Renault Twingo review
The Renault Twingo is still a decent city car, but newer rivals like the VW up! have left it trailing in this class
The Renault Twingo is well established in the city car market, and is the smallest model in the Renault range, with the exception of the all-electric Renault Twizy two-seater. The Twingo has tiny dimensions, so is perfect for the cut and thrust of urban streets. It’s designed to battle for sales with the likes of the Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1, as well as newer rivals such as the Volkswagen up!, Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii, although it can’t match the VW Group trio for clever packaging or build quality. It also has a much higher price than these models. Still, this latest Twingo has more of a premium feel than previous versions. Buyers just don’t get very much choice: the 1.2-litre petrol engine is the only power option, with 74bhp in the Dynamique model and 131bhp in the high-performance Renaultsport Twingo. The latter also benefits from stiffer suspension, and is good fun to drive, although the Dynamique still provides nippy progress around town. Whichever Twingo you choose, practicality is impressive considering the car’s size – the clever back seats can be slid back and forth individually to maximise rear legroom or increase boot size as required.
Our choice: Twingo 1.2 Dynamique
The latest Renault family face gives the Twingo a modern look, with the prominent diamond badge dominating the design. Oversized headlights complete the striking front end, while Dynamique models are fitted with 15-inch alloy wheels. Gloss black wing mirrors and body-coloured bumpers add to the sense of style, although there’s a range of colours to pick from, encouraging buyers to add a personal touch to their car. Generous scope for customisation is key to the appeal of rivals such as the Fiat 500 and Vauxhall Adam, and Renault hopes to mirror this success by offering a selection of Twingo accessories such as bodywork stickers, spoilers and alloy wheel designs. But this doesn’t continue inside, which is a real pity – while rivals allow owners to specify different-coloured trims for their interior, people choosing the Twingo have to make do with large areas of plain black plastic. There’s a leather steering wheel and gearknob, but the rest of the layout doesn’t look especially attractive. A miserly standard equipment list doesn’t help here – you get air-conditioning and a CD stereo with Bluetooth, USB and an auxiliary socket, but not much else.
Renault offers only a single engine in the Twingo: a 1.2-litre 16v petrol four-cylinder. In the regular Dynamique model, this delivers 74bhp through a five-speed manual gearbox and provides relatively punchy progress along city streets. But as soon as you head on to wider and faster roads, its limited performance becomes apparent. The car feels as sluggish as its 12.3-second 0-62mph sprint time and 105mph top speed suggest, and overtaking manoeuvres need to be planned well in advance. The handling is also geared more towards town centres than the open road: all the controls are light and easy to use, but they don’t lend themselves to spirited driving: there's not enough feedback through the steering wheel and not too much grip, either. If you want a more thrilling driving experience, go for the Renaultsport version. This has a more powerful version of the same engine, delivering 131bhp, and promises 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds and a 125mph top speed. It also has sharper responses on twisting roads, and is much more fun to drive. However, this comes at the expense of comfort in the Twingo’s natural urban habitat, where the larger 16-inch alloys and stiff suspension send shudders from potholes into the cabin.
Manufacturers of city cars like the Twingo used to be happy with a four-star Euro NCAP crash test score, and Renault achieved this rating by fitting driver, passenger and side airbags as standard. But rivals like the Fiat 500 and Volkswagen up! have since got the maximum five stars, proving that tiny dimensions don’t have to mean compromises on safety. A key flaw in the package is the fact that the Twingo doesn’t come with ESP as standard. This essential safety feature is included on the Renaultsport version, but is still optional on the Dynamique – which is unforgivable for a model that’s often bought as a first car. Not enough owners took part in the Auto Express Driver Power 2013 satisfaction survey for the Twingo to feature, although Renault’s disappointing showing in the manufacturer standings – it came 21st out of 32 here – is offset by a big improvement in its dealer ranking this year, where it finished ninth.
While the three-door, four-seater layout isn't especially practical, the Twingo makes the most of its tiny dimensions. The two individual back seats can be slid back and forth, depending on whether you need greater rear legroom or want to increase boot size – luggage capacity varies from 165 to 285 litres depending on where the seats are positioned. And if you’re not carrying anyone in the back, you can fold the rear seats to free up 959 litres of space, which is quite a lot for such a small car. Meanwhile, up front, both models feature electric windows and mirrors, plus a height-adjustable driver’s seat.
The Twingo isn’t the only city car not to be offered with diesel power, but rivals like the Volkswagen up!, Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii manage to achieve better fuel economy from their petrol engines. Renault claims 55.4mpg fuel consumption for the Twingo Dynamique – not bad, but some way behind the best – while the 119g/km CO2 emissions mean higher road tax bills than for the class leaders. Buyers considering the Renaultsport version will be happy to put up with figures of 43.5mpg and 150g/km in the name of performance. But if the Twingo trails in terms of green credentials, running costs elsewhere should help compensate. The Dynamique model sits in insurance group nine, which will appeal to drivers buying their first car, and has long, 18,000-mile service intervals. Plus, Renault offers a four-year/100,000-mile warranty as part of its comprehensive 4+ aftersales package, which also covers servicing and insurance, and the company’s dealers are known for their tempting finance deals.