Imagine if Renault’s Twizy had been built by BMW

20 May 2014

What a BMW i1 might look like

Renault’s Twizy has been on sale for just over two years, and in that time it’s clocked up worldwide sales of 12,653 examples, according to sales figures up to the end of April. Whether you think that’s a huge number or barely worth bothering about depends on your point of view. For an electric vehicle entirely without precedent, the numbers seem encouraging to me.

Unsurprising, relatively few Twizys have found homes in the wet and windy UK – only 423 owners have welcomed the prospect of driving a Twizy in the rain so far. Warmer places like Spain and the Canary Islands, better suited to a vehicle without a heater, account for larger numbers. The Twizy is also built in Spain, even if the badge is French, so perhaps that has added to local enthusiasm. Renault’s home market of France has also taken a big slice of sales – 2,954 up to the end of last month.

More surprisingly, Twizy’s largest worldwide market is Germany, having accounted for 3,354 of the total so far and continuing to outstrip France in the first months of 2014. The nation famed for its fast, luxurious cars seems more willing than most to embrace the slow and simple charm of the Twizy.

Renault Twizy on the German autobahn

Indeed, in June 2012 I was astonished to spot a German-registered Twizy barrelling along at its 50mph maximum on the autobahn, dicing with the Volkswagens and Mercedes.

Perhaps German makers will take note of local enthusiasm and consider building a competitor to the Twizy. A Bavarian vehicle to tackle the same job as the Twizy would no doubt be entirely different to the French solution, but it could sit neatly under the i3 in BMW’s i-car line-up, just as Twizy sits below Zoe in Renault’s ZE range.

At the top of the page, I’ve tried to imagine what the Twizy would look like if it had been built as part of the BMW i range from the outset – perhaps it could have been called i1. Renault’s designers consciously tried to steer away from conveying speed or aggression, on the very reasonable grounds that a Twizy isn’t speedy or aggressive, but I doubt a BMW version would appear quite so restrained.

Whether the BMW i3 and i8 approach of aluminium and carbon fibre would ever be applied to a Twizy-style car is another question. Renault has employed a tubular steel spaceframe structure, clad in plastic panels, to give a reasonable level of crash protection while staying within the weight limits allowed by European law for quadricycles.

A carbon-fibre equivalent would no doubt be stronger for the same weight, but the penalty would come in expense. Twizy needs to be cheap. Without price on its side, the 12,653 sales so far would no doubt have been even harder to come by.

Renault Twizy

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