2012 Renault Twizy Technic 17bhp electric from UK and Ireland
Far more useful and usable than it looks. Huge fun for low cost
Squeaky doors needed lower guides tightening; took me seconds.
Renault experience is not the best; wish it was made by Mazda or someone else - great design, but many dealers, even their "ZE specialist centres", are still clueless and lacking basic knowledge.
Handed over dirty, with foot marks all over the sills, dirty screen and mirrors, cubbies full of dealer flyers etc.
Luckily, with not much to go wrong and only yearly (free) checks to contend with, I should not have to visit Renault much - I was keen to buy after the test drive, but very nearly walked away after dealing with the dealers.
My first foray into the world of electric cars has been extremely successful with the Twizy. Classed as a heavy quadricycle, this quirky little open car has quickly become the favoured vehicle in our family, owing to its fun characteristics and old school unassisted controls.
Cost wise, they start at £6690 plus £545 for the doors, plus a battery hire cost of £50ish per month.
The battery hire sounds a lot, but is effectively subsidised by Renault, and means that when better tech is available, you will not have to pay for it, or when the batteries wear out, you will not be faced with a £3000+ bill, as many G-Wiz owners will testify. Part of the deal is that they guarantee a minimum charge capability, and will also recover you to the nearest charge point if you run out. Running out would be hard to do, as you are well warned, and it has a standard 3 pin plug on a 3.5 metre cord, which works anywhere.
Range: it does 40-45 of daily use, with a top-up of one hour giving you 15-20 miles, or from 0-100% takes just over 3 hours once the battery has run in a bit.
We regularly do a 31 mile, very hilly fast A-road run with lights and wipers on, and have 10 miles++ range left, so it is more useful than I expected. There is a separate traction battery and accessories battery, so the lights, wiper, heated screen etc do not affect the range.
The standard 3 pin plug pulls out of the front on a 3.5 meter long cord, and is far more useful than the 7 pin charge-point only leads on most EVs, as you can top up in most places with a smile and the offer of paying - I have topped up at Kwik-Fit, National Trust, IKEA, friends and many random peoples' houses, and have never been asked for the 30-90p it would cost. As with all fuels, the way you drive has a direct effect on the range, but there is a useful display on the dash that shows how much power you are using, your expected range and when the regeneration is working (throttle off, downhill or coasting to a stop). With a bit of practice, you can get a good range - one local got 64 miles from his. The best range is achieved by being on and off the throttle, as the regeneration kicks in down hills or coasting to a stop, so mixed town/A road/B road use works well. Holding a steady single speed canes the range, even if it intelligently works out its own input under full throttle at the limited top speed of 53mph. I find that it is plenty quick enough, and car drivers give you plenty of space, unlike on a scooter.
If you look at the whole cost of financing, battery hire, electric costs (charge anywhere but your own supply!*) and the free 4/4 Renault service, warranty, breakdown package, the free road tax, a top spec one with doors comes out at around £50 per week with a £1000 deposit, which is damned cheap as this is for a new "car" with fuel included. Insurance costs do vary, have heard quotes £300-1000 as it is classed as a quad - check with your insurer. My own trade policy broker refused it until I spoke to the underwriter direct, then added it free. The savings also come in with zero congestion charge if applicable and also free parking (* and charging) for EVs in many places.
Seating: the tandem seating position like a scooter for two people works well, with both the front and rear seats accommodating tall, large people - the rear passenger's legs go either side of the driver's seat, so they get decent legroom too, even if it is tight to get in and out, and some feel a little closed in. The car is built the same for all markets, as the driver sits in the middle, but for the UK, the driver's seat belt top mount, which is located on the left side, is a nuisance as it gets in the way when getting in and out of the rear on the UK kerbside - we just either hold it out of the way or use the other door. The car is so narrow (124cm) you can park in a line of cars and still have space on the offside to unload, without being in the traffic stream - or just pull in nose to the kerb as the 2.32m length means it is as long as most cars are wide. There is an additional shoulder belt for the driver, in addition to the standard 3 point inertia belt, giving a safe 5 point easy to use harness if wanted.
