Renault Twingo review
The Renault Twingo is good for city streets, but it struggles to compete with newer rivals like the VW up!
Aside from the all-electric Renault Twizy city car, the Twingo is the French carmaker's smallest model – designed to rival cars like the Toyota Aygo and Citroen C1, as well as newer rivals like the Volkswagen up!, Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii. It was given a subtle refresh in 2011 to improve interior quality and modernise the exterior styling. The result is a smart looking car that now feels more premium than before. Buyers are limited to just one engine choice – a 1.2-litre petrol with 74bhp – but there's also a Renaultsport Twingo 133 version with more power and stiffer suspension. It's very practical for such a small car, too, thanks to a clever rear seating arrangement that allows them to slide backwards and forwards individually.
Our choice: Twingo 1.2 Dynamique
The 2011 facelift for the Renault Twingo really brought the funky city car's styling up-to-date. It's now got the brand's latest family face with two sets of oversized headlights and a prominent Renault badge. Additional colours and stylish new alloy wheel designs also help to encourage people to customise their Twingo – in a similar vein to the hugely successful Fiat 500 and Vauxhall Adam. However, the interior looks a little sparse and there are large areas of plain black plastic that aren't particularly nice to look at.
Renault has cut the Twingo's engine line-up to just one choice – a 1.2-litre 16v 74bhp model. It feels relatively punchy around city streets, but as soon as you head on to wider and faster roads, its sluggish 0-62mph time of 12 seconds becomes clear. The handling is geared more towards city driving, with controls that are light and easy to use. However, they don't lend themselves to spirited driving, there's not enough feedback through the steering wheel and not too much grip, either. However, a Renaultsport version is surprisingly fun to drive.
The Renault Twingo scored four out of five when it was tested by Euro NCAP for crash safety. Given it's such a small car that's not actually too bad, but there are other models – like the Fiat 500 and Volkswagen up! – that have managed to achieve the full five stars. Driver, passenger and side airbags are included but ESP is only available as an option. Renault finished a disappointing 27th out of 30 as a brand in the 2012 Driver Power survey, but Twingo owners say that they're happy overall with the reliability of their cars.
The Twingo's three-door layout isn't great for practicality but the tiny Renault makes the most of its compact dimensions. It gets a set of innovative rear seats that individually slide back and forth, so boot space varies from 165 to 285 litres – impressive for such a small car. Bear in mind, though, that increasing boot space means decreasing rear legroom, so tall passengers and plenty of bags are best kept for separate trips. Fold the seats down and there's 959 litres of space, which is a surprisingly generous figure for such a tiny car.
There is no diesel option in the Twingo range and also no model that manages to break through the 100g/km CO2 emissions threshold that qualifies a car for exemption from road tax. Still, the fuel economy figure of 55.4mpg will ensure trips to the petrol station are kept to a minimum. Renault offers a range of competitive finance deals which, when matched with its great 4+ warranty package, should keep running costs to a minimum. Insurance groups are also reasonable, making the tiny Renault a great first car.