First Drive: Renault Twingo
Sector: City car Price: £9,495–£11,695 Fuel: 62.8–667.3mpg CO2: 95–105g/km
If I had to sacrifice some salary, the new Renault Twingo is exactly the car on which my earnings would be going. For Renault has managed to take the city car and repackage it into something incredibly clever, characterful and cheap.
Chiefly, this has been achieved (with some help from Mercedes-Benz, which has developed the upcoming Smart ForFour alongside it) by moving the engine to the back, under the boot, thus freeing up lots of interior space as well as giving the car the sort of agility that makes driving round congested cities rather a lot of fun.
Although the car is 10cm shorter than the previous one, the cabin is in fact 22cm longer without the engine up front, and the wheelbase is 12cms longer. The cabin is noticeably more roomy than competitor city cars and is beautifully judged, with cunning little touches and plenty of style. The cloth glovebox bag, the brightly coloured trim, and grippy plastic wheel show materials are used cleverly and well, and there are plenty of ways to personalise each car, as is the wont of the buyer in this sector.
Higher end models also have an uprated version of the Renault’s R-Link system, which is a perfectly fine and workable solution, but in fact the clever choice is the more basic R&Go system, if the driver has an iPhone or similar smartphone. Once installed in a cradle, it uses apps though the phone screen for things like navigation, trip computer, internet radio and even the rev counter. Simple and effective, it marries phone and car intuitively together.
There are three versions of the Twingo – Expression, Play and Dynamique, powered by a choice of two engines – the new 1.0-litre 70 hp SCe three-cylinder normally aspirated engine and a Dynamique TCe 90 with a 0.9-litre 90 hp three-cylinder turbocharged unit.
Dynamique models have Renault’s Stop & Start system, which cuts the engine when the car is stationary in traffic to reduce emissions and improve economy, and see CO2 emissions drop below 100g/km. Prices start at £9,495 for an Expression SCe, rising to £11,695 for the Dynamique ENERGY TCe 90 S&S, but having driven both engines it seems best to opt for the cheaper models and then if there is any money left over, use it to spec it up with funky retro 80s stickers and well thought through packs that give each car a different character.
Renault (and Mercedes-Benz for the Smart sister car) didn’t choose rear engine, rear-wheel drive for feisty micro sports car handling, but for the more efficient use of space in a compact five-door car. Renault first mulled over this packaging concept in 2008, but couldn’t make it stack up financially, until Germanic economies of scale made development possible.
Because of the lack of engine, the front wheels have been given licence to turn further, to as much as 45 degrees against the usual 30 for cars such as this, and the low speed turning circle is amazingly small.
The three cylinder turbocharged TCe engine is similar to the one in the Clio and Captur, it has been tipped over 49 degress to fit into the space, while 50% of its components have been revised. This engine is combined with variable ratio steering that is supposed to make it more agile in town and settled on motorways but in reality it lacks precision. The cheaper SCe models, which do without turbos and fancy steering feel much better, and more lively too, despite having less power. As it should be with a city car, and certainly with a Twingo, the cheapest is the best.
Cute styling, brilliant packaging and low costs: the new Twingo is everything a city car should be. Just make sure you opt for the cheaper, lower power versions and you will have a car that puts a smile on your drivers’ faces.