The Renault Twizy is often viewed as Renault’s joke electric car.With it’s tandem seating arrangement (passenger behind not beside the driver), a lack of windows, a limited top speed and unconventional looks, it’s often ridiculed by even hardened EV fans as nothing more than a ‘Noddy car.’
But while the cheapest electric vehicle we’ve ever seen from a mainstream automaker isn’t to everyone’s tastes, it’s about to become the ultimate European big kid’s eco -toy thanks to a growing market for aftermarket accessories and tuning, not to mention some frankly ridiculously low used prices.
If you’re a regular here at Transport Evolved, I’m pretty sure I know what you’re going to say next. “But Nikki, didn’t you own a Twizy? Didn’t you sell it because of poor reliability, limited performance and impracticality?”
You’d be right. I did: for exactly those reasons. The Twizy, hand-built by a team of hard-working artisans at Renault’s special Twizy production facility in Spain, doesn’t have the same kind of feel as any other production car today. For a mother of two who needs an electric car to just be there, ready and willing, whatever the weather, it proved just a little too impractical for my needs.
(Add to that a couple of major faults involving the car’s service light and aftermarket windows, and we decided it wasn’t a car I could live with everyday.)I needed an everyday commuter, an every day errand car. And I made a poor purchase decision.
Even though I know some folks who do use their Twizys every day for commuting, I think it’s fair to say that for Brits at least, the Twizy isn’t a vehicle you can use like a regular car. But I’m not suggesting here that the Twizy be used for that purpose. I’m suggesting that the Twizy is used in an altogether different way. One which perhaps its original design team never thought of: a pimped out, well-loved, zero-emission fun car for weekend jollies in the countryside (or the track)
Think I’m crazy? Read on.
Authentic, clean drive
First up, the Renault Twizy — despite its more obvious flaws — is an absolute hoot to drive. It’s impossible to drive anywhere in one without a massive grin, at least provided the weather is nice. Sitting somewhere between a conventional motorcycle and a car, the Twizy’s Formula 1-inspired central driving position, independent off-board wheel placement and direct, responsive steering give the Twizy a wonderfully honest driving character in an age of drive-by-wire everything.
Add to that a lightweight tubular safety frame, a stupidly good power-to-weight ratio despite the Twizy 80’s factory-spec top speed of 50 mph, and single-gear transmission, and the Twizy is like a giant go-cart. A giant go-cart with rear-wheel drive, gives constant, clear feedback through the steering wheel, and will — if you’re brave — stick through a fast corner like glue in true rear-wheel drive sports-car style.
In short, the Twizy reminds you what it’s like to drive a car where there isn’t a computer correcting your every mistake.
As for the limited speed? It’s fair to say you won’t be going crazy on the local race track, but it’s surprising how much fun 50 mph is in an Twizy.
Cheap to buy, cheap to run.
I’ve raved about the Twizy’s driving experience. Now I’m going to talk about price.
A brand new Twizy isn’t exactly cheap, and if you get a little carried away on options like doors and windows, you’ll easily spend more than £8,000 on one. Frankly, you can buy a whole lot of motorcycle or used hot hatch for the money. But used Twizy prices — I’ve heard them as low as £4,000 — are far more palatable.
That’s still more expensive than even a fairly decent sports bike, but unlike the sports bike — which I hope you’d wear full safety gear to ride — the Twizy is a jump-in-and-go affair. Because you rent the battery pack instead of buy it outright — and you pay a proportional cost based on your estimated yearly mileage — it’s also pretty cheap to run, even if you only drive it every other weekend.
As for fuel? The Twizy’s tiny battery pack can be charged up for less than a candy bar if you plug in at night. If you’re careful, you’ll get 50 miles of range from that. If you drive the Twizy like you’ll want to, you’ll run out after about 30, but after around three hours, it’s good to go again.
If it’s your weekend ‘ride,’ waiting those three hours for a recharge isn’t going to be the pain it might be during the week.
Because of its unusual design and optional weather protection, the Twizy is inherently best enjoyed with other people. Even if you’re not with passenger, you’re bound to meet someone who wants to talk about it. With a large fan and owner club base, it’s also the kind of car you’ll want to take to ‘shows’, even if it’s on the back of a trailer.
Aftermarket is king
Finally, thanks to its basic engineering and simple design, the Twizy has an entire cottage industry offering everything from aftermarket carpets and sliding retro-fit windows to custom paint finishes, wheels, and yes, even tow bars. You can even buy remote charge monitoring software, solar panels, radio upgrades and yes, even a mod to make it go faster.
Of course, adding these accessories might invalidate a warranty, especially if you go for the one which tweaks the Twizy’s top speed from 50mph to 70+ mph.
But with so many options to choose from, those who don’t want to risk voiding warranties — or insurance policies — with performance mods can find plenty of other ways to make a Twizy their big kids’ toy…and have a whole lot of safe, zero-emissions fun along the way.
Just remember, as with any car, any changes are your responsibility in terms of legality. If in doubt, check before you change!
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