Renault Twizy hatchback
- Zero emissions, so no road tax
- Cheap to buy and run
- Nippy and compact
- No cabin heater
- Very stiff suspension
- Relatively short driving range
"The electric Renault Twizy city car offers urban drivers something genuinely different – if you can live with its inherent limitations."
As soon as you see a Renault Twizy in the metal, you can't help but smile. It may seem ridiculous, but it's most definitely fun. An innovative electric two-seater 'quadricycle', it seats its occupants in tandem – the passenger behind the driver. It looks like a prop from a Star Trek movie and its small dimensions make it perfect for nipping around town, as it can go places an ordinary car can't. Once you embrace its unique take on personal transport, it's enormously enjoyable to drive.
You can charge it from your home electricity supply using a normal three-pin plug, with three-and-a-half hours of charging time completely topping up the batteries. A full charge gives a range of between 30 and 50 miles, depending on traffic, average speed and your driving style. The base model is open to the elements on both sides, but you can add scissor doors (for £545) or zip-on windows (£295) to make it feel more conventional. On a sunny day in the city, driving a Twizy is a unique experience, as it feels like a motor scooter with a roof.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Each charge should cost around £1 from a standard three-pin socket
The low purchase price is appealing and the Twizy's quirkiness is charming, but it's worth factoring in the monthly battery lease charge of £49, which is subject to a maximum annual mileage of 6,000 miles for three years. This is balanced out somewhat by cheap charging, with a full charge taking around three-and-a-half hours from a standard three-pin socket. Topping up from a standard household socket costs around £1, giving you a realistic range of around 40 miles. Renault also claims that the rest of the Twizy's costs are 15% lower than those of a three-wheeled scooter.
Engines, drive & performance
Firm ride and lack of windows mean novelty can quickly wear off
You only need to look at the Twizy to know it's good fun to drive. You get in, press the Drive button on the dashboard, the 17bhp electric motor powers up and you’re off. The whole vehicle only weighs 450kg, so it's incredibly responsive and will quickly whizz up to its 50mph top speed – more than enough for city driving.
The forward and reverse gears are also activated by large buttons on the dashboard, where a blue digital readout displays your current speed and remaining range. The electric motor is basically silent, but there is of course lots of wind noise when you hit 30mph – even the optional windows let sound in through their slats, which are needed to prevent fogging up.
The Twizy is very grippy, but the suspension is very firm, so you'll want to avoid even small bumps and potholes. In truth, the novelty of driving this car can wear off pretty quickly if you don't have smooth roads and warm weather to enjoy.
Interior & comfort
Better than a scooter, but you'll be hoping it doesn’t rain
There's a surprising amount of room in the driver's seat, which slides back and forth on rails. The steering wheel has no adjustment, however, so you may have to sacrifice legroom for better control. The rear passenger seat is certainly cramped – but you can see that just by looking at the Twizy.
So you get more comfort and protection from the elements than you would on a traditional scooter, but have to make do with a less-than-perfect seating arrangement. And don't forget that it's noisy inside, the electric motor whines a bit at high speeds (above 30mph) and the lack of a heater means you'll have to wrap warm in conditions other than blazing sunshine.
Practicality & boot space
Doors and windows are optional extras on the Twizy
It's never been easier to look at a car and assess its practicality in one glance, but the Twizy doesn't leave much to the imagination. It's only 2.34 metres long (a Smart ForTwo measures 2.6 metres) – roughly half the size of a standard city car.
The Twizy's roof, half-height doors and four wheels give extra protection from the elements compared to a standard scooter. Its turning circle is tiny, so u-turns are easy, but it's a tad too wide to drive between traffic like a bike. Obviously there's no boot, but the Twizy does have a 31-litre lockable storage cubby under the rear seat that's large enough to carry some small bags, a laptop or a modest amount of shopping. It's a bit fiddly to open and close, though, and its piddly lock wouldn't stop a determined thief from pinching your iPad.
In June 2013, Renault introduced the Twizy Cargo, which loses the rear passenger seat and replaces it with a 180-litre boot. It's mainly aimed at urban delivery businesses but could also be seen as an exceptionally practical scooter replacement for a private buyer.
All version of the Twizy get two glove compartments, one either side of the speedometer, that offer eight more litres of storage space. Drivers over six feet tall and any passenger will be relatively comfortable on short journeys – unless it's raining of course, in which case the wisdom of spending the £295 for the optional soft plastic zip-on windows becomes abundantly clear. You can also order an optional booster seat for the back, plus a blanket to keep you warm in the winter.
Reliability & safety
A battery lease plan means maintenance costs should be minimal
As the Renault Twizy is not strictly a car, you don't have to wear a seatbelt if you don't want to. This is definitely not something we'd recommend, however, because it doesn't have to meet the same crash safety standards as a car, either, so we don't really know how effective its driver's airbag, seatbelt pre-tensioners and deformable crash structure really are.
Electric car technology is still quite new and therefore largely unproven, but at least the Twizy uses a battery lease plan that makes replacing its power packs straightforward if anything goes wrong. When it comes to general reliability, the rest of the car is so simple that there simply isn't much that could actually break down. However, do read the small print, as the battery lease is subject to annual mileage limits and a minimum contract term. The Twizy is covered by Renault’s 4+ warranty package, which includes four years of breakdown recovery in the purchase price.
Price, value for money & options
Scooters are cheaper and Twizy battery lease costs at least £45 a month
The Twizy doesn't qualify for the government's £5,000 electric car subsidy, as it's classed as a quadricycle. However, it's still much cheaper to buy than most electric or plug-in hybrid cars, whether you go for the entry-level Urban model or the higher-spec Technic. The cost of leasing batteries (from £45 a month – see table below) takes away from the fuel cost savings somewhat, but you can rest assured you're doing less damage to the environment.
So, the Twizy is cheaper than a Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, but it demands a lot of compromises, including a reduced range and limited practicality. What's more, it's more expensive than a scooter, yet lacks the ability to zip between cars and use bus lanes. In fact, if the electric vehicle aspect isn't of that much interest to you, a Dacia Sandero supermini is cheaper.
Annual mileage Term Up to 4,500 6,000 7,500 9,000 36 months £45 £45 £45 £45 24 months £50 £50 £50 £50 12 months £55 £59 £63 £67