by nico - Cars

Test drive: Renault Twizy, electric emotion

We’d been dying to get our hands on its steering wheel ever since this non-identified motoring object first appeared, in the form of a concept-car, back in 2009. And last week we finally got a chance to test-drive Twizy, Renault’s all-electric quadricycle, on the island of Ibiza. We take an in-depth look at a most unusual vehicle, which is doubtless going to be a big hit among city drivers and other users looking for a smart motoring option.

Will Twizy be joining Twingo, Scénic and Espace as yet another stroke of Renault genius? It was designed from the outset as a zero-emission (in use) urban transport solution, and has no equivalent on the market. (The recently introduced Opel Nils and Audi Urban Concept are not yet at the volume production stage.)

What strikes you most, on first impressions, is the size. Twizy is extremely compact: just 2.34 m long by 1.24 de wide. That’s smaller than a Smart and barely longer than a Piaggio MP3. Inside, everything’s cleverly thought out for practicality and ergonomics: the steering wheel is standard size, the left-hand control stick operates the headlights plus a pedestrian warner (different from the main horn), and the right-hand stick operates the wipers. The handbrake is under the dashboard, and you release it by pressing the brake pedal. (You soon get used to it.) Twizy is satnav-ready, and you can also add an optional Parrot kit for plugging in an MP3 player. The sound comes from two roof-mounted loudspeakers.

In the way of stowage, there are two gloveboxes, either side of the dashboard. The left-hand box measures 3.5 litres and includes a 12V power outlet. The lockable right-hand box measures 5 litres. At the rear, there’s a 31-litre boot concealed in the back of the passenger seat. And if that’s not enough, the Twizy accessory list includes a large removable bag and stowage nets. On the outside, a flap located under the grill conceals access to a 3-metre cable and the windscreen washer tank.

New sensations

When you turn the ignition key and pull away, you get all the sensations of an electric vehicle. There’s no noise, except the airstream and the energy recovery system when you lift your foot off the throttle. Acceleration is brisk (6 seconds from standstill to 45 kph), and top speed is capped at 80 kph, more than enough for a degree of excitement and confident in-traffic performance. (Bear in mind that Twizy is not allowed on motorways.) Overall impression? Well, the experience is nimble, satisfying and reassuring. Twizy seems perfectly at ease on the winding roads of Ibiza, so city streets should be a doddle.

With its lithium ion battery and energy recovery system, Twizy achieves a certified range of 100 km on a standard urban cycle. The dashboard gives a clear indication of battery demand, which varies with driving conditions, and remaining range. In actual use, range is typically 80 km if the driver applies eco-driving principles, falling to around 50 km under intensive conditions. No worry: with the battery half-empty it takes a 90-minute recharge break to resume full range. A full charge, from a domestic power outlet, takes three and a half hours.

A Twizy for everyone

Twizy exists in three finishes: Urban, Color and Technic (with alloy wheels and metallic paint as standard). We tested the Color and Technic versions in Ibiza. Going from sober to fun, the structure is in white, black, grey, red or two-tone. The Color version has a palette of three décors, with roof, doors (optionally), glovebox lids and upholstery in blue, red or green. The colour scheme can even extend to the diamond-pattern aluminium alloy wheels (option). The Twizy Technic we tested even had a very nice transparent (ultraviolet-proof) sunroof, available soon.

No compromise on safety

Though safety regulations for Twizy, as a quadricycle, are less strict than for an ordinary car. Twizy nevertheless benefits from the full breadth of Renault experience in motoring safety. Like any other vehicle, Twizy has undergone crash tests. The chassis, developed by Renault Sport, has a very low centre of gravity. There are disk brakes on all four wheels. The driver’s seat has an airbag, and all seats have seatbelts (four-point at front and three-point at rear).

Now it’s your turn! Renault Twizy is about to reach the showrooms in several European countries. Prices start at €7,690*. Battery rental, with assistance covering all types of breakdown, starts at €50 per month.

* Before tax incentive. Starting price for Twizy 45 (driveable without a licence in France): €6,990.

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