Make no bones about it, the new Twizy from Renault is not a car. Sure it’s got four wheels, a roof, two ‘optional‘ doors and a steering wheel, but it’s definitely not designed to replace the car in our affections. To understand what this new electric vehicle is, you need to take a close look at the specifications and core features and suddenly it all pops into place.
For one thing who builds a car in Europe with no doors? In Dubai maybe, but France, Germany, Holland and the rest? No way. The second clue lies in the fact that the designers have made the suspension of the Twizy so hard that everyone who test drives it makes a comment. It’s not just hard, it’s like a rock. So no, it’s clear that the audience for this all-electric runabout is the ageing commuter dad who’s contemplating giving up his beloved Kawasaki but definitely doesn’t want a Volvo instead.
The other thing that strikes you as you watch the reactions to this little cutie, is the fact that even the most cynical journalists emerge from their tests with a grin. This thing is fun to drive. Which is crucial with a product like this. With a top speed of 50 mph and a range of 60 miles, it’s also perfectly suited for zipping into the centre of town from the ‘burbs for a shopping trip every so often. The two seats may rule out family travelling, but how many short trips involve only a driver or driver and one passenger? A lot!
Yet another clue as to the target audience lies in two major features which could put women and older drivers off as well. Ease of use is taken care of by using a standard household plug for charging (just like plugging in a toaster, it’s that simple) and the fact that the manufacturer has taken huge steps to make it ultra safe. Don’t believe? Take a look at the head-on crash footage below. This is taken at 50 km/h, which demonstrates a very strong build quality indeed.
Finally there’s the not so little issue of price. Most of the current crop of electric vehicles are pitched at the rich or stupid class. Asking upwards of £14000 for a vehicle that does 65 mph or has a range of 100 miles is ridiculous and only for early adopters. But selling a fun runabout for £6500 makes a lot of sense, especially on low interest credit terms. Sure you have to pay £45 a month for the battery maintenance, but that’s more than offset by the savings on garage costs, fuel and other ancillaries.
Overall this is yet another brave experiment from the French car giant. Lots of people will laugh (especially you lucky Americans with your massive highways, comprehensive parking and cheap(er) pump prices) but in Europe this could become an interesting alternative once fuel moves to the £10/$16 a gallon level and beyond. Most city travel doesn’t need large vehicles, it needs nippy, safe and snug, with a bit of weather proofing. My view is that this kind of does the job.
And another user video, this time in the rain.