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Renault Twizy review

Chris Finnamore
3 Apr 2013

A strange but loveable electric car which is a great alternative to a moped

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Renault is arguably the most ambitious company there is when it comes to electric cars. Tesla may grab the headlines with its electric supercars, but Renault is targeting the mainstream. The French company is poised to launch a family saloon, a compact hatchback and an electric Kangoo van, but right now you can buy the strangest of the lot - the tiny Twizy.

Renault Twizy

Twizy with optional scissor doors

The Twizy is a two-seater 700kg "quadricycle", with a 13bhp electric motor and a top speed of around 50mph. It's, essentially, a more weather-proofed alternative to a moped and is well-suited to urban driving or hacking around the suburbs. Unlike a moped, you'll need a full car licence to drive one.

The Twizy is basic. The cheapest £6,795 "Urban" model doesn't come with doors. This is obviously no good for icy British spring weather and rainy summers, so we'd recommend you buy the optional £545 scissor doors, as fitted to our test model. This still leaves you without windows, but plastic models are a £295 option from your Renault dealer. As per Renault's policy, you also have to rent the battery for £45 a month, but this does at least include 24/7 roadside assistance.

Renault Twizy

Even with doors and windows fitted, the car is far from sealed

Once you have the windows and doors fitted, you're almost weather-proof, apart from a five-inch gap at the back of each door which will blast the passenger with icy air. The doors don’t lock; to enter the Twizy you reach in and open the door from the inside.

Once you're in, you're confronted by a stark cabin with just a steering wheel, brake and accelerator pedals, and a switch to select drive, reverse or neutral. There's a moulded seat with a mildly squishy cover (complete with drainage hole) that slides forward so the rear passenger can squeeze into the tiny back seat, which isn't really suitable for anyone over 5' 6".

Renault Twizy

Getting going is as simple as you'd expect. You push the brake, turn the key to power up the electrics, release the handbrake under the dash and press the accelerator to go. Unfortunately having to have the brake pedal pressed before you can release the handbrake makes hill-starts almost impossible, as you have to quickly swap your foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator, by which time the car has rolled back. You may be able to get around this with some left-foot braking, however.

Renault Twizy

The controls aren't exactly complicated

Our first run with the Twizy was from London's West End down to the countryside south of Croydon, and we enjoyed it. The 13bhp engine is powerful enough to get you up to 30mph in around five seconds, which is certainly quick enough to keep up with traffic, and the car is so small that you can easily slot in and out of gaps. The ride is hard, and you feel every pothole and crack in the road, but the seat's cushioning meant we never ended up with a sore bottom. It's significantly more comfortable than a bicycle, at least. The only thing we didn’t like was the brakes, as they need a hefty shove and have virtually no feedback.

Renault Twizy

Your passenger won't have much of a view, so make sure they're not claustrophobic

The minimal weatherproofing and lack of heater means you'll need to be dressed correctly. We wore full winter clothing when driving the Twizy, and still began to freeze when stuck in traffic, thanks to a -1C outside temperature. You also need to be ready for the amount of attention you attract. Be prepared for photos, comments and speculation as to whether you're Jeremy Clarkson. Also be ready for complaints from the back seat: it's claustrophobic back there, as you can’t see much past the front seat, which is less than six inches from your nose.

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