The first time you see a Renault Twizy on the road, we suspect one of two things will happen. You’ll either laugh. A lot. Or you’ll be desperate to have a go. But get over the fact that it’s got a name that only the French could come up with and if you’re an urbanite the Twizy might actually have a lot going for it.
It’s electric for a start. It’s fast enough to keep up with traffic. You can drive it on the road with regular traffic, but it’s small enough to mean that you can park it nose into the kerb or in gaps others can’t fit. Although it’s not quite narrow enough to mean you can lane-split like you can on a motorbike.
And if you’re the kind of person who’s a bit nervous about the perceived safety of gadding about on a scooter or bike, then there’s a crash-cell structure complete with full roll-over protection, four wheels for stability and a driver’s airbag in an attempt to keep you from coming to harm.
But what’s it like? Well, different - and in the right circumstances - great fun. We tried the one without doors. Though the model with doors does a disservice to hole-filling devices everywhere, as it’s more of a partial bar than anything that’s going to keep rain and wind out.
Still, given the weather at present, the absence of doors didn’t really matter. Jump in, adjust the seat just as you would a car, turn the (normal) key in the ignition, put your foot on a normal brake pedal and wait for the beep. As with all electric cars, you get no noise cue that the engine’s on, just a tell-tale on the dash. Then hit the "D" button for drive on the dashboard-mounted gear selector (though it’s not really got gears), release the super-stiff parking brake and press the accelerator.
And then the Twizy fires off down the road with a surprising turn of speed. Thank the max-torque-from-zero-rpm characteristic that the Twizy shares with all electric vehicles.
We tried the Twizy on a closed course and found it a surprising amount of fun to hoon around in. We really pratted about, but at no point did we feel the Twizy was going to topple over. The turning circle is tight, the brakes need a good shove, but pull up well and the second "seat behind the driver wasn’t even that bad. Okay, it is cramped and the view out is of the back of the driver’s seat, but it’s something you wouldn't complain about sitting in for a run down to the shops.
The Twizy starts at £6,690 - but you’ll need to pay Renault £45 a month on top of that for rental of the battery. The claimed battery range on a full charge is around 62 miles.
We’ll wait to pass proper judgment until we’ve lived with and used one for a few days in the environment for which it is intended - the city. Because until we’ve done that, we can’t tell you what it feels like to drive in regular traffic, behind a bus, in wind and rain and darkness or how it deals with Britain’s pot-holed roads. Or - and we suspect this will be quite a big thing - what kind of attention you’re going to have to put up with from passers-by. Or how big a bind the lack of storage space is.
But what we can tell you for now is that the Twizy is capable of putting a big smile on your face and - despite potentially being somewhat flawed - we really want one.