Behold the Renault Twizy.
Behold the Renault Twizy.

Renault Twizy road test | Lean, little green machine

STARE into the crystal ball of urban mobility courtesy of Renault. Behold the Renault Twizy. 

This two-seat quadricycle could be the future of transport in towns and cities.

It's not yet able to be registered or used on Australian roads, but Renault has brought the Twizy here to show off potential benefits and hopefully lay the foundation for legislative change.

Travelling at up to 80kmh, it can fully charge within 3.5 hours from a standard household power point for less than $2, and the battery is good for at least 50km, while pumping out zero emissions.

A standard Twizy will set you back about $11,600, although our test machine was fully loaded with options like doors, sunroof, Bluetooth phone connectivity and alloy wheels, which would take the price just skyward of $13,000.

We sampled it at a driver training centre in Melbourne.

Getting started, things are not dissimilar to your normal car.

There is the standard steering wheel and a key to turn.

Wait for the beep rather than an engine roaring to life and you are ready to select between dash mounted drive or reverse buttons.

Then the park brake under the dashboard needs to be released before applying the accelerator for a silent take off.

With 13 kilowatts of power and 57Nm at your disposal (about 10% of your standard Toyota Corolla), the electric motor get things off the line in sprightly fashion. It's not outrageously quick but feels rapid given your exposure to the elements and low riding position.

Don't be fooled by the flash looking external suspension, the Twizy has a firm ride. You feel the bumps and lumps, although on good road surfaces of inner urban areas it's smooth and planted.

The 13-inch wheels offer good grip in the corners and you can lean into a bend with some enthusiasm. It's not a go-kart in terms of driving feel, but it is still a whole lot of fun.

We were limited to a to 60kmh, but the Twizy will reach a top speed of 80kmh. It feels stable and confident at peak velocity and you have side mirrors to keep a good eye on the traffic.

Getting aboard is simple, and a burly gent about 185cm had no issue climbing inside. Climbing into the back takes more effort - it's confined territory and not the best pew for those with a dress or skirt and the passenger straddles the driver's seat.

Charging requires a special supplied lead and transformer that plugs into a standard 10amp power point.

Already more than 13,000 Twizys have been sold around the world, the lion's share in Europe. Buyers do lease the battery for about $70 a month, which means users are assured that it retains more than 80% recharge capacity.

So it's easy to drive, needs no new infrastructure, is green and affordable. All it needs now is government approval... that could take years.

Renault is in the early stages of discussions with state and federal governments, with a quadricycle not falling into any existing vehicle categories.

"For commuters travelling only short distances each day, Twizy could be the ideal solution, and arguably far safer than two-wheeled travel," Renault Australia managing director, Justin Hocevar said.

"We are hoping that by exposing some opinion formers, lawmakers and relevant road authorities to Twizy, we will gain a greater understanding of the concept and what it could deliver for Australia drivers.

"We don't think that just because Twizy has a steering wheel instead of a handlebar it should be automatically disqualified from consideration as a legitimate form of personal transport in Australia."

Australia Post has partnered with the French brand in a 12-month trial of Renault's Electric Kangoo.

Two fully electric vans are being used in Melbourne, and another pair will be operational in Sydney.

The Kangoo has a range of between 80-125km and has a top speed of 130kmh.

Charging the lithium ion battery takes between 6-9 hours, while one charge costs about $5 using the more expensive green electricity.

Vital statistics

Model: Renault Twizy.

Details: Two-door, two-seat electric quadricycle.

Motor: Electric synchronous AC with lithium ion battery generating peak power of 13kW and maximum torque of 57Nm.

Charging time: 3.5 hours.

Range: 50-80km.

Maximum speed: 80kmh.

Performance: 0-45kmh in 6.1 seconds, 30-60kmh in 8.1 seconds.

Weight: 474kg.

Bottom line: From $11,600, but is not yet available in Australia.

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