Could an F1 legend's favourite car really be this tiny electric runabout? We meet SIR STIRLING MOSS to test the Renault Twizy
- Renault Twizy is a totally electric city car with a range of 50 miles that takes three and a half hours to charge up
- Sir Stirling Moss has owned his since 2013 and modified it — we compare notes with the test car we drove
- Review breaks down everything you need to know from what it's like in and out of town, which to buy and a pub fact
- Are you better off buying a small petrol car instead? Read our verdict to find out which one will cost more to run
He's tasted F1 winners' champagne on 16 separate occasions, punched the air in victory at some of the most iconic endurance races the world has to offer and set multiple land-speed records, so you might be wondering why on earth Sir Stirling Moss wanted to help us review an electric car with a 50mph top speed.
Well, here you have it from the horse's [apologies, Sir Stirling] mouth: 'I don’t think there’s an alternative for my specific requirements. At the moment, there is no competition – the Twizy is likely to be the last car I own.'
That's right, the hall of fame racing legend, widely recognised as one of the nation's great sportsmen, is one of the 557 UK drivers who currently own one of these offbeat two-seater runabouts.
He was desperate to tell me what's so great about it. And don't be fooled into thinking this is a PR stunt, that Renault UK has paid him to talk it up; the truth is, they didn't even know he was buying one until the dealer told them.
After a week of driving the Twizy myself, I took our test car round to Sir Stirling's Central London pad to compare notes on the £7,000 electric vehicle.
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Comparing notes: Sir Stirling's version has upgraded suspension, windows, a custom paint job and a radio. Rob Hull's test car didn't
'No gimmick': Sir Stirling Moss has owned his Renault Twizy since 2013 and told Rob Hull it's the only car he currently drives
Sir Stirling Moss won 16 Grand Prix in his career, racing at speeds in excess of 150mph for three hours at a time. Now he travels at a maximum 50mph and plugs his car in to charge up for the same amount of time he lapped race tracks around the world
What you need to know about the Renault Twizy
The Twizy is totally unique. As Sir Stirling says himself: 'It's got its own niche.' The fact of the matter is, there is nothing to directly compare the Twizy to.
A two-seat 'quadricycle', it's a blend of micro-car and scooter that produces zero emissions. Powered by a 17bhp 6.1kWh lithium ion battery driving the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission, it has a modest top speed of 50mph and a claimed range of 62 miles. It takes three-and-a-half hours to fully charge from any mains socket at around £1 a go — cheaper if you take advantage of off-peak times.
As you can tell by these stats, it's a car for big-city living rather than frolics into the countryside or blasts on the motorway. That said, there are no limits to its use — you can legally tinker up the M1 in it, if you're feeling exceptionally brave.
Prices for the car itself start from £6,895 for the Expression model to £7,795 for the Cargo version, which swaps the second seat in the back for luggage space. You have to pay an extra £545 for the scissor doors, too, unless you're happy being fully exposed to side wind and rain.
You then also have to factor in the cost of leasing the battery to power it — the cheapest rate is £45 a month over 36 months and a maximum 4,500-mile-a-year agreement. Extending to 6,000 miles pushes the price up by £4 a month. While that might sound like you are being fleeced on top of the cost of the car, Renault introduced the scheme to eradicate fears of having to pay for a replacement battery if it declines in performance over time.
Renault says it has sold 16,457 Twizys globally since they were launched in 2012 — half as many as the electric ZOE supermini that launched a year later.
What’s it like in town?
Firstly, it's worth noting just how dinky the Twizy is. At 2.3 metres long and just 1.3 metres wide, it's one of the smallest four-wheeled vehicles on the road. So small in fact that it fits in the back of a van, as I found out when the delivery driver dropped it off at the beginning of our test.
The shrunken dimensions do change your perception of parking spaces, transforming them from shoehorning exercises to navigating into areas of aircraft-carrier-like size.
'I like the parking benefits,' Sir Stirling tells me. 'In this area of Central London, it will cost you £5 an hour to park, but a Twizy won’t cost anything if you have a residents parking permit, which is a big benefit. It’s very easy to park, too. We’re always nipping out here and there, and parking was always difficult and expensive before the Twizy.’
He's right, parking is incredibility easy, but it's the all-round practicality of being able to zip in and out of tight spaces in inner city traffic that is the real gain. Yet, it's not perfect, as while the wing mirrors are adequate, I did find myself wanting for a rear window to improve the visibility behind.
Sir Stirling said driving enjoyment is still very important to him, even at the age of 86. And the Twizy provides that
Proof that the Twizy really does fit in the back of a van. Inside, there's little to be explored or enjoyed with a very simple layout and water-resistant plastics everywhere
Sir Stirling thought differently, though: 'I haven’t noticed any problem with no rear window. It’s got really good mirrors and it’s so narrow as well.'
Well, who am I to disagree with an F1 god?
The racing legend also talked up the advantage of navigating through traffic, but reckoned it was more to do with the car's looks. 'When other drivers see it, they tend to let you out of junctions because they want to look at it. It’s still so novel, so you do find people wave you out quite often.'
While parking is particularly straight forward, getting in and out of the back seat isn't. With a cockpit layout like a fighter jet, the passenger sits behind the driver. That means that while the person behind the wheel can hop out from either side of the car with consummate ease, with no tilt function you can only slide the seat forward to allow access to the back, which is trickier.
It's at this point that Susie, Sir Stirling's wife interjects. 'It’s not dignified getting in and out of it,' she explains. 'He slides the seat forwards to let me out, though he doesn’t get out himself.
