When we first heard that French automaker Renault was producing a tiny, two-seat electric car with a top speed of 52mph called the Twizy, we have to admit to laughing.
But after driving a production Renault Twizy in Ibiza earlier this year, our impression of the plucky go-kart changed.
Could it, we wondered, be used as a second or third car in a busy family? Or is it nothing more than a fun plaything?
To find out, we borrowed a 2012 Renault Twizy for a long weekend, doing everything from ferrying kids around to the weekly shop.
Friday: rain, rain, rain
As the delivery driver was unloading the loan Twizy, the moderate rain that we’d been experiencing all week got a little heavier.
He looked worried.
“You know this has no side windows, right? You’re going to get wet,” he helpfully informed. “Hope you’ve got a raincoat.”
He was right. Sitting on a driveway with the rain now falling heavily, the parked Twizy did indeed get wet, with water falling on everything from the seat to the steering wheel.
Admittedly, sitting down on the drenched seat -- even after giving it a quick wipe with a towel -- wasn’t fun.
As soon as I pulled away however, I was surprised at how dry it was sitting inside this windowless car.
While there was water ingress -- mainly down the inside of the optional half scissor-doors, very little made it in far enough to reach the driver’s seat.
Even on fast-moving roads, with heavy trucks passing me, I remained (mostly) dry, while the Twizy’s excellent direct steering and non-assisted brakes provided sure-footed traction.
Later that afternoon, I even ventured out of town, taking the tiny Twizy on a winding country road to pick up my eldest kid from a damp soccer practice.
Securely fastened in the rear, my passenger found the Twizy an instant hit, but commented that the rear seat passenger seemed to be getting a little damper than the driver thanks to the Twizy’s shape and passenger distance from the windshield.
Friday’s verdict? The Twizy handled everything I threw at it with unconventional aplomb. A lack of heating or side windows meant the journey was a little cold at times, but for the most part, dry.
Saturday in our household is chore day. As well as grocery shopping, there’s recycling and the occasional additional errand to do.
Naturally, the Twizy had to come too.
With another small person in tow, the Twizy managed admirably in the Saturday morning traffic, out-accelerating most cars to 30 mph and parking with ease.
But it was Saturday which taught me the biggest lesson about the Twizy: it attracts attention.
Within the first two hours, I’d been asked a dozen times or more by other motorists where they could get one, and a dozen more had stopped to ask what the strangely shaped car was.
In my time as an automotive journalist, I’ve driven some pretty interesting cars. None attracted more attention.
Shopping done, we headed back to the Twizy, to be confronted by its first major drawback: a lack of storage.
That’s because the Twizy doesn’t have a trunk. Or rather, it has a tiny 1.09 cubic feet of cubby hole behind the passenger headrest.
There’s also an optional 1.7 cubic feet bag available that attaches to the rear seat in lieu of a passenger, which in my case, was already full with a child.
Our solution was to place bags alongside the optional doors, wedging them in-between the seats and the door. It was unconventional, but worked.
Fully laden, the Twizy managed the trip home admirably, even sustaining its top speed of 52 mph on a steep uphill section.
After chores, the Twizy trips were more fun, taking in a local shopping mall and a fun trip out in the country.
And it’s in that situation that the Twizy is its most fun.
Even on tight, twisty roads, the Twizy’s narrow track makes it possible to enter and exit corners far faster than a conventional car, while its two-up seating position enhances its go-kart-like qualities.
However, with some chronic understeer, there’s a fair degree of tire squeal if you go too fast, something I learned pretty quickly.