2012 Renault Twizy: A Closer Look, And Do We Need It?

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Is it a car? Is it a scooter? No: It's a Twizy, which could be considered a combination of the two.

If you're following the world of electric cars with a keen eye then you'll no doubt be aware that French manufacturer Renault is taking electric vehicles quite seriously, just like its Japanese partner Nissan. A few years back Renault revealed a group of four electric 'Z.E.' concepts, the Fluence sedan, the Kangoo delivery van, the Zoe subcompact and the Twizy microcar.

Since then we've seen the DeZir electric sports car concept and a further preview of the Zoe. We've also seen the Kangoo and Fluence in their production form, the latter of which we even got a chance to drive at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.

A production specification Renault Twizy was shown at the Paris Motor Show last year, but Geneva was the manufacturer's chance to reveal the price, specifications and to let the press and public get a closer look at the diminutive EV.

The price is right

Importantly, the Twizy will not be an expensive electric vehicle. Going on sale in Europe at the end of 2011, it will start at 6,900 Euros, or just under $9,600 at current exchange rates. This makes it $1,000 cheaper than the cheapest new car in the U.S. today, Hyundai's Accent.

Obviously you can't draw direct comparison between the two, not least because there are no current plans to bring the Twizy to the U.S, and secondly because the Hyundai is a proper car with space for four, reasonable luggage space and the ability to drive long distances if you're that way inclined. The Twizy offers none of these, but for a production EV from a major manufacturer, a sub-$10,000 price tag is a big deal.

Renault intends that its electric cars should cost no more to buy than the equivalent gasoline or diesel model, though part of that business model involves you leasing the battery on a monthly plan for about $63 a month. This does bring the cost down, but we can see it being more useful for the second or third owner of the vehicle who might otherwise be worrying about the impending cost of battery replacement.

What do I get for my money?

That basic price gets you a basic Twizy. In other words, a vehicle just over 7.5 feet in length by four foot wide and a little under five foot tall. If this sounds like a recipe for a rollover then rest easy - the Twizy is a very light vehicle (just 992 lb) with the vast majority of its weight very low down. The skinny 145-section tires will ensure you won't have enough grip to tip it, anyway.

The basic Twizy gets a 4 kilowatt (5 horsepower) motor with a 7 kilowatt-hour battery mounted under the driver seat. This doesn't sound like - and isn't - a lot of power, but the basic Twizy's raison d'ĂȘtre is to be driveable without a licence in many European countries, which usually allows European 14-16 year olds to take to the roads on 50cc mopeds and diesel quadricycles.

A more powerful Twizy with a 15 kilowatt (20 horsepower) motor is available for those with a driving licence and the desire to travel a little quicker. 20 horsepower will take a light motorcycle to around 60 miles per hour, so the Twizy should be similar. The narrowness should help with filtering between traffic in crowded European city centers and either motor should give enough shove for nipping into gaps in traffic.

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