/ Motoring, Parenting

16-year-olds could drive the Renault Twizy

Twizy car by Renault

Meet Twizy – Renault’s radical new miniature electric car. It’s fantastic fun, and I can see it having huge appeal for young drivers. But how would you feel about seeing a 16-year-old at the wheel of a Twizy?

A new law comes into effect in January 2013 allowing 16-year-olds to drive ‘micro-cars’ – such as the electric Twizy – unaccompanied.

A new car class is being created by the DVLA for ultra-lightweight cars with a top speed limited to 28mph.

The Renault Twizy could be the first car on sale in the UK to qualify so we could see 16-year-olds driving cars like the Twizy. Solo. On public roads.

Teenagers in a Twizy

The Twizy ‘80’ has a top speed of 50mph and is treated just like a normal car in the eyes of the law. But Renault is also building a low-power ‘45’ version of the Twizy with its top speed limited to 28mph to comply with the rules, and the French firm is currently assessing whether to launch this model in the UK.

Drivers would have to pass Compulsory Basic Training (CBT), driving theory and practical test, but these are much less stringent and in-depth than the tests for a regular car.

This class of car already exists in many other European Union countries. In France teenagers as young as 14 have been able to drive micro-cars for years.

Car, quadricycle or go-kart?

I think the Twizy would be a brilliant car for a young driver. It’s ultra-simple to pilot with its electric motor and press-and-go automatic gearbox. Its RenaultSport chassis makes it feel like a go-kart around corners, while its electric motor was developed with help from Renault’s Formula 1 wing and offers sprightly performance.

It’s clearly much safer than a scooter, too, with a full roll-over cage and an airbag as standard.

It’s not what you’d call practical, though: doors are an optional extra and even then they don’t have windows. The ‘boot’ can barely fit a laptop. And if you want to carry a passenger in the tandem rear seat, they’d have to be part of the gymnastic squad to get in.

The Twizy (a mix of ‘twin’ and ‘easy’, by the way) has funky alien styling that will also get the younger generation excited. As will the price-tag: at £6,690, it’s the cheapest car on sale in the UK. And the lower-power ’45’ Twizy could be as much as £500 cheaper.

Safe and sane?

So what do you think of the idea that, from next year, teenagers could be driving themselves to school or college in a Twizy?

Is it a great way to get younger drivers learning road-craft? Or is it a disaster waiting to happen, as inexperienced road users share the road with HGVs, motorbikes and much more powerful cars?

Should 16-year-olds be able to drive 'micro-cars' like the Renault Twizy on public roads?

No (67%, 373 Votes)

Yes (20%, 112 Votes)

I won't know until I've seen them in action (13%, 73 Votes)

Total Voters: 558

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No worse than a 16 year old motor-cyclist – I rode motor bike at 16 and was as careful and as responsible as 25 year olds.

Wirecutter says:
4 April 2012

Having tried an original Sinclair death trap when even a BMC Mini topping it out, and then attempting to turn left across three lanes of traffic I told the owner who had allowed me to try it out that I will visit him in hospital! That went down a bomb as well you can imagine.
Just picturing how a 16 year old will cope worries me as even now most peddle cycle riders believe that they are surrounded by a wall of unbreakable glass and are totally indestructible so what will there feelings be with body work around them

Though I agree that many cyclists have little or no idea of road safety or the highway code – it has little to do with age. I’ve actually seen far more over 16s drive badly locally than under 16s.

I doubt whether 16 year old motorcyclists are significantly worse than 17 year olds – and this is supposed to be about 16 year olds driving a four wheel machine.

I wonder how many 16 year olds can afford £6000 plus insurance.

Put on doors and windows and replace the rear seat with some storage space and you might have a vehicle that would appeal to those with mobility problems, providing they can get in and out.

Peter Trant says:
26 April 2012

I totally agree about putting windows on the doors. They don’t have to be electric and even sliding side screens would do. I also agree that the rear seat should be scrapped in favour of more storage space. I am in fact disabled and am considering purchasing this vehicle rather than a conventional car providing that it can be converted to hand controls only and have a bracket fitted to the rear to carry my wheel chair. Subject to these adaptations this quadracycle would be an ideal vehicle for me in retaining my independence.

We’ve just added a poll to this Convo asking “Should 16-year-olds be able to drive ‘micro-cars’ like the Renault Twizy on public roads?” if you’d like to have a vote!

Andy says:
5 April 2012

I live on the Isle of Man and you can drive a car at 16. Although since I passed my test they have introduced an R-plate, in which newly qualified drivers are restricted to 50mph for a year. So I have no issue with this.

I’m not sure that enough thought has been given to practicalities. I imagine that four strong men could pick one of these microcars up and put it on a trailer. How much is insurance likely to cost?

As someone who is terrified of driving, initially this seemed like quite a cool halfway house. But having read the comments on this convo they’ve made me think a bit more about it, and now I think I’d feel more scared driving one of these than driving a normal car – you seem to be quite exposed, and despite the roll-bars and airbag, it would be quite nervewracking driving next to a huge lorry!

Loskie says:
7 April 2012

Why no one ever questions letting children ride horses on the public highway is beyond me. Horses as animals are not 100% predictable in fact far from it.
How can a 12 yr old girl control a 3/4t animal when it is wilful and perhaps frightened of traffic.
far better and safer to give her a moped or Renault Twizzy.
Of course if as a car driver you got caught up and had an accident with a horse you would naturally be the one at fault.

