Mark Webber does his morning commute in an LMP1 car. How does it cope with London traffic?
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The Top Gear car review:Renault Twizy
For:It’s tiny, it’s quirky, it recharges in 3.5 hours. It’s so much better than a G-Wiz
Against:There are some security issues the (optional) doors do little to alleviate
13kW Urban 2dr Auto
What we say:
Renault appears to have detached itself from reality. Doesn't stop us from thinking the Twizy is genius
What is it?
Renault already has the largest range of electric cars on sale in Europe. Now, it’s also to offer the cheapest mainstream electric car we’ve yet seen, too. Indeed, it’s so cheap, it’s actually one of the UK’s cheapest four-wheeled vehicles of all, with entry prices coming in well below £7,000. What’s the catch? There are two: one, it’s an electric car whose batteries are not included – you have to lease them instead, with contracts starting from £45 a month. Two, it’s not actually a car, but a quadricycle, as defined by its limited size, weight and top speed.
And boy, is it small – just 2.3 metres long and 1.2 metres wide (but similar in height to a Twingo). It seats only two, the interior is back to basics and you don’t even get doors as standard. But who cares. Just look at it. Is this the coolest electric car yet launched?
The electric motor, powered by a lithium ion battery, puts out just 20bhp. Doesn’t sound like much, and it’s not, but a low 450kg kerbweight helps the Twizy make the most of it. A 0-60mph time isn’t quoted because it can’t reach 60mph, but then it doesn’t need to. The fact that Renault quotes a 0-30mph time (a scant 4.4secs) tells you all you need to know about where it is designed to perform.
And yes, it zips up to 30mph with alacrity, easily quick enough to keep up with traffic – and just about narrow enough to mimic a motorbike and nip through lanes of stationary cars. It’s just 1,191mm wide and can be parked nose-on to the kerb, like a Smart. Amusement doesn’t come from the usual sources – you’re not going to be raving about the steering or cornering ability – but you will love the feeling of being in it.
On the inside
Renault assures us the body has been designed to deflect wind away from the cabin, making the lack of standard doors nothing like the issue you’d expect. Maybe – but no amount of aero trickery can offset a night’s rainfall, and could make the difference between viability and this being no more than a car for bikers. Our advice: wrap up warm. At least those inside are well protected, with side impact bars and a driver’s airbag, plus a four-point harness in the front. And because it offers full rollover protection, those inside don’t have to wear helmets, despite the open cockpit design.
Renault offers batteries on a monthly contract, with varying lengths and annual mileages available, a bit like a mobile phone arrangement. This helps cut the initial purchase price of the Twizy and so is the key to its sheer affordability. The battery range itself is around 60 miles and Renault fits a three-metre spiral lead onboard so you can plug it in anywhere.