REVIEW DATE: 27 Jul 2007
We missed out on the first generation Renault Twingo, the French maker only selling its entry-level citycar on the continent. Does the second take on the theme make up for this oversight? Jonathan Crouch decides
Renault claim to have invented many market sectors - MPVs, mini-MPVs and so on - but fashion-conscious citycars? You might be forgiven for wondering on that one but that's exactly what the first generation Renault Twingo was when it hit the European market in 1993 - the Fiat 500 or MINI of its day. Over 2.4 million were sold, though none officially over here in right hand drive form.
Renault always promised us Brits that we'd get the second generation version though and, from a manufacturer famed for style-conscious models like the Avantime and the Vel Satis, many confidently expected something that would make a MINI feel old hat. What we got was this car, revolutionary perhaps, in its own quiet practical way, but not in the manner some might have been expecting. Look at the product a little closer though and you may end up wondering whether that isn't quite a good thing. Let's do just that.
Since diesel power generally makes sense only for larger superminis, the Twingo emphasis is, not surprisingly, on petrol power. The units in question, like the chassis, are borrowed largely from the previous generation Clio and for keen drivers, that's good news as the Clio II boasted one of the most capable and fun small car platforms around. Electric variable power steering is fitted as standard, with the sportier GT and Renaultsport models getting a beefier set up to complement the use of stiffer bushes in their suspension set-ups.
So what's it like in day-to-day use? Well, 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. As we've already suggested, it's good fun to chuck about too, changing direction promptly and able to corner with the best citycar offerings in a way that makes you keen to try the top of the range Renaultsport model.
".it'll still appeal to younger drivers looking for something inexpensive yet relatively chic"
That car zips to sixty in under eight seconds on the way to around 125mph. In other words, it will destroy a MINI Cooper at the lights for a couple of grand less. Still, you may not feel the need to live every day as if you're at the wheel of a PlayStation game and if so, the Twingo GT with its lightly turbocharged 100bhp TCE engine might be a better bet. Or you might take the view that less is more and go no further than the entry-level 1.2-litre 8-valve 60bhp engine. There's also a more modern 75bhp 16-valve version of this unit with superior running costs.
Citycars tend either to be fashion statements (like the MINI or the Fiat 500) or focus more or practicality (like a Fiat Panda or a Citroen C1). The Twingo falls somewhere between these two extremes. The shape is contemporary and fun, without being especially arresting, while the body is spacious and airy but can't be ordered with more than three doors.
Still, there are a number of neat design touches. The swollen wheel arches, novel door catches 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.
This generation Twingo is a massive 170mm longer than the original and most of that has been given to back seat passengers and their baggage. 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.
Expect to pay between £7,000 and £13,000 for your Twingo, depending on the specification you choose, uncomfortably close to what you'd pay for a supermini like Renault's own Clio. To be fair, the asking prices are comparable to most obvious rivals, though a little more than some Far Eastern alternatives and a lot less than you'd pay for a comparable MINI.
All the main models are offered with 1.2-litre petrol powerplants developing either 60, 75 or 100bhp, while the top of the range Renaultsport 133 model uses a 133bhp 1.6-litre unit. The French maker is aiming to try and replicate with this car the kind of model loyalty that its predecessor inspired. Over 47% of MK1 Twingo customers bought another.
Equipment levels are quite acceptable. The range opens with the Expression model and at this somewhat basic level the specification isn't all that opulent. With the I-Music, there's a better engine, Bluetooth connectivity, a rev counter and a four-speaker stereo with AUX input. Step up to the Dynamique and 15" alloy wheels are added along with air-conditioning, side airbags and split folding rear seats. From there, it's the GT, then the Renaultsport model which is also offered in stripped-out Cup guise with even more focused suspension or in Gordini trim with a host of desirable extras.
All Renault Twingo models fall under this manufacturer's eco2 initiative which focuses on reducing the whole life environmental costs of every model in the range. The 1.2-litre 75bhp engine is actually the best performer in the Twingo range from this standpoint with its 55mpg economy and emissions of just 119g/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.
As we're encouraged to live an ever greener lifestyle, Renault is putting its money where its mouth is, recycling its old Clio platform and producing this second generation Twingo for lifestyle-conscious citycar buyers who don't want anything too in-your-face. Although not as comparatively groundbreaking as the original, it'll still appeal to younger drivers looking for something inexpensive yet relatively chic.
Overall? Well, 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 chirpy, yet functional urban runabout that isn't going to cripple you financially, this car ticks a lot of boxes.
The results below show the top TWINGO deals on buyacar
|Renault Twingo 1.2 16V Expression 3dr hatchback|
|Renault Twingo 1.2 16V Dynamique 3dr [AC] hatchback|
|Renault Twingo 0.9 TCE Dynamique 5dr [Start Stop] hatchback|
|Price £11,000||Save £695|
|Renault Twingo 1.0 SCE Dynamique 5dr [Start Stop] hatchback|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT TWINGO DEALS|
|For TWINGO RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.4 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
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