Renault Twizy UK first drive

Renault Twizy Part of the fun of buying a new car is ticking the options list for the ‘extras’, but when that includes doors, a waterproof blanket and a luggage bag, you know this is going to become a journey of discovery, which also includes refreshing your memory for hand-signals.

Welcome to the brave new zero-emissions world and the Renault Twizy.

As one of the founding companies of the automobile in the late 1800s, Renault has enormous experience and it has been among the first to create the modern electric vehicle and given it a distinctly French flare.

With a more conventional Fluence car and small van in its EV line up, and another small hatchback to come, Renault is embracing electric vehicles and ensuring it has something for everyone, and in the case of the Twizy that is younger at heart buyers. Around 250 have been sold in the UK so far. A less powerful model for 16 year olds will be sold in Britain next year.

Twizy is half way between a car and a motorcycle, a quadracycle in design, with four small wheels and a central passenger cabin in which the driver and sole passenger travel pillion-style.

There are Urban, Colour and Technic trim levels, but that simply translates into basic, coloured or comes with alloys. Scissor action upsweeping doors are an additional £545, the passenger blanket is £110 and a clip on bag £95.

So you don’t get a lot for your money, except the knowledge it’s going to be very cheap to run. Using a conventional three-pin plug and preferably a dedicated circuit it takes a few hours to fully charge for approximately £1, then you recoil the power lead and off you go for over 60 miles.

Renault Twizy It starts on a button, has a flimsy and awkward handbrake to release and you press the pedal to go, rather like you do a dodgem car.

A neat, multi-function display in front of the driver shows road speed, power flow and remaining distance as well as total distance and it advises if you need to think about mains recharging.

The driver’s weatherproof plastic seat slides fore and aft but there’s no rake adjustment and the passenger sits atop the traction motor driving the back wheels with legs outstretched either side of the driver, as if in a bobsleigh or toboggan.

There is no back window and a embarrassed passenger - I took one who wanted the experience but without being seen in it – has to sit back but still gets the brunt of any wind or rain as the half-door offer little protection from the elements.

Up front, the driver as a big wrap-around windscreen to shield them and there are full belts so you don’t need a crash-helmet. Water which comes into the car can be wiped away or left to drip out through the holes built into the seat and floor.

Renault Twizy With up to 50mph available underfoot and the immediacy of the electric motor pushing, the acceleration is surprisingly good because it weighs in about 450kg, plus occupants.

The ride is a little choppy for a city runabout because of the short wheelbase and narrow 1.2M width but you can sometimes ease between speed pads and park end on in bays with its modest length of under 2.34M. Although not power assisted, the manual steering is not too heavy and the turning circle is very good for town use.

Visibility is atrocious to the back when reversing, parking sensors are an extra of course, but its good to sides and front, but I wish it had brighter lights even if that slightly reduced the range.

Hills will deplete the distance you can travel fairly noticeably as I found out but it keeps up with traffic, corners with confidence due to its low centre of gravity and with little weight upfront it tends to want to run wide on tighter turns. But it’s all entirely predictable and felt surprisingly safe, surefooted and silent.

Renault Twizy It does get you about quickly and cheaply, up to a point. With just two very small lockable compartments for items you will have to think carefully about what you carry and one of those spaces might be for waterproof trousers and jacket.

As the battery was running down I became loathe to even signal with the indicators and resorted to less power-sapping hand signals, something I have not done in a car for over 40 years.

It also made me note that the options list had not included a box for ‘exercise pack’ for hand signals and bulging forearms as I piloted the Twizy through turns.
Neither did it include an option to grin from ear to ear, but that is standard with the Twizy anyway.

Milestones:  Fast (slow) facts: Renault Twizy Urban £6,690, with £45 monthly battery lease for 36 months and limit of 4,500 miles annually. Insurance group: 10.
Mechanical: 13kw/ 17hp, 42lbft, electric motor, automatic transmission, rear wheel drive, manual steering, disc brakes. Performance: 50mph, range 60miles approx.
Emissions/tax: £0 VED band A. Warranty: 4yrs/ 100,000 miles. For: Funky design, entertaining to drive, cheap to recharge, easy to park. Against: Exposure to the British weather, poor rear visibility, choppy ride. Robin Roberts Miles Better News Agency

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