Steve says:
7 April 2012

Nature transitions from child to “grown up” around 13/14 years, if there old enough to pass GCSE exams i am sure they are old enough to navigate a vehicle around roads. Contrary to the media image, not all youths are reckless with subnormal intellects, my daughter cries if anything stops her from handing her homework in on time.

In short i think we should allow 16 year olds to drive these things.

steve says:
7 April 2012

initially a good idea but what about congestion?

Wirecutter says:
10 April 2012

Wow this will have drivers getting six lanes each way on the M4 out of London! I’ve seen nothing about keeping them off motor ways or have I missed that?

With a top speed of only 28 mph the restricted Twizy would be likely to cause problems on motorways, with other traffic moving much faster. The unrestricted version, with a top speed of 50 mph might be practical but the limited battery life could be a problem. I don’t believe that it makes sense to take the Twizy on motorways, even if there is no current legislation to ban it.

There does not seem to be any NCAP testing information about the Twizy, so I would be surprised if it appears on UK roads until this is available and some thought has been given to whether or not it should be allowed on motorways.

Thanks for the recent comments Chris. If this sort of vehicle became popular it could help solve a lot of problems, though I would hesitate to take one on a motorway.

Josh says:
27 April 2012

Yes, I think that 16 year olds should be able to drive little cars around like this because not only does it save space on the roads but it saves on fuel. 16 year olds need to have jobs as well so it isn’t always right that they need to take transport to work or walk. They should become more independant by doing things for themselves. I don’t think that they should have to work very hard to get a licence for driving a car like this but I think that if they would like to drive a bigger car or fuelled car in the future then they should take another theory and practical test which should be a lot harder for them.
You have to give people chances in life or no one will get anywhere like with jobs no one is getting jobs anymore because everyone is indepenant what with the internet and things like that.
I think that there should be more cars on the road like the twizy so that there is more space on the roads and that more cars and people can be on the roads all at the same time if we have too.

tracey says:
29 April 2012

I’d rather my 16 yr old was driving round in one of these rather than on a two wheeled death trap. And if she could it would free up some of my time and save on petrol. My daughter has a horse that she needs to see to which makes for numerous journeys for me, and she also likes to meet up with friends. This would save me a small fortune. in fuel costs and bus fares. cant wait until september when she starts college …. even more money down the fuel tank.

anonymous says:
1 July 2012

This is a good idea, i’m sure plenty of 16 year olds would like to drive but i don’t think this would sell much because of its look. Perhaps improving the look and making it more stylish could make it better

Aaron says:
24 July 2012

Sorry, but it’s not the age that matters. It’s who is behind the wheel and their knowledge of how to control and use the vehicle in a safe manner. A 16 year old could quite easily be a better driver than a 22 year old.

There’s a simple solution, make tests a bit harder, and have regular check ups on the teens – that way we’ve only got the safe, sensible ones on the roads.

James says:
20 August 2012

I think this is a brilliant idea for 16 year olds to be able to drive a low powerd vehicle on the roads because it gives them time to get used to the roads and other traffic before they get a mutch faster and more powerfull car when they are 17 that could cause mutch more dammage to themselves and others if they ever crash

Creative decorators…any good ideas for what to make a spare room that’s IN a master suite bedroom?

Not sure this is on the topic of Twizy…

Kevin Williams says:
17 October 2012

Just found this article and this statement is totally incorrect: “Drivers would have to pass Compulsory Basic Training (CBT), driving theory and practical test, but these are much less stringent and in-depth than the tests for a regular car.”

The FULL test to obtain a full MOPED licence is, contrary to the above statement, arguably more complex than the full car test as car drivers don’t have to start by obtaining a valid CBT certificate, which is obtained by attending an approved training body and undertaking a course of both theory, off-road and on-road training that takes at least one (and not infrequently more than one) day before being allowed to ride unsupervised on L plates.

They must then obtain a theory test certificate, a test which is exactly the same as the car theory test but with questions aimed at future motorcyclists.

What’s not entirely clear is what practical test a driver of a micro-car would have to undertake.

Can they drive these things on the road unsupervised on L plates and be subject to the same restriction in not carrying a passenger as a learner moped rider?

If a full licence is required, how will that be carried out? Are they going to be put through the full Module One off-road element of the moped test, complete with swerve and high speed (sic) cornering exercises, and the figure of 8 that a moped rider has to carry out? Will they have to reverse park in a ‘garage’ made of cones?

Or will the test be conducted entirely on the road in the way of the existing car test? In any case, the on-road part of the test whether moped or Mercedes covers the same areas of knowledge and practical driving skills. Arguably riding / driving a machine with a design top speed somewhat lower than the urban speed limit round a busy roundabout or one-way system in the average town centre demands MORE awareness and skill, not less.

And who’s to do the training? There’s barely room for a back seat passenger, and would a car instructor be qualified to train someone for a moped licence anyway? So does that mean motorcycle instructors would do the job?

Moa07 says:
15 November 2012

Hey there, I want to ask you a question, I’m from Italy and I live in England, in Italy you can drive a microcar at 14 years old, and I have that licence, can I drive the microcar at 14 years old in England
Thank you!

I know there are plans to try to bring the UK in line with other EU countries re driving micro-cars, but at present I’m certain it’s not legal. The only thing that is allowed is for 16-year-olds to drive small-engined mopeds.