Renault Twingo review
The Renault Twingo is an attractive rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive alternative to the VW up! and Skoda Citigo
The Renault Twingo has a chequered history in Britain. The innovative first-generation model was a hit in Europe, but wasn’t sold over here, while the uninspiring second generation failed to strike a chord on this side of the Channel. So, with its radical, rear-engined layout, can the all-new, third-generation Twingo – jointly developed with small car wizard Smart – finally win the hearts of UK city car buyers?
Unlike all its rivals such as the Volkswagen Up, Peugeot 108 and Hyundai i10 its engine is mounted at the back rather than at the front and drives the rear wheels. This has allowed Renault to give the car a stubby 'wheel at each corner' look, impressive space in the back and incredible low speed agility.
The Twingo shares its chassis with the Smart ForFour while a shortened version of the platform underpins the ForTwo. The Twingo is priced from just £9,495, is available in three trim levels and with two petrol engine choices with the range-topping Dynamique TCe model coming in at £11,695.
The pick of the range is the Play SCe70 which has all the kit you really need, including air conditioning and driver’s seat height adjustment, for £9,995. While good value, this means the Renault Twingo is a tad more expensive than a Skoda Citigo and Hyundai i10.
For now there isn't an automatic version of the new Twingo - all cars get a five speed manual gearbox. There is a wide range of personalisation options and colour scheme combinations while standard equipment across the entire range includes front electric windows, DAB digital radio and a system which alloys you to link your smartphone up to the car and use that as its central display and infotainment system.
With the Twingo, Renault’s designers have balanced just enough retro styling cues with a modern edge to make sure the car has plenty of appeal on city streets. There are hints of the Renault 5 in the shape, but the squat proportions and tiny overhangs mean it looks thoroughly up to date, with bright LED running lights mounted in the front bumper.
The oversized Renault badge sits in the middle of the Twingo’s narrow grille, with the dainty headlight clusters either side, while at the back, the black glass bootlid and small lip spoiler provide a bit of visual attitude. Renault has actually mounted the Twingo’s engine in the rear, which means the front is short and the wheels pushed as far towards the corners of the car as possible, giving a compact stance.
The Twingo looks good, but that’s not enough in today’s city car sector, so Renault has added plenty of customisation details and option packs to further tweak the style. The model in our pictures is a Dynamique S with the Urban pack – there are Fashion, Chic and Street options to go for, too, or you can customise the look of your model yourself with stickers, decals and different interior accents.
Inside, the Renault is just as unusual as it is on the outside. Although our Twingo Play models don't get the neat touchscreen sat-nav of top-spec versions, there is a smartphone cradle and Renault’s R&Go app to give directions, but the basic interior is the same, with a coloured dash pod that houses the instruments and stereo.
There are more coloured accents for the doors, air vents, steering wheel and storage box, and while the interior can’t quite match the premium feel of the Hyundai i10, the big Tonka toy-style door pulls and solid plastics do feel robust.
Dynamique models come with cruise control, a DAB radio, electrically adjustable mirrors and the standard R&GO set-up that lets you connect your smartphone to the car via a special cradle. Sadly, the cradle looks and feels like a cheap aftermarket item, plus it obscures some buttons on the dash.
Thanks to its tail-mounted engine and rear-wheel-drive layout, the new Twingo is a tantalising prospect as a driver’s car. However, the arrangement has as much to do with practicality and packaging as driving dynamics.
If you were expecting a city car with the agility of a Porsche 911, you’ll be disappointed, but positioning the drivetrain at the back of the car has some advantages. It enables the front wheels to turn through 45 degrees, giving the Twingo a class-leading turning circle of just 8.6m. Around town, you can make turns that only a London taxi or a Toyota iQ can rival. It makes parking a breeze, too, while the Twingo’s high-mounted seating position really helps visibility.
You can get the Twingo with two three-cylinder petrol engines: a 1.0-litre with 69bhp which can do 0-62mph in 14.5 seconds or a turbocharged 0.9-litre with 89bhp that does 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds. If you plan to do plenty of motorway journeys, the punchier turbo will be the better bet. If not, the lower powered engine is actually the nicer car to drive in town. If you want a city car that's also happy out on more open roads, it's worth considering that even the turbocharged Twingo doesn't enjoy the 'big car'-feel of a Skoda citigo or its sister cars, the SEAT Mii or VW Up. Those three also ride better thanks for far more mature body control, and are a goo deal quieter at speed. The character of the Twingo is missing, however.
Despite the poor performance figures it's actually nippy enough in the city, which after all is primarily where this car is designed to be used, and it feels more responsive than the turbo which is a bit sluggish off the mark until the turbo kicks in.
