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.

A lot.

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.”

2012 Renault Twizy

2012 Renault Twizy

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: chores

2012 Renault Twizy

2012 Renault Twizy

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. 

2012 Renault Twizy

2012 Renault Twizy

Sunday: big hills, big interest

With all the weeks’ chores out of the way, Sunday was more about having fun. 

There also happened to be a local electric car meet-up, so I headed there, picking up a motorcycling friend on the way. 

Even with another adult in the Twizy, it felt responsive and powerful enough in city traffic. Conversation was unexpectedly easy too, with only a few missed words here and there between myself and my passenger. 

As expected, the Twizy continued to attract lots of attention, from electric car fans and regular drivers alike. 

At the meet, it became the center of attention, even though it was parked alongside cars like the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt and Tesla Roadster. 

The compliments the Twizy drew from the assembled crowd said it all. 

“It’s quirky,” said one, while another commented that “It’s safer than a motorcycle.”

2012 Renault Twizy

2012 Renault Twizy

And it is. With a steel roll-cage, and driver airbags, there’s no need for motorcycle gear, making it less hassle to use. 

But while it safer than a motorcycle, the tiny Twizy isn’t a full-blown car, and I admit that on faster roads, I felt a little vulnerable. 

Nevertheless, after the meet, I headed back onto the open road, giving the Twizy one final big test: a steep hill. 

Driving a 10 percent incline, the Twizy managed to keep its speed reasonably well, only slowing to 45 mph when hitting the very steepest 12 percent section. 

Reversing the route in heavy rain, the Twizy felt more like a motorcycle than a car, again encouraging some spirited driving.

With foot completely off both accelerator and brake, it whizzed down the hillside. Even with regenerative braking on accelerator lift-off, the Twizy peaked at an astonishingly fast 55mph.

Even at those kind of speeds however, the Twizy felt reasonably sure-footed, only losing some of its composure on uneven road surfaces and very tight turns. 

Runabout, Funabout

2012 Renault Twizy

2012 Renault Twizy

During my weekend with the Twizy, I managed to put 240 miles on the odometer, doing everything from kid taxi services to chores and even a fun drive. 

Starting at just over $10,000, the tiny Twizy makes an excellent city and urban daily runabout, provided you don’t have far to travel or much to carry. 

It’s cheap to operate too. With a $60 monthly battery rental and energy efficiency of around 8 miles per kilowatt-hour, it won’t impact your wallet much. 

Kids love it too, while its conventional car-seat makes it safer for younger passengers than a motorcycle. 

The Twizy’s open design and direct, responsive handling makes it the ideal vehicle for weekend fun, provided you have somewhere dry to store it and warm enough weather that the lack of windows won’t bother you. 

But unless you’re young and single, the Twizy can’t be anything more than a second or third vehicle.  Nor can it carry more than a few quarts of milk without it getting cramped. 

At the start of the article, I asked a question: Is the Renault Twizy a real car? 

No, it isn’t. But what it is, it does well. And that’s be the perfect mix between a motorcycle and an electric car. 

And we have to admit, it beats every other neighborhood electric vehicle on the road today, even if it’s unlikely to ever go on sale in the U.S.


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