The Renault Twizy is a quadricycle rather than a car, although its maker prefers to see it as an alternative to a motorbike. With no real rivals, it's the first truly affordable pure-electric 'car', and while it's severely compromised in terms of practicality, it's great fun.
Expert rating: 3.7
• Cheap to buy
• Cheap to run
• Great fun
• Limited luggage space
• 60-mile range
• Very basic
1. Exterior: 5/5
The Renault Twizy looks like nothing else, with its narrow body, single pantograph wiper, stick-out wheels and (optional) lift-up doors,. It makes the smart fortwo look positively normal.
2. Interior: 4/5
The Twizy's interior is a break from the norm too. You can't really call it a cabin, with its two seats in tandem and lack of doors in standard form. The Twizy is best viewed as a single-seater, although there's space for two if they're not both six-footers; getting in and out of the back seat is awkward, but once in, it's comfy enough. The dash is simple and clear, with a central digital display, push-button gear selection and lockable cubby box plus an umbrella-style handbrake under the dashboard.
3. Practicality: 3/5
With little in the way of luggage carrying capacity and pretty much no weather protection unless you invest in the optional doors (for £545), it would be easy to write off the Twizy. But its compact dimensions mean parking is easy, while negotiating traffic is easy. The Twizy is 36cm shorter than a Smart and 32cm narrower, while it can turn in just 3.4 metres - the class-leading Toyota IQ is rated at 3.9 metres. Meanwhile, the interior is almost hose-down in its simplicity and while the limited range of 60 miles (more like 40 in the real world) is a limiting factor, for some it'll be more than adequate. A full recharge takes 3.5 hours, but the battery pack can be topped up at any time, by plugging the nose-mounted cable into a domestic three-pin socket.
4. Ride and handling: 3/5
The Twizy's wheelbase is short and the track is narrow; so Renault has done well to keep the car feeling stable. The ride is firm but the handling isn't especially sharp to compensate. The steering is numb but well weighted, while the brakes lack feel, as a result of the regenerative braking that puts some charge back in the battery pack. However, when you lift off the throttle it doesn't feel as though the brakes have been applied - a criticism that can be levelled at some of the other electric cars on the market.
5. Performance: 4/5
There's reasonably vivid acceleration up to 30mph or so, then things tail off a bit, with inclines blunting performance further. Top speed is limited to 50mph, although Europeans can also buy a 30mph version aimed at young drivers, which may come here in 2013. The Twizy sits happily at 50mph on the flat, but the range is compromised as a result. Using the Twizy is incredibly simple though; just turn the key, press 'D' on the dash and accelerate or brake like any other automatic car. Intriguingly, the Twizy isn't as quiet as you might think, as from 10mph there's a constant jet engine-style whine.