Renault Twizy review
|Car type||Official range||Charge time||Fast charge time|
|Electric||62 miles (NEDC)||4 hours (3kW)||N/A|
You don’t often hear the word ‘quadricycle’ and for obvious reasons. Aside from the Renault Twizy, there aren’t too many about, although the concept has been around at least as long as Henry Ford’s first design – the Ford Quadricycle of 1896.
Nowadays the term has a legal definition: a vehicle weighing less than 450kg unladen, and with limited performance or power. The Twizy falls into the Heavy Quadricycle category as it’s bang on the 450kg weight limit – including a hefty 100kg battery – and its motor is just under 20bhp.
As a unique offering, it’s hard to pitch the Renault Twizy against specific rivals. On the one hand, it offers a lot more stability, safety and accommodation than a scooter, while on the other, it’s a lot more compromised than even the most basic of city cars. However, as the Twizy appeals philosophically to electric-car enthusiasts, we’d rather see it considered against a used Renault ZOE electric city car, or perhaps a used electric Nissan Leaf – both of which are now available for not much more money than is required to get behind the wheel of a new Twizy.
The truth is, though, the Twizy’s whimsical nature is far more likely to attract purchasers than its eco credentials, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a small, wheel-at-each-corner device, built around a metal tubular safety frame with plastic body panels, open sides and twin seats in a tandem formation. The electric motor drives the rear axle through an automatic single-gear transmission, there’s a 6.1kWh battery under the driver’s seat and the bonnet lifts up to reveal the charging cable. Controls are identical to a car, with a steering wheel and two pedals, while the handbrake sits beneath the steering wheel. Weather protection is provided by a heated windscreen with a single wiper, plus optional doors and side screens, which are rudimentary and liable to let rain in during a downpour. There’s no heater, or anything else in the way of creature comforts, but that’s half the fun.
The Twizy’s official range is quoted at 62 miles, but 50 seems a more realistic target for most drivers. Due to the small size of the battery, it can be charged in around three-and-a-half hours from a fully depleted state using any standard domestic socket. In fact, the Twizy’s on-board charger will only draw 10A from any socket, so although you can buy an aftermarket Type 2 adaptor for the Twizy cable, it won’t save you any time plugging in at Sainsburys instead of your home or office. There’s no point installing a higher-power wallbox at home, either.
There’s only one Twizy body style available, but there are two key variants. The standard model with its twin seats is of most interest to private users, but businesses with urban delivery rounds can buy the Twizy Cargo. It looks the same from the outside, but the Cargo has a 180-litre luggage box where the rear passenger would otherwise sit.
Within the standard twin passenger range there’s a pair of trim levels. The entry-level model is called the Twizy Expression and has plastic wheel trims, while the Dynamique has alloy wheels and lots more funky colour combinations to choose from – which may not seem a lot for an extra £700.
On the road, the Twizy is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s nimble and grippy and has a decent-enough turn of speed to keep up with urban traffic. It’s also undeniably fun, at least to start with, thanks to direct steering and the exposed-to-the-elements feeling of an electric go-kart. Whether that fun wears off after a while depends on your commitment to the concept, but the Twizy has a pretty bumpy and uncomfortable ride, and the exposure to wind and traffic noise can become tiring after a while.
As for practicality, that depends on where you’re coming from. Scooter riders will love the cosy cabin, whereas city-car drivers will feel initially exposed and their passengers potentially affronted by the legs-akimbo posture demanded by the tandem rear seat. Luggage space is severely limited, too, but there’s a bit more space overall than in a scooter top-box, and you can always strap a bag to the back seat.
Is the Twizy a good-value entry into the world of electric vehicles, though? Arguably not as much as it should be, due to a purchase price that’s almost as much as a city car and Renault’s insistence that owners have to pay at least £50 a month to rent a battery.
Still, if you can fit a Twizy into your lifestyle and put up with the practical compromises, it should put a smile on your face every time you drive it. In the summer months, anyway.
For a more detailed look at the Renault Twizy, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.