Consider your reaction to the automotive atrocities grouped together by the word ‘quadricyle’. A cluster of cretins that includes the notorious G-Wiz – motoring’s equivalent of the electric chair, minus free supper and haircut. Feeling angry? Thought so.
Now meet the brand new £7,000 Renault Twizy – a battery powered, bug-eyed mode of 21st Century urban transport. That’s also a quadricycle.
While we hate to start with such an unpleasant subject, it’s an important one; because the Twizy’s classification as a quadricyle has serious consequences.
Firstly, it means it doesn’t qualify for the Government’s electric vehicle grant – so it costs a full £7,000, plus £45 a month to lease the battery. Secondly, the Twizy doesn’t go through any EuroNCAP safety tests, meaning despite its driver airbag and front crumple zone, it doesn’t have any coveted gold stars. Finally, it limits the Twizy’s weight to a maximum of 450kg excluding battery – which means Renault have been sparing with the body panels. Such as full size doors.
And our three main criticisms of the little leccy lunatic? It lacks the reassurance of EuroNCAP stars, it isn’t cheap enough compared to proper city cars like the Hyundai i10… and, most importantly, it doesn’t have any bloody doors. Three problems, all related to its quadricyle classification, that prevent the Twizy from being a genuinely revolutionary little whizzer – because in many ways, it’s absolutely brilliant.
If you were to design a city car from scratch, it’d probably drive very much like the Twizy. It would be under 4ft wide. You’d be able to see the front wheels from the driver’s seat. It would have a tiny 3.4m turning circle and the instant lights-turn-green-zip of an electric motor. It also wouldn’t have any exhaust emissions. And the range? You wouldn’t need much more than 60 miles from a 3.5-hour charge. Perfect.
The fact that it’s a reet old giggle to drive is just a bonus. At parking speeds, the unassisted steering might prove heavy for those with particularly emaciated arm muscles, but as soon as the Twizy gets a jog on, it lightens up and sparkles. Skinny 125 section tyres scrabble for grip, passing Morse code messages of their valiant efforts straight to your hands and arse. It’s like being on an adult-sized Legoland ride.
Even more surprising is what happens when you follow a fearless French test driver through sweeping corners. Top speed from the 15kw electric motor is quoted as 75kph, but we saw an indicated 87kph as we struggled to keep up. Its front tyres cling on for dear life and thanks to weight of the motor and 100kg battery under the tandem seats, it never feels like it could ‘do an A-Class’.
But that’s in the sunshine… in the rain, it would just be an expensive way to get nearly as wet as you would on a scooter.
So we’re back at the door thing again – a basic issue that the Twizy will never leave behind. On a sunny road, it feels safe and stable enough to let you forget its lack of EuroNCAP stars. It’s also fun and useful enough to be worth the price if your driving habits and charging points accommodate the usual demands of electric car ownership. In the sunshine, the Twizy makes sense.
But on a drizzly day, as you’re bombarded by spray from passing buses? Even the electric chair starts to look more appealing.