General

Renault Twingo ZE First Impressions — Nice second car

Renault Twingo ZE First Impressions — Nice second car

First, a note to our American readers. What many US readers don’t realize when reading reviews from Europeans about European all-electric cars is the major difference between European ICE vehicles and US ICE vehicles.

In Europe, most drivers, especially those of smaller cars, will only have experience with manual transmissions. That makes a big difference when switching from manual to automatic. From manual to no transmission, super smooth, electric driving is a completely new experience. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the benefits of electric driving seem much greater and more attractive to European drivers than to their American counterparts.

Birth of the BEV

The Renault Twingo ZE is the fully electric version of the 2014 Twingo III. The platform for this car was designed with the option of an electric powertrain in a joint venture with Daimler. The ZE version would be launched “as soon as the market was ready”. We had to wait until February 2020 for the all-electric version, just before the coronavirus outbreak. Daimler used the platform for the Smart ForFour. The company electrified its small four-seater three years earlier in 2018. The Twingo ZE is not a conversion of a pure gas model, but rather is based on a dual powertrain platform.

Time to slim down – I’ve lost 25kg since taking this photo.

Even my bloated body fits in this very small car.

Specifications:

For full specifications go to EV database or a Renault dealer webpage (in Dutch — the Twingo is not sold in an English speaking country as far as I know). It has a 23 kWh battery with a usable capacity of 21.3 kWh. It is a high nickel LG Chem battery, probably NMC712 type. It can only charge from an AC source, but can do so at 22 kW. That’s a decent speed for a battery of this size. The engine has a top power of 60 kW/160 Nm, but the top speed is limited to 135 km/h. The range varies depending on the weather and driving type, from 90 km on the highway in the cold to 205 km in the city in the summer. All together, that’s 190km of WLTP (mandated range lies for comparisons).

driving machine

Unlike most vehicles in its class, it has rear-wheel drive. This is a better configuration for sporty driving, but it sacrifices most of the trunk. There is not much room for groceries or luggage. What can I say about driving? I have been spoiled by my previous experience with electric driving. But most Europeans who are used to a front-wheel drive, five-speed manual transmission don’t know what happens to them if this is their first experience with an electric car. Personally, I prefer front-wheel drive, which is easier. But fully electric rear wheel driving in such a short car makes driving fun in cities. Maybe not so much fun for other road users when there is other traffic.

Renault Twingo ZE interior.

What do you get when you buy this little awesome driving machine? An excellent second car, or even the only car for a household that uses trains and planes to travel. The Twingo ZE has a more luxurious interior than its cousin the Dacia Spring. It also has a light color scheme, which makes it more inviting. The seats are comfortable and heated seats are available as an option. Behind the wheel, in the passenger seat and in the back seat there is enough room for my bloated body. I can even get in and out of the driver’s seat without too much effort.

Infotainment and driver assistance

The infotainment system is the same as in my Zoe. I haven’t figured out half of it yet. It is for a next generation of younger people who are more accustomed to smartphones and related technology. The route planner is almost the level of a TomTom. When I was forced to use Android Auto a few months ago, I was disappointed with its quality. You can connect Android and Apple replacements to the main screen, but it won’t be an improvement. Do not expect movies or games, but apps such as WhatsApp in combination with your phone or a photo viewer are possible according to the manual.

About using a touchscreen instead of physical buttons and switches, it didn’t improve my driving safety. Fortunately, the main controls are still all blindly accessible by touch. The cruise control is static – you have to adjust the speed with your thumbs, just like in the Zoë and the previous version of the Twingo. I think I’ve covered over 150,000 km (100,000 miles) with this system and it works fine. I don’t need adaptive cruise control.

usability

When I see my brother come back from the supermarket with his family’s weekly groceries, it’s a load that won’t fit in the Twingo ZE, even with the rear seats folded down. The Twingo is fine for daily shopping, but not for the weekly shopping trip of a family of four. The storage spaces in the doors, center console and glove compartment are adequate, but not in the same class as the Dacia Spring’s. A baby seat and pushchair somehow fit in, I was told by a young mother who used the Twingo as a daily driver, but a weekend away with baby and partner would require a much larger car. Okay, I bought an 8 seater MPV when I was in that situation.

The Twingo ZE has two shortcomings: the short range and the lack of DC charging. To me, these design decisions are completely incomprehensible. This is not for single car households or adventurous people. Renault could easily double the range and add DC fast charging without raising the price too much.

In general, if you are a car boy or girl who likes to drive a nimble, small and fun car, put it at the top of your shortlist. This car will not disappoint you.

Thanks to Renault dealer Kempenaar-Renault in Alphen aan den Rijn for making the car available.

Renault Twingo and bigger brother Zoe.


 

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