter horn to alert pedestrians without scaring small children and waking the dead.
And storage space?
There isn't a great deal. There are two small compartments in the dashboard, one of which is lockable. There's another behind the rear seat. It's not the most practical space as the opening is small and it's very deep.
Renault will sell a large bag to sit on the rear seat, for groceries and the like, but that does mean it would displace your passenger. The rear seat itself is actually habitable for humans, though entry isn't the most elegant. We recommend persons of the fairer sex avoid shorter skirts to avoid "doing a Lohan".
How much does it cost?
The basic, teenager-friendly Twizy 45 starts at roughly $9,150. An Urban-spec Twizy starts at just over $10,000, rising to $11,100 for the top-spec Technic. The half-doors are a $770 option.
Then there's battery lease costs. These range from $65 a month if you drive no more than 4,660 miles a year over 36 months, to $94 a month for a 12-month, 9,320-mile contract. This price includes comprehensive roadside assistance.
At current European electricity prices, Renault says a full 3.5-hour charge costs around $1.60. To save you the math, that's around $93 in electricity per year, on the aforementioned 4,660-mile lease cost--or from $873 a year all-inclusive, battery lease considered.
The Twizy also avoids various road taxes and congestion charge schemes in place around Europe, making it a very cheap commuting vehicle.
Is it coming to the U.S?
No. There are no plans at this time, so if you want an urban electric car your best bet will be the upcoming third-generation 2013 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive.
Will Renault sell any?
If we knew that, we'd be using our skills to bet on big sports games instead. But if there's one passage that stood out from Renault's presentations, it was when Renault quoted Steve Jobs:
"A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."
Will the Twizy be the equivalent of a wheeled iPod? Time will tell...
Renault provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person drive report.