IS IT A CAR or a motorcycle?,” asks a driver next to me. “You’re kidding me, is that a prototype?” says another as I pull up to the next set of lights. “It’s cool but what is it?” These are the first of 23 separate interactions I have with strangers asking about the Renault Twizy I’m driving from the City to Battersea. In particular, cyclists and motorcyclists are cooing over it like a baby. But, amazingly, cabbies and bus drivers also seem to love it. One driver stopped his bus to photograph it on his smartphone.
Fortunately, my time in the Twizy coincided with the Ibiza-like heatwave we were having until the Jubilee weekend. Perfect weather for a “car” with no windows, then. There is also no heater, no stereo, no navigation system and – did I mention – no engine or gears.
Instead the electric Twizy scoots along with a cheerful whirr at speeds of up to 50mph. It isn’t fast in terms of acceleration – Renault claim the Twizy can reach 28mph in six seconds – but in truth the wind in the hair experience and manner in which its 13kW (17bhp) electric motor delivers its power gives a lovely sensation of speed. It’s enormously good fun for zipping about in.
Driving it is easy. You just press a button on the dash – D for drive or R for Reverse – and press the accelerator and you’re off.
The Twizy feels surprisingly nimble and well-balanced and it can be thrilling weaving in and out of spaces that were unavailable to you in other vehicles.
And in a Twizy it seems, everyone wants to let me you out in traffic. Which, when commuting, is a bonus. As a commuter vehicle for quick urban journeys, it is what the word “nippy” was invented for.
A car it isn’t but then nor is it a motorcycle or scooter. Officially, it is an electric quadricycle, which is why it looks and drives quite unlike anything I’ve driven.
Scissor doors are an option but still don’t keep out the rain (you can buy a rain apron as an accessory). It’s fundamentally unfair to review it as a car.
Inside is spartan but feels well-built. The dashboard display gives you battery charge and remaining range as well as speed. Other than a handbrake and a locking glovebox, which contained a simple guide book and an access card for the POLAR charging network in our car – that’s it for the dash. There is though further laptop sized cubby space behind the rear seat. Though there is no audio system, an optional Parrot audio kit adds handsfree phone and audio. This delivers the sound to two speakers located at either ear in the roof above your head.
It can be plugged into any 220V 10A household electrical supply. The battery fully charges in three-and-a-half hours. Its weight – 450kg, including batteries (100kg) – is directly beneficial to its range which stands at 100km (combined cycle).
The ride can be a bit harsh over London’s speed bumps and potholes. Sitting in tandem, it feels worse in the rear seat than in the driver’s seat. And more padding in the seats would be desirable. Visibility out of the front is excellent although limited to the rear, there are just side mirrors.
Renault sees the Twizy selling amongst young drivers, helped by its affordable sticker price of £6,990, but my money is on it selling well to those of us that are having a middle-aged moment too. There’s a £45 per month battery lease hire to pay but a full charge should set you back a quid or less at home and can be free in some parking bays. Road tax and the congestion charge is also free.
The Twizy is genuinely innovative and represents an entirely new way of looking at commuter transportation. Its very existence should be applauded. Pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, cabbies, bus drivers it seems everyone loves the Twizy. It’s not a car, it’s not even just an EV. It’s an ambassador for urban peace and love.
THE FACTS: RENAULT TWIZY
0-28MPH: 6 secs
TOP SPEED: 50mph
RANGE: 60 miles
VALUE FOR MONEY ****