'I have to admit, it is good fun when I get out of the back when he’s dropping me off, because nobody expects someone else to be in it. That cracks people up – they think it’s only him. It’s a bit like the trick of how many people can you stuff into the back of a Mini.’
Potential buyers should also bear in mind, if you go for the two-seat version, there is limited storage space, even for a rucksack.
'Okay, there is a problem when you go shopping,' Sir Stirling conceded. 'There isn’t much room, and you can’t have a trailer – I did ask about that.'
'It’s got a lockable compartment in the dash and in the back, but there’s only enough room for a few tools,' he adds.
Sir Stirling shows us how the driver's seat slides forwards — far enough to let his wife Susie out of the back seat without him having to get unbuckled from his
The Twizy is a car that will certainly get you noticed. So much so that other drivers let you out of junctions more often than not
What’s it like out-of-town?
If you are brave enough to venture away from the city streets, the Twizy is an entertaining drive.
With no power steering, it responds instantly to driver input. And because there's little to no suspension whatsoever, there's a greater sensation of grip than you'll experience in just about any conventional road car. This mix makes it genuinely good fun, in the right environment.
Sir Stirling says. 'It’s actually quite quick. When you put your foot down you get instant acceleration and the handling’s terrific – it goes like a little rocket, actually. Enjoying driving is still very important to me.'
I did ask him when he’d last had as much fun as driving the Twizy. His response wasn't remotely car related... some things never change. And despite now being 86, Sir Stirling’s appetite to go fast certainly hasn’t dwindled either.
'I hoped they'd bring out an S model – ‘S’ for Sterling and ’S’ for a bit of speed. But they haven’t got any mods yet, as you might have gathered.’
While Sir Stirling was wanting for more power, I was wishing for more comfort. Although the lack of suspension travel is fantastic for tearing around silky smooth tarmacs, it's not a pleasant place to be when you hit a pothole at speed.
You're also exposed to the elements, almost to the same degree as a motorcyclist. There's no windows (though Renault sell zip-on windows for £295), no heating, no creature comforts whatsoever.
Well, so I thought.
'I must say, I got mine tweaked a little bit,' Sir Stirling tells me with a grin on his face. 'I just felt it is a grown up car, so it should feel like one. So I got the suspension changed a bit to make it more forgiving. I've had some windows sent over from Germany that make a massive difference in the winter. Mine’s got a radio in it, too.'
It's all right for some.
City slickers: The Twizy is motorway legal, though we can't imagine the range would last long travelling flat-out at 50mph
A closer look inside showcases just how small that rear seat is. Spot Sir Stirling's aftermarket radio he's also had fitted to his
What’s it like on the motorway?
In honesty, there wasn't a motorway in close enough proximity for us to reach with a capable state of charge, so we didn't put it to the test on these roads. It is a city car, at the end of the day.
Which one should you buy?
Two-seat models with the optional doors fitted command the best prices on the used market, so this is the combination to choose if you’re looking to get the biggest proportion of your money back.
Renault Twizy pub fact
Sir Stirling wanted more power, and there is a Twizy that has that.
In 2013, Renault built an F1 Twizy to celebrate their race-series connection. Featuring an F1-style steering wheel, slick tyres and bigger wings than a 1980s fast Ford, it has KERS technology used by the race team to produce 97bhp for 13 second bursts. It also cost a claimed £1m!
The Twizy F1 was built to celebrate Renault's involvement in the premier class of car racing. It cost £1m
The Cars & motoring verdict
The Twizy will only make sense for a specific group of people. Firstly, you’re only likely to buy one if you live in a city. But the second requirement is the big one – having somewhere to charge it. If you’ve got a garage, great. If not, you’ll need to be imaginative.
I live in a sixth-floor apartment with no car park – it doesn't suit my situation. As Susie rightly said: ‘The only thing a Twizy won’t do is climb stairs.’
You also have to take some of the claims with a pinch of salt. In reality, the 62 mile range is really only good for between 35 to 50 miles, depending on how heavy you are with your right foot. And driving at night with the lights on takes bigger chunks out of your remaining range.
It’s not that cheap to run either. You’ll pay a minimum of £540 a year to lease the battery – find a petrol car that does 40mpg and, based on current petrol prices (106.98p a litre, according to the RAC), you’ll pay the same in fuel costs.
It might be free to tax and Congestion Charge exempt, but insurance costs are high (group 11) compared to an insurance group 1 VW Up!.
But for Sir Stirling, it’s ideal.
‘I think it’s important that people should know how good it is. I think it’s looked upon as a gimmick – it’s not at all. It is very useful in town.
‘You get quite a decent length of charging cable, and it’s so handy having a three-pin plug – it means you can plug it in just about anywhere.
‘The biggest selling point for me is the convenience of it. The parking benefits, the cost of running it – it’s the ease more than anything else. But also the friendliness – people are amused to see one. Sometimes it’s a good thing and sometimes a bad thing to get noticed, but I enjoy that people look at the car and get a lift.’
Like conventional cars in Renault's range, the Twizy comes with the 4+ package, which gives four years’ free roadside recovery, servicing and warranty.
RENAULT TWIZY FACTS AND FIGURES
Price from: £6,895
Engine: 6.1kWh lithium-ion battery and electric motor
Transmission: Single-speed direct drive, rear-wheel drive
Top speed: 50mph
Fuel economy: n/a
Range: 62 miles (claimed)
Emissions: 0g/km CO2
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 2338/1381/1451
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