Renault's green runabout

QUADRICYCLE: You sit in the Renault Twizy like a motorbike but it has four wheels, a roof and doors like a car. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES


    Apr 01, 2014

    Renault's green runabout

    PERSONAL mobility has never been cooler or more comfortable.

    The Renault Twizy is a plug-in electric quadricycle that seats two - in tandem, like on a motorcycle - but has all the comfort and useability of a small car.

    With four wheels for stability, the Twizy is an ultra-compact vehicle at 2.34m long, 1.24m wide and 1.45m tall. There is a steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedal but no gear lever - only buttons to select Drive, Neutral and Reverse.

    A small LED screen conveys speed, range and distance data, along with other pertinent information, but, apart from an underdash parking brake, that is it.

    But there is also front wiper, airbag, front bucket seat and three-point seatbelts for both occupants. No helmet is required.

    The back seat is actually less of a seat and more like some padding and the hollow of a bodyshell to sink into, yet it is surprisingly comfortable, with good headroom.

    As for legroom, your knees hug each side of the front seat but there is space to stretch your legs. So even if you are six feet tall, sitting in the back will not be an exercise in claustrophobia.

    Only the front-seat headrest will block some forward visibility but, fortunately, it is relatively slim.

    At just 474kg, the Twizy's power-to-weight ratio is, as expected, excellent. Floor the throttle and it leaps forward with a furious whirring of the motor.

    Yes, the pair of scissor doors do not come with windows, so there are all kinds of road noise (there is no air-con or blower either).

    But polycarbonate quarterlights ensure minimal rain enters the cabin while the vehicle is on the move.

    The steering is direct and the ride firm, thanks to a chassis designed by Renault Sport. The Twizy's suspension set-up comprises MacPherson struts in front and behind. Lithium-ion batteries power the 17hp electric motor in the back, which drives the rear wheels.

    Renault's Formula One department developed the Twizy's Kinetic Energy Recovery System (Kers). To charge the batteries, open a flap in front, uncoil the cable and plug it into a household socket. An empty battery will be recharged fully in 31/2 hours, after which the Twizy can travel for 100km.

    Renault distributor Wearnes Automotive is seeking approval to register the Twizy, which it says is likely to cost the same as an average motorcycle without COE. When it does, this green urban vehicle with maximum fun and style is sure to get everyone in a tizzy.