Drive Report: Electric Renault Twizy Is Cool, But Hard to Love

By · May 22, 2012

A Renault Twizy in New York city

A Renault Twizy in New York City

Test-driving a car is usually a straightforward exercise. It only takes a few minutes to find out if the car is good or bad, enjoyable or not. Not so with the Renault Twizy, which is a surprise considering how simple it is.

The Renault Twizy is not a car. It's more like a motorbike, although bigger. Riding in a Twizy, it's impossible to sneak in between cars the way motorbike riders do. Not a car and not a bike, the emissions-free Twizy is unlike anything else on the road. But that's not enough to make it attractive, even for green motoring enthusiasts.

Zero emission transportation, bikes and a Twizy

Zero emission transportation, bikes and a Twizy

Greenies have always seen single drivers in large SUVs as a huge waste of energy, and this is precisely where a small commuter vehicle like the Renault Twizy makes a lot of sense. Using as little energy as possible for moving around is nice, and it makes the little Renault very desirable on a conceptual level. But after driving it 3 times, I wasn't hooked. The Twizy will be great for new drivers, but it asks too much for older ones. Doors are an optional feature, and side windows are unavailable. So it's more like a motorbike than a car. If it's cold outside, driver have to dress up. Sorry, no heater. There isn't even a heated steering wheel. Luckily for me, the weather was fine when I test drove it. The seat is pretty normal, although height is not adjustable. Wearing a helmet isn't required, but fastening the seat belt is. The driver puts his hands on a steering wheel like a regular car—not a handlebar. It's fitted with an airbag. There's a second seat behind the driver's but this is not an enjoyable place. If the driver is taller than his passenger, he will totally block any view forward for the passenger. Let's say the second seat is only there for emergencies, and that we should think of the Twizy as a personal transportation tool.

Renault Twizy

Renault Twizy

Starting silently, as all EVs do, the Twizy instantly provides a new driver's experience. Without windows and doors, other vehicles seem incredibly, and dangerously close. From both sides! Without doors, it feels like a motorbike without the wind in your face, and it's even crazier with doors because in a straight line it's possible to drive with both elbows on the door sills. No other vehicle allows that. Driving is very natural, with unassisted steering or brake, but both commands are nicely weighted, so power is unnecessary. Sadly, suspension doesn't deserve as much praise. There is no miracle here. With narrow tracks and a short wheelbase, wheel travel is very limited. The Twizy is not comfortable. Let's say it's harsh but fun. The battery sits very low in the chassis, so stability is never a concern. It might even be fun to drive, if only it had more power.

Renault Twizy

Renault Twizy

The motor makes a modest 13 kW (17 hp) and 42 lb-ft of torque. With the Twizy weighing just below 1,000 pounds, accelerating off the line is decent but going on a freeway is totally out of the question. This is a vehicle for city commuting. When going up a steep hill with a passenger behind me, I had the surprise to find my right foot on the floor. This was unexpected driving at city speed, and will condemn the Twizy in mountain areas. Besides, there's also the problem of the thing being so small. The Twizy is 92 inches long and 49 inches wide—not as big as my bed. Those small dimensions are great for parking anywhere, but driving next to some big trucks is uncomfortable. Motorcyclists are not better though, and they don't seem to worry about it. So, it's probably best to think only about the exceptional economy coming from such smallness.

Carlos Tavares, head of Renault, test drives a Renault Twizy without doors.

The Twizy has a 6.1 kWh battery. Renault says it's good for driving 60 miles at moderate speeds, but that would be down to 35 miles in hard driving. No wallbox is needed at home—the Twizy comes with a standard plug, the one which fits into any wall socket and, in Europe (with 230V 16A current), recharging time is only 3 hours. No other four-wheel vehicle on the market is as cheap to run. Price starts in France at 6,990 euros ($8,898) but that doesn't include the battery, which commands a 50 euros fee each month ($63).

We hope Renault will sell its EVs with their batteries at some time in the future. In the meantime, Renault has already thought about young customers—those not old enough to drive—as it has conceived of a low-speed version of its Twizy. With limited performance and its small size, in some European countries, it will possible to drive one without a license, at the young age of 14. This may be successful considering that the only other motorized vehicle someone that age can legally drive is a moped. The Renault Twizy is much safer. Parents will see the difference.

