REVIEW DATE: 25 Feb 2008
Renault's Twingo is a simple, affordable citycar so you might expect it to be at its best in its most simple and affordable forms. Steve Walker checks out the mid-range Twingo Extreme.
A lively driving experience, good interior space and low costs make Renault's Twingo Extreme a citycar with plenty of appeal. There are more fashionable and flamboyant small cars out there but few that make more sense.
People expect certain things from a car called Extreme. Perhaps you'd be looking for something extremely fast, extremely well-equipped or, as a result of this pace and plushness, extremely expensive. The Renault Twingo Extreme is none of the above. It's the mid-range option in the Twingo range so we can only assume that Renault's naming committee were referring to the extremely good value for money it represents. We'll be the judge of that.
Renault forged itself a bit of a reputation in the early noughties for pursuing an adventurous styling direction. The Avantime and Vel Satis may have subsequently turned out to be a couple of well-stuffed turkeys but their design language, the one that nobody understood, was eventually translated into the Megane II - a car that looked both different and, crucially, good. So it was that breaths were well and truly baited for the unveiling of the Renault Twingo. This was to be next generation of an evocatively-styled citycar that sold like wildfire in Europe during the nineties but never arrived in the UK.
When the covers came off, the disappointment was tangible. The Twingo looked fine but where was the flair, the drama, the 'want one' factor that great small cars need? The Twingo may not yank on the heart strings as powerfully as a MINI or a Fiat 500 but Renault hopes it can still appeal on more prosaic grounds and if any Twingo can, it's this cheap and cheerful Extreme.
The Twingo Extreme gets the least powerful engine in the Twingo's line-up of 1.2-litre petrol units. Above it sit the 75bhp 1.2-litre 16-valver and the 110bhp 1.2-litre TCE Turbo but the unit we're dealing with here is a 60bhp 8-valve 1.2. This engine will get the Twingo to 62mph in 15 seconds and eventually trundle on to a 96mph top speed. Performance isn't dramatic but it's adequate for urban usage where the Twingo feels sprightly enough off the line and up to 30mph or so helped by its modest 925kg kerb weight.
"As an affordable small car with low running costs Renault's offering makes good sense."
The Twingo serves up a pleasantly urgent driving experience in the kind of urban areas where it will be predominantly used. The ride isn't the crash, bang, wallop, affair served up by some small cars and is actually very composed on bad surfaces. The car changes direction promptly and can corner with the best citycar offerings partly as a result of its use of the chassis from the previous generation Clio.
The Renault Twingo show car unveiled at the 2006 Paris motor show hasn't been significantly watered down for production. The shape is nowhere near as radical as that of the original Twingo, looking much like a shrunken Modus but it's still an acceptable piece of styling. The most interesting piece of detailing is the decision to do away with the dihedral Renault front grille, the nose sporting a low front air dam instead. Available in three-door guise only, the Twingo has a number of neat design touches. The swollen wheel arches, novel door catches, neat front fog lamps and accessory packs that include flowers, stripes and chequer decals indicate that Renault is looking to offer something that's not just a me-too contender.
Interior space is reasonable, this generation Twingo being a massive 170mm longer than the original. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the interior is what Renault has done to the rear seats. The two rear seats can slide 220mm fore and aft to prioritise space for either people or luggage and they also fold flat and then tumble forwards, offering up to 959 litres of space in this guise. Other noteworthy features include a centrally mounted instrument cluster and no fewer than eleven storage spaces dotted around the cabin.
The asking price could well be the statistic that draws the most buyers in the Twingo Extreme's direction. The problem is that the entry-level Renault Clio, an altogether larger and more advanced prospect, is worryingly close in value. Still, the Extreme doesn't shirk the challenge from its big brother in the equipment stakes. Even this entry-level car receives the clever one-piece folding rear seat, a CD stereo with steering wheel controls, front fog lights, electric front windows and a rev counter. If you want an even more Spartan set-up, try the entry-level Twingo Freeway which is cheaper still.
To step up from the Extreme to the plusher Dynamique, buyers will need a further £900 but the options list may be a more entertaining place to spend some of that money. The Twingo can be ordered with an integrated Bluetooth system and an MP3 connector in the glovebox so you can use all your technological titbits in the car. Alternatively, there's a host of exterior tweaks available to personalise your car including Union Jacks, racing stripes and chequered graphics.
All Renault Twingo models fall under the manufacturer's eco2 initiative which focuses on reducing the whole life environmental costs of every model in the range. The Extreme is actually the best performing derivative in the Twingo range from this standpoint with its 50.4mpg economy and emissions of just 132g/km. The car has also been designed to be highly recyclable and meets strict criteria in terms of the emissions produced during its manufacturing process.
The front and rear of the Twingo have been designed to shrug off minor knocks, driving down insurance costs still further. Meanwhile, strong fuel economy has been achieved by the fitment of electrically assisted power steering which makes a saving of around four per cent on the car's fuel consumption figures. Built at Novo Mesto in Slovenia, the Twingo features innovative build techniques such as laser-brazing for the roof. There's also a 12-year anti corrosion warranty thanks to features like a fully galvanised subframe and wax-injected hollow sections.
The Renault Twingo might not be the most exciting option in a small car sector that's increasingly fashion-led but it has the basics nicely taken care of. If you're looking for a functional urban runabout that isn't going to cripple you financially, this Extreme derivative ticks all the boxes.
The rising cost of motoring and growing environmental concerns have put small cars very much in the limelight but you have to wonder whether Renault has missed a trick with the Twingo. Don't take this the wrong way, the car is fun to drive, highly manoeuvrable and well-suited to its citycar role but with a little bit of visual sparkle, it could have been a much more desirable option. As it is, the mid-range Twingo Extreme may show the car in its best light. As an affordable small car with low running costs, Renault's offering makes good sense, though those looking for a cute urban fashion accessory may be drawn elsewhere.
The results below show the top TWINGO deals on buyacar
|Renault Twingo 1.2 Freeway 3dr hatchback special editions|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT TWINGO DEALS|
|For TWINGO EXTREME|
|OVERALL||7.4 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
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