Renault Twizy: A bonkers EV dropped in a strange and foreign land (review)

8 Apr 2015

Image of Renault Twizy via Connor McKenna

If there’s one car that will catch people’s attention on Irish roads, it’s the Renault Twizy, but how does a tiny, windowless car fare in a climate as wet and windy as Ireland?

I admit that when this car was first pulled into the car park for me to drive, I was a little excited. Its bubble-shape and go-kart-style design had me conjuring images of bombing around a track in full karting gear with the wind blowing down on me at high speeds.

Its unusual design makes it such an appealing-looking car that surely anyone would like to drive it, right?

Well, not quite. From the get-go, commuting in this car is a whole new experience due to the fact you’re driving around in a car that is unlike anything else on Ireland’s roads, attracting a lot of eyeballs and comments in the process.

Renault Twizy design: A childhood fantasy turned real

I don’t think Renault will mind me saying that the Twizy instantly reminded me of the ever-popular red Little Tikes toy car and, as someone who once owned one, the idea that I can effectively drive a replica of my childhood transport in the real world is great.

However, despite its unique styling and eye-catching bubble shape, the car is unbelievably minimal in its exterior.

The most notable omission from the Twizy model I was driving was that there were no windows. Yup, no windows at all.

This raises some obvious issues when driving in Ireland, where rain and wind are considered the weather until told otherwise. So when it rains, for example, you’d better be prepared and have a rain jacket on, likewise something warm if you fancy travelling in the middle of winter.

Renault have thought of these issues though, I noticed, as air flow at its highest speeds is thankfully deflected well enough that you don’t feel the need to don driving goggles.

Likewise, all of the interior is waterproof, with a small hole in the base of the driver’s seat designed to allow rainwater to drain from it…

Oh and those doors? Well, they’re technically optional too, but Renault took the decision for the Irish market to make them mandatory, thankfully, as there was a moment of glee originally when opening the scissors doors like a supercar.


Image via Connor McKenna

Renault Twizy drive: A bumpy but fun ride

So what’s it actually like to drive? Well, like a go kart, it’s rather fun but not something you’d want to take on an obstacle course.

Due to the fact you’re rather low to the ground and the suspension isn’t of the same standard as a regular car, it’s tough on the driver’s posterior and I would advise against going anywhere near streets with cobblestones or large speed bumps.

But when you’re on smooth roads, it’s a gleeful joy, frankly. Once the car is switched on, all that’s needed is to press the drive or reverse button and away you go; it’s that simple.

You can see why France recently allowed 14-year-olds to legally drive it due to its go-kart-like drive system.

Again making a comparison to a kart, however, there doesn’t appear to be much fine tuning when it comes to the brake and the accelerator.

Particularly when it comes to the former, where I found the brakes’ reaction to pressure from my foot to be rather weak and scary at times if I had to make a sudden stop, which happens when you drive a silent, tiny car.

Turning is a bit of a struggle given that there’s no power steering either, but it’s not as noticeable as it would be in a regular car.

Its top speed is somewhere in the region of 80km/h, so it has enough oomph to keep pace with any car on the road, except for on the motorway, but venturing there would be highly unadvisable unless you wanted to find yourself stranded on the hard shoulder.

The Twizy’s official range is 100km but, Renault says, this can scale down to as much as around 50km if the weather is particularly bad, which I can say is something you don’t want when driving this car anyway.

Renault Twizy interior: Impressive in its minimalism, but no locks?!

This is usually the part where I list all the various gizmos and gadgets of an electric vehicle (EV), but not this time, as there is practically nothing of note in the Twizy.

You get a speedometer and battery gauge – and that’s about it. No radio, no air conditioning (obviously) and definitely no heated seat. There are optional extras that can give you a Parrot Bluetooth speaker to pump your phone’s music through speakers above your head.

But there is an underlying issue that just can’t be ignored – a feeling of a total lack of security.

Sure, the car can’t be turned on without the key and has things like anti-lift alarms, but the doors don’t come with any locks whatsoever, allowing anyone to open the door and climb in, or worse, open the door while you’re stopped at a traffic light, which actually happened to yours truly.

Anyone watching you parking the car will also notice that you don’t physically lock the car, which does nothing to ease your fears.

This effectively rules it out of all public parking as vandalising it wouldn’t take much effort, so a secure car park or home garage is essential as a Twizy owner.

Which is a terrible shame as the car is clearly designed to be able to fit in the smallest of city parking spaces, which it can with ease.


Image via Connor McKenna

Renault Twizy charging: Simple, but limited

Compared with other EVs, there’s no complication with charging as there’s only a three-pin plug option, which takes 3.5 hours to charge fully, which is pretty good considering the voltage entering through the same plug that powers your TV.

The problem is though, public charging is ruled out due to the fact that, understandably, the ESB has replaced the three-pin public plugs with faster and more powerful AC and DC charging points for the vast majority of cars, so be prepared before taking off.


Image via Renault Ireland

Verdict: Madness in their method

So is it worth standing out from the crowd? It was certainly fun to blast around in but the Twizy is just not a practical everyday car, which Renault will probably admit is the case. On a wide, open road on a sunny day it’s a blast to whizz around in, but on a cold winter’s day the last thing you want to be driving is a wet car with no windows.

Yes, there are a number of issues with this car, most notably security, but there’s almost a madness in its method that I find alluring.

Sure, I wouldn’t own one, unless I lived in a rural village in the south of France, but it has a charm that makes you just want to hop in it and drive. At a cost of just less than €10,000 however, I don’t see many in Ireland taking the hit.


Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic