Renault failed to make much of an impact on the Irish city car market with the last Twingo. For some of you, this might be the first time you’ve even heard of a Renault Twingo! Clio yes, but Twingo?
Well sit up there, because Twingo is back with a bang. While everyone else is making front wheel drive city cars with the engine under the bonnet, Renault has moved the engine to the boot and made the Twingo rear wheel drive in the hunt for a roomier cabin, more agility and more manouvrability around town. Could this be the perfect city car?
Read my full Renault Twingo review and then watch my video to see the Twingo in action.
Renault has done a wonderful job designing the new Twingo. With no engine to accommodate under the bonnet, the Twingo has a little pert nose and it does look different to other cars of its size because the proportions are different with that teeny little bonnet.
It’s also the first Twingo to have five doors but the handles are cleverly hidden in the window frame. The front is boldly dominated by the large Renault lozenge at the centre of the grille. I love the casual nod at the rear to one of Renault’s other much loved small cars, the classic Renault 5, and you can see that resemblance in the broad shouldered stance of the rear of the car.
A roof spoiler is a sporty addition. Altogether, it’s a bold new face for Twingo, and it stands out in the city car class for its curvy, cute looks.
Another boon is that you can customise the Twingo to make it your own – maybe change the colour of the door mirrors or add a coloured strip along the shoulder line of the car? To simplify the process, there are a number of personalisation packs to choose from with cool names like ‘Retro Racer’, ‘Techno’ and ‘Casual Chic’ and each with their own unique colour scheme.
The cool, funky feel continues inside with a smart cabin trimmed in black and white, though you can add pops of blue or red. It’s smart, uncluttered and modern. There is just one circular cowl housing the speedometer and there is no rev counter on the instrument panel – though you can access one from your smartphone in a cradle on the dash via the free R&Go Renault app. More on that app later.
The driving position is good because you sit high up and it’s a very easy car to get in and out of. Visibility is great all round and the A pillar causes no problems when turning left or right – great for town driving.
I wouldn’t expect too much storage from a city car and door pockets and a glovebox would be enough, but there is a really useful ‘bin’ with lid just below the centre console that will absorb clutter. There are no door pockets on the insides of the rear doors as standard but rear passengers do get a cupholder to fight over! The pop out windows are a bit of a disappointment but they are common in city cars.
So what about space? That was one of the reasons why Renault put the engine in the boot in the first place. The new Twingo is 10cm shorter than its predecessor but the wheelbase has grown by 12cm to make the cabin roomier. It feels bright and airy up front and there is a bit of extra height in the roof over the front of the cabin that benefits front occupants. Legroom is also good for passenger as the glovebox is quite recessed so doesn’t eat into their legroom. In the rear I could comfortably sit behind the driver’s seat in my preferred position without a squeeze.
The risk of putting the boot in the rear is that it will use up valuable boot space and for sure the volume is down on the class leaders at just 188 litres. But it’s actually a really usable space with a wide opening, practical shape and a flat, high sill that means you can slide things in and out at arm level – no scrambling in the deepest recesses of the boot. The rear seats also fold down flat or can be easily fixed in an upright position to increase the load volume to 219 litres though this would make rear passengers uncomfortable. In a first in the city car segment, you can fold the front passenger seat down flat to carry longish items. But remember, it’s no Ford Transit!
So by this stage are you expecting rear wheel drive frolics from dear Twingo? Well I’m sorry, the Twingo isn’t really about that.
But wow is it manouvrable. The short bonnet, and the fact that the engine is in the boot has allowed space to be freed up under the bonnet so the front wheels can turn 45 degrees, giving the Twingo the shortest turning circle in the city car class. It is very obvious that the wheels can turn that bit further than most cars, and it makes turning and getting out of parking spaces really easy. The steering is also finger light around town – you will be parallel parking like a boss very quickly in this.
The new 70bhp non turbo 1.0 engine is perfectly adequate for town with enough pull in the lower gears to feel quick – even though a 0-100km/h sprint is actually 14.5 seconds. All this and that little bit of whirr behind your ears from the engine as you rev it around town makes driving the Twingo a fun experience. This car will make you smile.
Take it out of its natural environment, and that tiny 1.0 litre begins to feel more sluggish and the lack of flexibility in the higher gears will mean plenty of gear changes should you need to pick up speed quickly. There is a surprising amount of grip in those front wheels and decent steering means that you can take on the corners on those back roads quite enthusiastically.
It’s a relatively comfortable car too – with a suspension that’s not too soft or not too stiff – though on rougher rural roads, it feels less sure of itself and a bit skittish. Take it out of town and you also notice that there is a fair bit of road and wind noise coming into the cabin.
Ok, so a motorway is not the ideal environment for a car that touts itself as city car but you may need to pop “down the country” the odd weekend. Above 100km/h on a motorway I found the Twingo was less comfortable to drive – it feels less planted on the road, there’s that wind noise coming into the cabin and the steering lacks a weightiness to make you feel 100% connected to the road – but if you like to cruise through life at 100km/h it’s not a bad place to be at all.
The 1.0 litre 70bhp engine can return up to 63mpg and costs just €190 to tax per year.
There are three trim levels – Expression, Play and Dynamique. All cars get LED Daytime Running Lights, speed limiter and front electric windows. The next trim level up is Play and that’s a good one to go for as it comes with air con and a useful height adjustable driver’s seat – though sadly not electrically operated door mirrors! Top level Dynamique trim adds notables like alloys, electric heated mirrors, cruise control and also opens up engine choices – you can choose the SCe 70 with start stop and marginally lower running costs than the model we had on test, or a 1.0 litre turbocharged 90bhp petrol unit.
There is an optional folding fabric panoramic electric sunroof for some open top driving thrills. Connectivity is standard through the radio with Bluetooth and a smartphone cradle on the dash. You download a free app and then you can use your smartphone to listen to music, look at maps, make calls or use as a trip computer to look at info about your journey. It’s a good system, it doesn’t use data on your phone, it’s easy to use and the only issue I found is glare on the screen in sunlight.
This Twingo pops and fizzes along – it’s got buckets of character. The engine makes a fuss in the rear as you rev it to get the best out of it but the Twingo is still enjoyable to drive – though it does lack that “big car feel” that makes rivals like the Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Up! more comfortable out on the big roads. Believe me when I say this is a small car and it feels like a small car. That’s no bad thing and this is arguably more stylish and cool than rivals with more mature road manners.
You see the Twingo is pretty much the perfect car for around town thanks to the amazing manouvrability that goes that extra turn, the compact dimensions, small bonnet, great visibility, frugality, while still offering the creature comforts and practicality of a five door car with space for four and a few bags of shopping. The styling is A1 – it’s cute, sporty and with a myriad of customisation packs, Twingo can be made your very own whether that is casual chic or retro racer (!).
I can see Twingo appealing to the young, hip crowd but also to older drivers who will love the high driving position, compactness and the boot that allows you to load and unload at arm level. With the new Twingo, Renault has managed to combine the bread and butter stuff like practicality with some of that style, fun and youthful image of trendy but less practical 3 door rivals like the Fiat 500 and the Opel Adam. If you are looking for a small car under €15,000, the Renault Twingo has to be on the list.
Model tested: Renault Twingo SCe 70 Play
Price: €14,590 (Twingo range starts at €13,990)
Engine: 1.0 litre, three cylinder petrol
0-100km/h: 14.5 seconds
Economy: 62.8mpg (4.5l/100km)
CO2 emissions: 105g/km
Tax band: A3 (€190 per year)