What is it?
The third generation of Renault’s city car, and every bit as radical now as the first was when it arrived in 1993. Architecture shared with the new Smart ForTwo and ForFour has helped both Renault and Mercedes justify the costs of development and allowed them to be a bit braver with the underpinnings. So here we have a rear-engined hatchback that drives the rear wheels, giving packaging and refinement benefits.
The current engine line-up is limited to either a turbocharged 0.9-litre or a naturally aspirated 1.0, and we understand Renaultsport will be getting involved at some stage, too. Excellent.
What is it like on the road?
It doesn’t matter that you’re not a keen driver and will only be popping to get your hair done – you need the turbo engine. The 0.9-litre TCe adds a welcome dose of charisma to the Twingo that the flatter 1.0-litre SCe fails to do – it just makes the whole car feel more lively and enthusiastic. In this instance, bigger does not mean better.
However, don’t go expecting a mini Porsche 911 experience. Most of the time you’d be hard pushed to tell the engine was in the back, which, we’re sure, is exactly what Renault intended. But the benefits of the engine’s position (you leave the noise behind you, tight turning circle, etc) shouldn’t be underestimated and, on the whole, it drives gamely. OK, it’s lacking real Panda-esque pizzazz, but it’s got more charm than an Up (and siblings) and more life in it than the 108/C1/Aygo triplets.
On the inside
Layout, finish and space
Notice the way the wheels of the Twingo are forced right to the corners? That’s good for interior space – and the engine’s position doesn’t reduce boot space too much – although we’d refrain from putting melty stuff on the boot floor.
The driving layout is good but watch the optioning. Renault has two phone-link systems, R&Go and R-Link, and neither works brilliantly. But otherwise there aren’t too many holes – visibility is great, it’s comfortable, quiet and smooth to operate. Quality’s a bit tinny, but hey, this is a city car, and only the Up manages to buck that trend.
Running costs and reliability
Unless you’re on a very tight budget, of the four trim levels and two engines, you want the top-line 0.9 TCe Dynamique. The £700 extra for the turbo engine is well worth it and, although the figures say the 1.0 with stop-start will be 1.6mpg more efficient, in the real world we bet the 0.9’s chunkier low down torque will make it the more efficient choice. Besides, base 1.0-litre cars don’t get stop-start and lose free road tax status. Whatever engine you choose though, this really won’t be a costly car to run.
Final thoughts and pick of the range