Over the past summer months, we’ve been getting lots of fresh air testing electric bikes. With the British Summer just about to give up on us, returning us to the dreary wet days of Autumn, we were just able to squeeze in a review of an electric vehicle which is more comfortable in sunnier climates. We’re talking about the Renault Twizy.
The Twizy is pretty amazing to look at, quite striking even. It is designed around carrying two people up to a maximum speed of 53mph, it’s 17bhp electric motor accelerates you to that speed pretty quickly, it has masses of torque and doesn’t hang about. The cockpit sits fairly low to the ground and it surrounded by the 4 wheels so its cornering is excellent, helped by fairly solid suspension which can prove a lightly too firm over bumpy roads! Doors are optional on the Twizy, if you choose to pay for this option, they open ‘beetle wing’ style (similar to a Lamborghini), however you still don’t have windows in the doors, so they simple provide extra protection from the elements, but not 100% like a traditional car. The model I tested didn’t have doors, but I can confirm that Renault have indeed designed the aerodynamics to reduce wind in the cockpit all all speeds and I although I picked a particular fine day to drive the car, I didn’t feel I needed an extra jumper or coat.
The car doesn’t have a interior heater or radio, but it does have a heated windscreen should you require it on a cold morning, but to be honest I can’t see someone driving this car on a cold morning as I think it is designed for finer days or weekends. The car features a full size drivers seat and steering wheel, with full size brake and accelerator pedals. You have the standard stalk controls to the left and right of the steering wheel which give you control over the headlights, indicators, windscreen wiper and screen washer. You also have ‘Pedestrian Warning’ switch which causes the car to emit a warning sound to alert cyclists and pedestrians that you are approaching them.
There is no rear windscreen, however the left and right wing mirrors provide excellent rear view and it is easy to lean your head out of either side of the car if you need to look whats behind you. Parking is also easy as you can see exactly where each wheel is positioned. You can park facing the curb as the car is short enough to allow this without sticking out on the road.
The passenger sits behind the driver in a seat which is embedded into the rear interior of the car. The headrest can be removed to reveal some very small storage space. On alternative models, this seat is replaced by a larger storage space that is accessible from a rear boot. In order to easily get into this seat, the drivers seat must be moved forward and once the passenger is seated, he or she must slide their legs either side of the drivers seat. The drivers seat can then be slid backwards to suit his driving position. The reverse is then necessary to get out again.
Without doors you do feel open to the elements initially, but this feeling soon go once you get going as driving the car is familiar to riding a moped or motorbike, where you are aware of whats going on around you and you can hear and SMELL everything that is going on around you. This familiarity to riding a motorbike ideal as the Twizy is aimed as a replacement for scooter riders who are used to zipping around busy city streets.
Charging the Twizy could not be simpler! At the front of the car is a flap which when lifted up reveals a water tank for the front washer and a sprung loaded standard 3 pin plug which is designed to be plugged into a standard British 3 pin socket. I am told that when charging, the Twizy draws 10amps, so you won’t have problems charging using an extension lead if you need to. A full charge takes about 3 hours and while charging a fan comes on which is used to cool the inverter. Whilst charging, there is a large indicator on the dashboard display which tells you the percentage of charge.
Once fully charged you are ready to rock and roll. However if you are thinking of a nice Sunday jaunt down the the seaside, think again if your journey is more than 40 – 60 miles!! The Twizy has a published maximum range of 60 miles per charge, but this would require the most conservative of driving, however the display on the dashboard tells you what your likely range is, thus allowing you to plan your journey.
To start the Twizy, you insert the ignition key, depress the foot brake and turn the key and hold until your hear an audible beep to confirm it’s ready. You can then release the handbrake and select either D (Drive) or R (Reverse), if you press the two buttons at the same time you select (N) Neutral. Pulling away is as simple at pushing the accelerator pedal, be prepared that if you ‘put your foot down’ the car will pull away very quickly. You are limited to the one gear, but this doesn’t alter the driving experience. Reverse is speed limited and VERY QUIET, so at this point, you might want to select the Pedestrian Warning on the control stalk.
I did drive the Twizy at it’s maximum speed for most of the road test and I found it got to 53mph quickly indeed. Driving through the lanes to and from Waldringfield was very enjoyable and you really feel the buzz of zippy along being so open to the world. The driver has a standard seatbelt with an additional shoulder belt on the opposite side, so you really are secured in very nicely. Hills don’t seem to bother the Twizy as I didn’t notice an real drop off in speed, even on the very steep inclines on the back roads to work.
Either side of the steering wheel are cubby holes to put your mobile phone, wallet/purse or anything else small. The right hand side storage is lockable, but it didn’t look the most secure in the world, so I would recommend taking everything with you when you park the car. To sum up a car like the Twizy is not easy, this is because the Twizy is not a normal car. It isn’t aimed at a family car and not even a second car. The Twizy is really aimed at the individual that wants a vehicle that will take them on short journeys (such as driving in a city such as London) where they can plug the car into a power source whilst they are at work or going about their business. It can’t really be used for shopping trips as it simply doesn’t have the space (Unless you go for the single seat Twizy Cargo). The positives for the car is that road tax is zero, you won’t pay congestion charge in London and parking is free in many car parks as it is narrow enough to get past some barriers.
The battery never needs replacing at your cost, because it is leased from Renault indefinitely for a fee of £45 per month. This covers replacement if it becomes faulty and roadside assistance. I thought this car was incredible fun to drive and turns heads everywhere you drive it. It’s quick enough to get away at the lights and at junctions. Starting at £6,500 it isn’t cheap, but it is a car and you are paying for having a battery instead of engine. Lots of people wanted to ask questions about the Twizy, so Renault have done well to produce a vehicle that looks quirky, but gets lots of interest. Listen in for our review of the Twizy on the radio on Monday 1st September 2014. We will also be reviewing the Zoe in the next week. Thanks to Peter Frost (@electricpete1) at Bristos in Ipswich for lending us the Twizy.