Thumbs up for the Renault Twizy

Thumbs up for the Renault Twizy

The Twizy has several strong features to convince customers, but if Renault is right, it may be something else that will make the Twizy successful: the cool factor. It has to be experienced to be understood, but the Twizy is a fantastic attention-grabber on the road. It is just so different from anything else. It might be even better than a red screaming Ferrari, because a high-end sports car can make people jealous, whereas that little pod only makes people smile. This is an Unidentified Driving Object which doesn't try to show off. Driving one is making a fashion statement. It will please the young, no doubt about that, but it will be harder for older people with years of driving in a large, comfortable sedan with luxurious appointments. Driving the Twizy is a back-to-basics experience. It's cool and fun, and I enjoyed my time driving one, but not enough to want to repeat it every day. If someone could come up with something slightly larger, but significantly more powerful, and more luxurious, with windows and a heater. That could be the real winner.


· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

They should team up with Google and make it an autonomous driving car. Put a bunch of these in the city and let people summon them using an app on their iPhone, like Taxi's. That would be awesome and remove the need for owning a car in the city.

· Carlos (not verified) · 5 years ago

I agrre with you Laurent, but, maybe what they need its a simple window to close the interior.

· Nick (not verified) · 5 years ago

Still exciting to see the market response for this vehicle.

And for Laurent: Renault is coming soon with a highly expected ZE Zoe on the market. Modern design, size like VW Polo/Up? and really challenging the whole electric market...

· Max Reid (not verified) · 5 years ago

7,000 Euros is very affordable, and anothe 50 Euros / month is definitely cheaper than gas bill / month. Great job Renault. They should sell it with window as well to protect from Rain/Snow.

· Cj (not verified) · 5 years ago

Needs windows & longer range, at least 100 hard driving miles before recharge.
How can you drive in ice cold winter snow with no doors or windows?
The perfect EV only needs recharged on tge weekends. This car is the electrice motorcycle for people who want 4 wheels, not just 2.

· Samuel Sebastian Holden Bramah (not verified) · 5 years ago

I own a Renault Twizy and I can say that I am absolutely delighted with it... I've had it for 2 months now and I have already done about 2500 Km... It is a simple and effective commuter-car, I use it every day!!!

I think it is important to think of it as a motorbike with added safety, stability and comfort. I had previously been riding a maxi-scooter from Yamaha for 6 years, and this is an obvious improvement. I have an airbag, a seatbelt and four wheels, as well as being able to listen to music with the integrated sound system and hands free phone kit.

On the motorway it is adequate, very stable and perfectly safe, even with large busses, trucks and lorries... I find riding a bike far worse when it comes to the dangers of the air cushions created by large vehicles.

All in all I think it is fantastic... Nothing wrong with driving at 85-90 Km per hour... It makes you far far far less stressed, you get places in the same ammount of time and your driving becomes much less aggressive.

I generally travel 65 to 75 Km per day and I have done a maximum of 94 on one charge, driving normally (that is city driving and some freeway).

Wonderful little beast!!!

· Samuel Sebastian Holden Bramah (not verified) · 5 years ago

Ahh... About the Batery... I think this is great... I am much happier to have a battery which is new and if I have any problems they change it... In 3 years I'll get a new rental contract for the bateries and NEW BATERIES... things will have evolved in 3 years, so my new bateries in 3 years will be much much better... Buying them outright now would cost me over 3000€ ... Renting them for 3 years cost me 1700€... And that includes 24 hour pick-up insurance if I run out of battary anywhere... I think it is a great deal!!!

· · 4 years ago

Renault Twizy ZE – Supplied by Holden Group, Norwich

Pouring rain! A perfect day to test a ‘car ‘ with no windows? In fact yes. If it can satisfy in this weather, then anything goes.

A Renault Twizy arrived at my house the other day for a test, delivered by a nice man from Holden Group, Norwich, and it was brilliant.

Okay, it was bit noisy, a bit bumpy and a tiny bit wet and windy but what would you expect?

This is not a car, it is a fun, simple and very well implemented tiny electric runabout. Not a hybrid, not something that you need a special charging point for, but a proper, whizz-about plug it into a normal socket for a few hours to full type fun buggy.

I am over 6’ 2” and there was more than enough height and legroom to drive and, surprisingly, even enough in the back (though only small bumps would be tolerable).

Nippy off the line, really responsive handling, a minute turning circle and good brakes make it confidence-inspiring and simple to drive. Press the button and go!

Round town, it certainly draws looks, (mostly of envy, but all smiling), and you can park it pretty much anywhere.

Out on the dual carriageway at a maximum of 52mph, and easily maintaining it, there was not a moment when it felt inadequate, small, or uncertain. The truth is that it felt like a proper little ‘car’, surefooted, well placed on the road and with presence beyond its size.

After a fairly heavy-footed 30 miles of mixed main roads, dual carriageway and city streets with speed bumps and the like, there was still a good charge left, so I would have no hesitation in recommending it as a practical daily option.

If you accept the Twizy for what it is meant to be, it is a real choice for those living in town or with a limited daily commute, of say, up to ten miles or so each way.


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