Road Test: Renault Twingo GT
Is this RenaultSport-tuned Twingo a 5 Maxi Turbo for the 21st century? Alex Grant finds out.
Sector: City Car Price: £13,755 Fuel: 54.3mpg CO2: 115g/km
Back in the 1980s, Renault was a dominant force in Group B rallying with the 5 Maxi Turbo – a wide-arched, mid-engined, turbocharged hot hatch with a long-lasting cult following. Given that the latest Twingo was previewed as the Twin’Run concept, a homage to the Maxi Turbo, it’s seemed inevitable that the latest generation of its city car would get the RenaultSport treatment at some point.
The GT is as close as it gets. Tuned at RenaultSport, it’s a similar product to the equivalent Clio and Megane – so a sportier version of the standard car, positioned between the ordinary models and a fully-fledged hot hatch. As there’s no Twingo R.S. yet, despite plentiful appetite among enthusiasts, this is the hottest version money can buy.
Still, there’s plenty to grab the attention of those with a taste for lively small cars. Beneath the bodykit and large 17-inch wheels, the suspension is 20mm lower and features stiffer shocks and thicker anti-roll bars to cut body roll while cornering. The throttle pedal is mapped to deliver sharper responses than in the traction control cuts in slightly later, aimed at giving it more tail-happy handling.
With the engine tucked in beneath the boot, Renault says there was no space for anything larger. So the GT still uses an 898cc three-cylinder petrol engine, as in other Twingo models, but with some go-faster upgrades. The larger vent on the rear wing is designed to cram more cold air into the turbocharger, in turn taking power from 90bhp to 110bhp.
That’s a modest output by modern standards, especially for RenaultSport. The previous Twingo R.S. produced 133bhp, and the Clio R.S. makes twice as much. But, tipping the scales at just over a tonne, and with a large increase in torque to go with the new-found power, the GT offers surprisingly potent on-road performance. Especially in-gear, where squeezing the throttle mid-way through the rev range serves up an amusingly eager surge of straight-line pace and a growly three-cylinder engine note.
However, if you’re coming out of a full-fat RenaultSport product, it perhaps doesn’t go far enough. This mostly comes down to details – a lack of sports seats, gear throws which are too long, and the available power is delivered in spikes rather than a drag to the top of the rev range. Although the brochure figures play down how fast it feels on the road – a positive point – a Suzuki Baleno with the new Boosterjet engine seems quicker still.
Nor is it overly well equipped – R-Link infotainment with TomTom navigation and reverse parking sensors is a £600 option, while standard spec stops at the smartphone-based R&GO system. Essentially a cradle and an app. That said, the Twingo’s clever seating arrangement is untouched here, its short bonnet enabling class-above load length in the cabin once the seats are folded flat.
The GT is certainly fun to nip around in; quick and responsive enough to raise a smile but not powerful enough to risk your driving licence nor thirsty enough to be tax-inefficient as a company car. It’s a glimmer of hope in the direction of a proper R.S. version, but at the moment it isn’t quite a Maxi Turbo for the 21st century.
What We Think
Stylish and lively to drive, the Twingo GT is an accessible first step on the RenaultSport ladder. But drivers expecting a fully-fledged R.S. product may be left feeling short-changed.
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