Is this the future of motoring or just plain daft? Esquire test-drives the Renault Twizy
What exactly is the Twizy? Good question. Renault call it an urban compact two-seater quadricycle (though you don’t want to be the guy in the back — believe us), others see it more as a futuristic golf cart, while one member of the Esquire staff just calls it “a fanny magnet”.
It definitely gets attention. After just 10 minutes of scooting around central London, we get more toots and waves than Postman Pat in his heyday. When queuing in traffic, one beaming man in his seventies pokes his head right into the cabin (there are no windows, even the gull-wing doors are an extra) just inches from our face and shouts: “Is it fast?”
It’s fast enough for what it’s designed for, surprisingly so, offering no trouble keeping up with traffic in silence before an electric whine kicks in towards 30mph. Steering is direct, parking is a doddle and plug your iPod into the built-in speakers and it’s hard not to drive with a slightly manic grin on your face.
Cars and vans are desperate to get past you at all times, of course, not wanting to feel emasculated by this admittedly odd machine, but get stuck at the lights and everyone is up for a chat. “That is wicked,” says one moped driver through his helmet. And it’s pretty hard to disagree.
Except on Westminster Bridge, the first sign of trouble. A burst of rain and wind blows so harshly through the cabin, we think seriously about ditching. And this is May. No wonder the official press launch was in Ibiza.
The range, too — officially 62 miles and represented by a draining battery sign — soon becomes a worry. In the work car park, an elaborate nine-point turn to try to get us closer to the plug socket ends in failure when the flex still doesn’t stretch (and we were explicitly warned never to use extension leads).
In the end, we have to ask nicely to leave it at the local NCP. Logistics trouble? Maybe. To own one you’ll also have to factor in rental of the lithium battery at £45 a month.
The positives, though, are many. As less car and more luxury moped, in good weather, for city driving, with the novelty factor, the Twizy is nothing short of motoring Prozac, and with more flirting potential than a chocolate labrador. Full marks to Renault then for chutzpah.
Photograph by Dan Burn-Forti