REVIEW DATE: 02 Aug 2007
Renault's Twingo city car would appear to have the cute angle all sewn up but can it also show a feistier side? Steve Walker takes a look at the GT derivative.
With small cars majoring in fun and individuality very much in favour, the Renault Twingo and the Great British public look a perfect match, especially with the French citycar in sporty GT form. Can the Twingo live up to its hype?
The clamour for the old Twingo to be brought to these shores was strong. Channel-hopping Brits had spotted the endearing little car in the hands of the French and many of them had become hopelessly smitten with its curvy lines and bubbly personality but Renault stood firm. No right-hand drive models were forthcoming and none of the 2.4 million Twingos that found happy homes across Europe were sold officially in the UK. When the next generation Twingo was announced, though, the French marque was never likely to pass up on the opportunity twice.
Suddenly, sporty Renaults have a lot to live up to. The French marque has beguiled the nation's boy racers with its range of demonic Renaultsport hot hatchbacks marketed on the back of its considerable F1 exploits. The Twingo GT may not be part of the red hot Renaultsport stable but the GT branding suggests something pleasantly warmed over. Power comes from the 1.2-litre TCE petrol engine with TCE standing for Turbo Control Efficiency. Renault's tag line for this unit is that; "It combines the fuel consumption of a 1.2-litre motor with the power of a 1.4." A little corny perhaps, but with 100bhp available and 49.5mpg attainable, they do have a point.
"Renault's Twingo is a fine handling little city car and in GT form, it offers a definite sporty edge"
The 1.2 TCE unit is based on the normally-aspirated 1.2-litre engine, versions of which make up the remainder of the mainstream Twingo engine range. The bolting on of a turbocharger, however, is a tried and tested route to bring more zing to a car's driving experience. It gives a 25bhp power hike for a start and although the 100bhp maximum is produced quite high in the rev range at 5,500rpm, the low inertia turbo spools up quickly, minimising lag to an extent that there's strong pulling power even at low revs. Peak torque is measured at 145Nm at 3,000rpm although there's also an overboost function that gives small but telling increases in the engine's oomph when you exceed 4,500rpm in 2nd, 3rd or 4th gear.
It all makes for a pleasantly urgent driving experience in the kind of urban areas where the Twingo will be predominantly used. The ride isn't the crash, bang, wallop, affair served up by some small cars, despite the GT model's sports suspension and is actually very composed on bad surfaces. The car changes direction promptly with its quicker power steering settings and can corner with the best city cars, although don't expect the rigidity and grip of Renaultsport model.
The shrunken supermini shape of the Twingo will appeal to buyers put off by the crop of high-roofed, one-box citycars currently on the market. Renault has the Modus to appease small car buyers who want more of an MPV flavour and that frees the Twingo for sportier pursuits. The GT model takes the neat good looks and pugnacious stance of the standard car but emphasises its dynamic side more overtly with a redesigned front bumper and front fog lights. Unusual black inserts inside the headlight clusters also feature, along with body-coloured side mouldings and at the back, there's a rear spoiler finished in aluminium with a chrome finish for the exhaust pipe. 15" alloy wheels are standard and Renault are offering a range of exterior decals so buyers can personalise their vehicle.
The car's interior is spacious for the citycar sector with the available room maximised by clever split rear seats that individually slide and recline. Push these right back and you'll get proper sized adults in the back with ease, while head and legroom for those in the front is also generous. The boot is a bit pokey but can be extended when you've no rear seat passengers by folding the seat backs down.
Renault has tried to inject some of the funky individuality that's currently defining the best small cars and has been successful to an extent. The odd centre display is eye-catching and user-friendly but a lot of the minor switchgear is lifted from other Renault products and the stereo unit can prove difficult to use with its small buttons. GT derivatives liven things up with a leather steering wheel, a leather gear knob and aluminium pedals.
The Twingo comes moderately well-equipped as standard but the GT ups the anti quite considerably. It's the only Twingo to feature rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps and air-conditioning. The GT also increases the impressive safety provision by adding front lateral airbags to the driver and passenger airbags, ABS brakes and electronic brakeforce distribution of the standard equipment list. There's also a four-speaker CD stereo with AUX input and Bluetooth connectivity.
The old Twingo was in service for 14 years and it sold across a diverse customer base. The current car, by contrast, is highly unlikely to soldier on for anything like as long and will be targeted at a far more specific group of buyers, particularly in sporty GT trim. Part of the reason for this is that this Twingo forms just a part of a varied Renault small car line-up along side the Modus and Clio models. Working in tandem with these two, the Twingo targets young urban dwellers who have an appetite for technology and style. The GT derivative, meanwhile, adds an extra element of the affordable but sporty hatchback into the mix.
As a compact city car, the Twingo was developed with the big environment issue very much in mind and that means Twingo buyers should be able to run one with their green conscience and their bank balance relatively intact. Achieving 49.5mpg on the combined cycle, the 1.2-litre TCE engine has one of the lowest fuel consumptions of any 100bhp petrol unit and tax-friendly CO2 emissions of 132g/km will also benefit the car's bottom line.
The Twingo GT also falls under Renault's eco2 initiative which aims to produce vehicles that go easy on the environment throughout their lifecycle. Eco2 vehicles are manufactured and recycled in as environmentally-friendly a manner as possible.
Renault's Twingo is a fine handling little city car and in GT form, it offers a definite sporty edge that's not always easy to come by at the sub £10,000 price point. Good ride quality and smooth, punchy performance courtesy of the 100bhp TCE engine are highlights but the well packaged interior and low running costs should also attract interest. There's a big jump up in price from the standard Twingo to this GT model but people who value an engaging drive will see it as money well spent.
The Twingo forms a key part of Renault's campaign in the small car segment and it has a lot to live up to after its predecessor's roaring success across Europe. The GT derivative has more pressure still heaped upon it. With Renaults having established themselves as the cars to have in the hot hatch sector, many were counting on the liveliest Twingo to deliver a more affordable, less extreme brand of Renaultsport exhilaration. Fortunately, the Twingo GT does well on both counts. It's no hot hatchback but its definitely fun and does a good line in the important city car ingredients.
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