Renault Twizy Coupe (2012 - ) review
Read the Renault Twizy EV coupe (2012 - ) car review by Auto Trader's motoring experts, covering price, specification, running costs, practicality, safety and how it drives.
- Cheap to buy
- Cheap to run
- Zero tailpipe emissions
- Limited luggage space with two occupants
- 60-mile range – at best
- Very basic
At a glance
If you ever wanted proof that not all cars look the same, look at the Renault Twizy. With its narrow body, single pantograph wiper, stick-out wheels and (optional) lift-up doors, there really is nothing else remotely like it. It’s tiny and, with its bug eyes and exposed suspension, it’s more like a golf buggy than a car. Top-spec Technic models are the smartest, with their standard kit including metallic paint and alloy wheels, which are only optional on the more basic Urban. Renault reckons the Piaggio MP3 scooter is one of the Twizy’s main rivals, and if its oddball looks weren’t already enough, you can personalise your car and make it stand out even further by choosing from the range of optional patterns and designs to cover the Twizy rather than the regular paint colours.
The Twizy’s interior is a break from the norm, too. You can’t really call it a cabin, as the ‘car’ is effectively a four-wheeled electric motorbike, with two seats in tandem and doors (and windows, for that matter) only available an option. ‘Basic’ is the only word to describe the interior, which includes little more than a very simple dash, a push-button gear selection and lockable cubby box plus an umbrella-style handbrake under the dashboard. As you might expect in car that is effectively open to the elements, the materials inside are practical and durable, but not terribly glamorous. Once you’re behind the wheel, it’s not too bad, but you can forget about luxuries you would expect in a ‘real’ car, such as height adjustment on the driver’s seat or steering wheel.
The Twizy is best viewed as a single-seater, although there’s space for two if they’re not both six-footers. To make matters worse, getting in and out of the back seat is awkward, but once you’re in, it’s comfy enough. With little in the way of luggage-carrying capacity and pretty much no weather protection unless you invest in the optional doors, it would be easy to write off the Twizy as utterly impractical. But, on the other hand, its compact dimensions and seriously tight turning circle mean that threading one through traffic is easy, and so is parking. Meanwhile, the interior is almost hose-down in its simplicity; and, while the limited range of 60 miles (more like 40 in the real world) is a limiting factor, for some it’ll be more than adequate. A full recharge takes 3.5 hours, but the battery pack can be topped up at any time, by plugging the nose-mounted cable into a domestic three-pin socket.
Ride and handling
Renault has done its best to keep the ride supple, but there’s no getting away from the short wheelbase: the ride is incredibly firm. The upside is that, despite being so narrow, the Twizy feels stable through the bends. In fact, the Twizy is still a fun car to drive, although the tall body means you have to adjust your driving style before you can tackle corners enthusiastically and the handling isn’t especially sharp. The steering is numb but well weighted, while the brakes lack feel, as a result of the regenerative braking that puts some charge back in the battery pack.
Driving the Twizy is incredibly simple: just turn the key, press ‘D’ on the dash and accelerate or brake as you would in an automatic car. As an urban runabout, the Twizy is geared (in every sense of the word) towards low-speed use. That means there’s reasonably rapid acceleration up to 30mph or so, then things tail off a bit, with inclines blunting performance further. Top speed is limited to 50mph, and although the Twizy will sit happily at 50mph on the flat, the range is compromised as a result. More surprisingly, the Twizy isn’t as quiet as you might think, with a constant jet engine-style whine from speeds of just 10mph.
You may have heard that electric cars are generally very expensive to buy, but the Twizy is the exception to that rule, significantly cheaper than any other electric model. Most running costs are low, too: there’s no road tax to pay, it’s exempt from the London Congestion Charge and keeping one charged won’t cost much – typically about a pound a charge – but you do have to lease the batteries from Renault. That will bump up your running costs, but it also means that you’ll get a new battery for free when yours reaches the end of its useable life. You’ll also have to budget for a one-hour service each year, to check that the brakes haven’t worn out, and the insurance costs are surprisingly high – considerably more than on most city cars and dearer than on most Clios.
Although Renault doesn’t enjoy a reputation for the greatest durability or build quality, its current range of cars is proving far more reliable than the previous one. As the Twizy is one of the most simply constructed machines on the road, in theory there isn’t a huge amount to go wrong, so it should prove to be a very dependable machine. Also, while the Twizy is built down to a price, it feels more solidly constructed than you might expect.
Despite its apparent lack of any real structure, Renault has taken crash safety seriously. The Twizy’s two occupants sit within a tough safety cell, and while there isn’t a huge amount of safety kit as standard, the driver gets an airbag along with a four-point seat belt, and the passenger gets a three-point restraint. There are disc brakes all round, but no stability control or anti-lock brakes, and although the Twizy has been crash tested by Euro NCAP, it doesn’t carry an official rating, as the tests were not performed to the full standards. Nevertheless, in more than one consideration (including protection of the neck, chest, knees and femurs, the Twizy was rated as poor.
To put it mildly, the standard equipment on a Twizy is sparse, although that’s mainly to keep its cost and weight down. There are two trims to choose from, but the basic Urban comes with little more than a heated windscreen. Top-spec Technic looks smarter, with alloy wheels and metallic paint, as well smarter upholstery inside and floor mats. However, you’ll still need to head to the options’ list to get doors, a clear roof, an alarm and a Bluetooth hands-free system.