Safety: it has a safety cage and driver airbag, so is safer than a scooter and probably as safe as some older cars, but will not match the NCAP levels of modern cars. That said, you are aware of the elements far better in a Twizy, and can HEAR other cars, plus you are narrow enough to get into a safety gap and avoid an accident more easily than a car. One word of caution is that the driver's seat back is very hard and the rear passenger will headbutt it under heavy braking or in a frontal impact.
Kids: we use a Graco Junior Maxi seat in the rear, which works well, and has the advantage of splitting into the booster seat and back rest, enabling you to take it out and use the rear seat for an adult passenger, by putting one part of the seat each side of the driver on the floor - only if you have doors - which are an ESSENTIAL £545 option for the UK. With the doors in place, you can do a family's weekly shop on your own (no child seat!) by filling up the rear seat and the floor on both sides of the driver's seat. It is more practical than you expect, and we find it is our full time second car, not just a gimmick/toy. Just remember, that even with optional windows (£300), the Twizy does not lock, so once you have put shopping in, you need to get it home.
Weather protection: (with optional doors, not windows) is not as good as a car, but better than any scooter. It provides good protection for the driver as the aerodynamics have been tuned to keep the driver in a still pocket of air with the rain deflected around the cabin. You need to keep an old tea towel to dry the seat edges and door arch top if left out in the rain, but on the go amazingly the driver stays dry. The rear passenger gets some rain ingress and flecks of mud down fast muddy lanes, but in context are likely to get wetter from the time they get out of the Twizy and into the school/shop/wherever, than on a shortish journey in heavy rain. It works very well on our rural muddy 4 mile school run in all temperatures - if anything the kids are more awake and ready to learn by being out in the elements. Oh, and the kids (one to nursery, one to school - different directions) love the Twizy and beg to be taken out in it, any weather.
Doors: I would not buy without doors in the UK, as you feel too vulnerable, plus you lose the ability to put shopping/dog/car seat on the floor either side of the driver, as it will just fall out, and the cabin will get wetter and dirtier - as well as inviting idiots to climb in when parked.
Windows: Renault have just released their own optional "windows", which are a metal frame with zip in soft plastics, but these are £300 and have flaws.
Twizy windows offer hard plastic windows with good protection, but they do not open and you cannot drive with your arm on the window ledge.
There are others, but nothing good enough for me to buy yet; part of the attraction is the open side styling, and the look and feel of the car is too compromised by the current offerings. That said, if it was a choice of a Twizy with windows or no Twizy, I would buy them.
It is a surprisingly well sorted car with nothing to complain about - I prefer it to most of the 120 cars I have had before, as it is simple and well designed throughout. The doors are great as they keep the muck out of the washable cabin, the headlights are superb, the seat is comfy, the mirrors good etc.
If I was to improve it, I would fit springing to the dash cubby lids so they stay open when opened, would change the driver's seat belt side for RHD markets, and fit the extended front mudflaps as standard.
It is a very basic vehicle, but all the better for it, with very little to go wrong. It's well designed throughout, with great driving dynamics and offers superb driver connection with the road. It is hard and bumpy, but your size means you can avoid holes and bumps easily most of the time, but this hardness gives razor sharp safe handling and feel. With rear wheel drive, good power and light weight, it is like a mad electric go kart if you drive hard!
Overall: a very well sorted, fun, useful and surprisingly practical scooter or second car alternative. Carries a week's shop or two people easily. Don't let the lack of windows deter you - the driver is well protected - just wear appropriate clothes.
Oh, and don't ever expect to come back to it and not find a crowd around it asking questions. Or drive along without being photoed, videoed, stared or pointed at. I love the attention, but my wife finds it annoying!
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 15th October, 2012
15th Oct 2012, 09:31
I think that Renault had a great idea when launching the Twizy.
It is these little economic vehicles that are the thing that will change people's minds when it comes to electric mobility.
Good choice for you to buy such a vehicle! It is indeed a smart mode of transportation.