Also the turbo is noisier when you rev it hard than the naturally aspirated 1.0-litre, and the turbo's whine can be unpleasant at very high engine speeds. Economy for both models is very similar. When fitted with stop start, they will both do around 66mpg and emit under 100g/km of Co2, making them free from road tax.
You actually sit quite high in the Twingo compared to its rivals and this really helps the visibility. The elevated position is perfect for manoeuvring in and out of tight parking spaces, as is the class-leading turning circle of just 8.59m. You can thank the rear-engined set up for that as it enables the front wheels to turn through 45 degrees. This feature is a really unique selling point for the Twingo as it allows you to make tighter turns than you can in almost any car except a London taxi cab.
The range topping Turbo model also adds to this variable rate steering that allows you turn the wheel from full left lock to full right lock in half a turn fewer than cheaper naturally aspirated model. This variable rack is designed to make the car even more manoeuvrable in tight turns yet stable a speeds.
Sadly it feels unnatural to use and detracts from the driving experience. The standard steering of the lower powered model is much better, and is another reason the cheaper 1.0-litre car is actually the better buy.
Regardless of which model you go for, the Twingo is a fairly comfy car to travel in. The suspension deals well enough with bumps, potholes and speed humps though it can get a bit fidgety over rough surfaces at lower speeds, and so never feels quite as polished as the Hyundai i10. The ride actually gets better at speed, the only thing spoiling the experience is there's quite a bit of wind noise from the A-pillars.
The Renault Twingo is too new to have featured in our Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey, and many of its components, such as the chassis and the 1.0-litre engine, are firsts on this car. Still, Renault came in a reasonable 15th place out of all the major manufacturers in Driver Power 2014, and the Twingo is sold with the brand’s four-year warranty.
In the tougher 2014 Euro NCAP crash test, the new car scored four stars overall. It comes with four airbags as standard and stability control, plus tyre pressure monitoring. All models also have a speed limiter, while the range-topping Dynamique trim gets cruise control and a lane departure warning system.
The new Renault Twingo’s rear-engined configuration means that despite being 10 cm shorter than the old model, inside the cabin it’s actually 22cm longer. This benefits rear leg room which Renault says is best in class. Head room is good too and even taller adults will have no issues fitting in the back of this city car.
The only real problems are that the integrated front seat headrests makes it hard for those in the back to see the road ahead and the pop-out rather than wind-down rear windows make it tougher to get some fresh air.
On paper, the boot doesn’t seem terribly impressive – though the numbers can be deceiving. For instance, its 188-litre capacity trails all its main rivals - even the Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 have slightly more space at 196-litres. But actually their boots are no where near as useable.
Renault has mounted the Twingo's engine at an angle to keep it as low as possible and ensured there is no boot lip to lift stuff over, combine this with the relatively square space and you can actually carry bulkier items in the Twingo than you can in the deeper boots of its rivals. What’s more you can lock the rear seats in an upright position to increase available space to 219 litres, though it won't be very comfy for those travelling in the back. And even then the capacity is still way off the VW Up!'s 251 litres.
Fold the rear seats down though and the Twingo's taller body means total volume of 980-litres is second only to the Hyundai i10, plus you get a totally flat load bay. The Renault trumps the Korean car and very other city car for that matter in another way too - it is the only car in its class which has a fold down front passenger seat. With it tilted forward you can carry items of up to 2.3 meters in length inside the car - ideal if you need to transport flat packed furniture.
There’s a whole host of storage spaces dotted around the Twingo’s cabin, including three cup-holders and a 6.4-litre glovebox. Dynamique models get large rear door pockets and there’s also the option to add storage areas under the back seats for £20. Meanwhile, heated front seats, with an Isofix child seat mounting on the passenger side, cost an additional £250.
The entry level 1.0-litre Twingo engine returns 62.8 mpg and emits 105 g/km CO2 so falls into tax band A, which means it costs £20 in road tax in the first year. Order that engine in the Dynamique trim and it gets stop/ start which raises the economy to 67.3mpg and cuts emissions to 95g/km of CO2, making that model free from road tax. The 0.9-litre turbo will also cost nothing to tax as it emits 99g/km of CO2 and returns 65.7mpg.
Buy the Twingo via Renault Selections finance and you’ll get the superb 4+ deal included – this gives you four years of servicing, roadside recovery and warranty for free. However, second-hand values will be a concern for private buyers, as our experts predict the Twingo will retain only 40.3 per cent over three years. Still, group three insurance will mean low premiums.