Twizy twinkles but can Renault recover in Ireland?
Neither the electric Twizy or Clio RS fits with otherwise logical - and greyer - Renault range
It’s also tremendous fun, from the moment you pop open the Lamborghini-style doors (a rather steep option at €800 including the zip-out windows). There is a conventional steering wheel and pedals, plus a push-button automatic transmission, but the rest of the Twizy is just barking mad. It feels barely any wider than your own shoulders, whines along like a miniature LUAS and corners with surprising verve and aplomb, at least at low speed. You can’t help but laugh as you trundle along.
It charges up in three-and-a-half-hours from a conventional three-pin domestic socket (you won’t be able to plug it into on-street chargers just yet) and Renault quotes a useful 100km range. It’s small enough to park nose-in to the kerb, but there is some doubt as to the legality of that.
It’s also, like all electric cars, very expensive, at €9,995 for a two-seat vehicle with no heater and little weather protection. Plus you have to lease the battery for an extra €50 a month. Plus the doors are extra.
Given that the Twizy is really a rival to mopeds, not cars, it’s hard to see the financial sense, and thusly Renault Ireland is releasing it here without any firm sales target. It’s merely there for now to generate interest and publicity. Drive it and you’ll probably love it. Afford it? Well, that’s something else again...
The appeal of the hot Clio RS should be simpler. A gorgeous shape accentuated by some restrained but effective add-on bodykit and menacing dark alloy wheels, the hot Clio should simply be the continuation of a grand Renault tradition of great small fast cars.
With a new 200bhp 1.6-litre turbo engine you’d think that would be the result. But while it’s certainly quick and it grips and steers with delight, it’s hamstrung by Renault’s decision to fit it only with a paddle-shift dual-clutch transmission. Far from making it feel like a junior racing car, it instead feels awkward, unintuitive and intrusive, changing up or down without warning or consent and generally making you wish Renault had just stuck with a conventional manual. A move that might have brought the price down from €33,000 (almost Golf GTI money).
But while the Twizy is expensive and the Clio RS frustrating, perhaps we should be thankful that both exist at all. Given Renault’s recent global financial difficulties, it would have been easy for it to just continue cranking out plain-jane Meganes and Fluences and ignore both its sporting and innovative histories. It would have been equally easy for Renault Ireland to ignore both models and concentrate on bread-and-butter family models. The fact that it hasn’t is rather heartening.
Probably no-one will buy either a Twizy or an RS from an entirely rational point of view, but it’s unquestionably a good thing that such irrational vehicles are available. The motoring world would be a greyer, less interesting place without them.