Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Plug Me In.

It's official: I want a Twizy. There are many reasons why I shouldn't, but I would be willing to ignore them. The lists of faults that one can find with it is at least as long as the list of strengths, but it truly stands out as a new type of transportation, and is worthy of a close look. For now I will concentrate on the vehicle itself, and another time will explain the TwizyWay rental experience.
Talk about a visual stand-out. There is no way to confuse the Twizy with any other vehicle. The design can best be described as a pod with wheels at each corner. While doors are optional, the model I tried was equipped with scissor-type doors on each side. These doors do not seal fully against the body, and do not include side windows, but they do a decent job of not only protecting from wind and rain, but also giving the Twizy a more secure, car-like feel to it.

There are no door handles on the outside, so you have to reach inside and pull on a lever to open the doors. They lift up easily, and give easy access into the front seat. For those that complain about how 'plasticky' new cars have become, stay away! Everything is dark, hard plastic, from the floor to the dash to the seats to the ceiling. When one considers the fact that neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail can be stopped from entering the Twizy, it starts to make sense. It is clearly an interior that can be hosed or rinsed out without worrying about damaging anything. In any other vehicle I would insist that such a basic, plastic interior is a huge weak point, but in this case it gets a pass, and actually becomes a plus.
For fun I took a peek at the back seat, but at 6'2" I didn't even kid myself into thinking that I could fit back there. Actually, I might have fit in, but would never have been able to climb back out. It is clearly only suitable for children or small adults, but it is a suitable space for a small amount of luggage. According to the Renault website, storage space exists under the rear seat, but it seems that on these rental models the rear seat is fixed in place. Two small storage bins on either side of the steering wheel are handy for emptying your pockets.

Enough of the window shopping, it's time to get in the drivers seat. The padding is much more comfortable than it looks, though it is clear it would not be after a long drive. But as a city car with limited range, you won't ever be driving for hours at a time, so this isn't a big issue. The seat has great fore-aft travel, so people with short and long legs can fit. It is upon reaching for the handle to change the seatback angle that one of the biggest problems with the car jumps out: there is no handle. The seat is a one-piece molded plastic unit, and offers no angle adjustement. For my tastes it was much too upright, and as a result I could not get comfortable.
Once seated inside, the Twizy feels oddly spacious. Perhaps it's the fact that there is space between the seat and the doors, unlike in a normal car, but you don't feel as claustrophobic as you might expect in such a small space. The dash is very simple, but the steering wheel, instrument cluster, and turn and wiper stalks are not unlike those of an entry-level car. The view out front and to the sides is excellent. Without a back window you might again assume that you would feel boxed in, but when looking over your shoulder you tend to stick your head out the window, so even the view rearward is better than can be assumed.
As far as first impressions go, I have to say I was split. I liked how oddball and unique the Twizy looked from every angle, and quickly came to understand and appreciate the simplistic, rugged interior. At the same time, I felt that the lack of side windows and sealing around the doors was a big minus, and the unadjustable seatback simply unforgiveable. It would take a test drive to help me make up my mind on this strange buggy, and for those impressions, you will have to check back another time...

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