Renault’s third generation of their much-loved city car, the Twingo, has just arrived in Ireland. With a rear wheel drive layout and engine mounted in the boot – an arrangement more common in a race bred sports coupé than a diminutive city car – the Twingo demands a closer look.

Of course the Twingo name plate is not new. Though the first generation Twingo was never officially sold in Ireland after its launch in 1993, the car still has a bit of a cult following, remembered fondly for its slightly awkward styling, no frills approach to motoring and the fun and colourful marketing that was used to promote it. Even the name Twingo – a blend of ‘twist’, ‘swing’ and ‘tango’ – sings joie de vivre.

Fast forward to 2014, and Renault Ireland has high hopes that the new Twingo can make an impact in the small but growing city car segment.

The 2014 Renault Twingo!
The 2014 Renault Twingo!

What’s new for the 2014 Renault Twingo?

The new Twingo is sporting a variation of Renault’s bold new grille design that will surely help it stand out among the city car crowd.  Another nice touch is the styling of the hind quarters of the car that takes a bit of inspiration from the classic Renault 5.

Still there is nothing retro about this car – more of a French chicness – you can jazz it up with some of the eye popping colours on offer and some coloured strips along the sides.

On the outside, the new Twingo is deliciously compact. The car is shorter than the outgoing model, but the wheelbase is longer and the new rear wheel drive/rear engine layout has allowed the bonnet to be shortened and the wheels to be pushed out further to the corners of the car. This is also the first five door Twingo which makes it a bit more practical.

The result of the new layout is a car that is compact but roomier inside, with the benefit of a smaller turning circle, more agility and feeling of nimbleness.

What’s it like to drive?

Certainly getting in and out of the multi-storey car park to go on our test drive was easy in the Twingo. My co driver had a few opportunities to check out that turning circle, which we can confirm is as nifty as you would ever need should you get caught down a cul de sac and need to turn around in a hurry.

The engine is neatly packed out of sight under the boot floor. The load lip is flat, so while the boot is not deep like what you might find in other city cars, you could easily slide one or two small suitcases in there side by side in the 188 litre capacity space.

Inside the Renault Twingo
Inside the Renault Twingo

There is also a ‘cargo’ position that fixes the rear seats to an upright position to increase the volume to 219 litres, though this may not be compatible with carrying rear passenger, depending on how tolerant they are! The rear seats and front passenger seat can also be folded flat to carry larger items.

Inside, I found it easy to get comfortable in the Twingo. The seats seemed supportive and comfortable, though we weren’t in the car all that long.

The interior of the new Twingo

The dash has a modern and fun feel with some smart looking gloss black and pops of colour on the door panels. The glovebox was a good size and didn’t eat too much into the available passenger legroom, the door bins look like they could fit a bottle and a few other bits and the big storage bin below the centre console will easily absorb clutter too.

Not being a giant meant I had enough headroom and legroom to be comfortable in the passenger seat and the rear seats, but taller passengers might struggle a bit.

We only had a short drive in the Twingo, but first impressions would suggest it does what you want from a city car – easy to manoeuvre and park, nippy around town, light steering but weighty enough for confidence out on the open road, comfortable and well-insulated. Still I would need to take it along a typical twisty rural road with a few rough surfaces thrown in to fully test the merits of the steering, suspension and handling.

Engine wise, there’s a new 1.0 litre SCe 70bhp petrol unit that with start stop fitted offers 67.3mpg and CO2 emissions of just 95g/km. There’s also a turbocharged 1.0 litre petrol unit with 90bhp that offers similar economy.

The Twingo is a fun, rear wheel drive city car
The Twingo is a fun, rear wheel drive city car

What are my options?

The cars available to drive at the launch had the 70bhp unit. It feels nippy in the low gears and was well capable for city driving, but at cruising speeds it did run out of steam. Renault suggests that buyers looking for something a bit sprightlier and more suited to long distance runs up and down motorways should consider the 90bhp unit.

There are three trim levels – Expression, Play and Dynamique. All cars get LED daytime running lights, electric front window, remote central  locking,  speed limiter, height adjustable steering wheel, trip computer – but you need to go up to Play trim for air con. Connectivity is standard in all cars thanks to a cradle on the dash that allows you to use your smartphone as a touchscreen to control navigation, telephone, multimedia and trip computer via a free to download app.

The Twingo range starts at €13,990 for the Expression model with the 70bhp petrol unit, rising to €16,590 for the top of the range Dynamique model with 90bhp turbocharged petrol unit.

The Twingo has some stiff competition in the city car segment but the effort that has been made to do something different with this car is commendable. It will be interesting to see how the Twingo is received once it reaches dealers mid November. As we approach the new 151 registration plate in January can the Twingo grab a slice of the city car pie?

Caroline Kidd