Normally when a test car is delivered to my home, one of two things will happen: someone will turn up driving it, hand me the keys, then get the train home, or a vehicle transporter will drop it off in the street. So when the guy from Renault rocks up in a Trafic van (yes, that is actually how it’s spelt) with no trailer attached, I’m a little bemused. But then he opens the back doors, unfolds a small ramp, and out rolls the comically-styled Twizy I’ll be driving this week. It really is that small.
With the key in my hand and all the paperwork signed, the chap from Renault buggers off and leaves me with this little bundle of electricity. There are no windows, so you simply reach over the top of the (optional) door and flick the handle, which launches the ‘scissorgull-wing’ doors skywards. Climbing into the central driver’s seat, and first impressions are that it’s surprisingly spacious - the roof is high, the seat goes back far enough for even my lanky legs, and with no windows the cabin is infinitely airy.
Key in, turn clockwise, and the dash glows blue. As I scan the information readouts I notice something troubling - the battery is full, but the range reads 25 miles, which is odd, since Renault claims a range of about 60 miles. I’m supposed to be driving this thing to work in the morning, which is precisely 18.1 miles away. That could be a bit too close for comfort…
Morning comes and brings with it grey skies and chilly temperatures, hardly the sort of weather to be driving about in a windowless pod that doesn’t even have any heating. Undeterred, I jump in and head off to pick up our designer James - he lives nearby and fancies a lift. Yep, that’s right, you can fit two people in this thing. As we soon discover, it does involve mildly awkward straddling, but it’s nice to get to know your friends really well, right?
The Renault Twizy has had its chassis fettled by Renaultsport, but with a heady 17bhp, it ain’t what you’d call brisk. Especially two up. With 42lb ft of torque, progress from a standstill is unsurprisingly laborious, but up above 5mph you can really start to feel this thing surge. The suspension is practically nonexistent and tyres feel almost plastic, so the ride is akin to a rollercoaster, or perhaps an aeroplane water landing, especially once you hit 52mph, the Twizy’s top speed.
We’re a few miles into our commute now, and we’re starting to see the ace up the Twizy’s sleeve: regeneration. Remember my concerns about running out of electricity? Completely unfounded. You see, the Twizy’s regeneration is so good, that after six miles we’ve actually gained seven miles of range. Every time you lift off the throttle, regenerative braking kicks in, indicating on the dash how much juice you’re pumping back into the battery. It’s so effective you genuinely only use the brakes in extreme circumstances, much like in BMW’s i3. As we hit the halfway mark on our journey, we’ve still got more than 30 miles of range.
As we get closer into the centre of London, the traffic snarls up, and the rain begins to drop. Once you get up above 30mph, the Twizy actually cocoons you from the elements incredibly well… not that this is much consolation when cool, fine rainwater is blowing across your face as you crawl between the fume-spluttering buses and kamikaze taxis at an average of about 3mph.
Still, despite its obvious drawbacks, the little Twizy is absolutely fantastic fun. I’ve never driven anything that got me so much attention; girls on a bus took photos, a motorcyclist chatted to me at a red light, and a guy at the McDonalds drive through got out of his car to ask if I’d made the car myself… If you want to make friends, buy a Twizy.
For all its comical genius, and despite the fact I love it with every ounce of my body, buying a Renault Twizy is ridiculously difficult to justify. First of all, it starts at £6895, which is a solid £900 more than a Dacia Sandero, and that’s an actual car (the Twizy is technically a ‘heavy quadricycle’). On top of that, you’ve got monthly battery rental charges of between £45 and £67 depending on what contract you go for. Still, if you’re rich, want a city runabout, like attention and have £7000 burning a hole in your expensively-lined pocket, I really can’t think of a more fun way to spend it.