Renault Twingo first drive

Renault TwingoThe new Renault Twingo is a rear engined, rear wheel drive, five door City Car offering more interior space from its compact length and more agility and fuel frugality

from its three cylinder 900cc and 1.0-litre petrol engines. Prices start from £9,495 and go up to £11,695.

 The latest Twingo shares its platform and running gear with the next generation Smart Forfour and both are manufactured on the same production lines in Revoz, Slovenia. The Twingo is the first to market with the Mercedes offspring via the Smart brand arriving at the end of this year.

 The Twingo is offered with the choice of two petrol engines, both three cylinder units. The first is a 1.0-litre naturally aspirated 70hp version and the second a 900cc, 90hp turbocharged unit. There are four models in the line-up; the 70bhp engine with Expression and Play specification, the 70p unit with Stop & Start in Dynamique spec and the 90hp turbo Dynamique with Stop & Start. All have a five-speed manual gearbox but a sequential automatic will be added to the 90hp model options from September 2015.

Renault TwingoRenault TwingoRenault TwingoRenault Twingo In addition to the three trim and equipment levels there is a huge range of personalisation options from chic interior and exterior style packs, technology packs and a simple choice of decals or the even ego-extending larger alloy wheels.

 The Twingo is the latest in a long line of Renault cars to offer rear engines that included the Dauphine, the R7 and R8s of the 60s/70s and the more recent Renault 5 Turbo. Renault said that by mounting engines at the rear small cars can be made shorter and that makes them easier to drive and park, nimble and fuel efficient.

 Their UK Twingo product manager John Peregrine said the previous Twingo came to the UK in 2008 and in its best year sold 5, 614 units but only 1,120 last year. He declined to predict how many of the new version would be sold but the City Car (A) sector is growing but then so are the additional new models entering the race for sales.

 He added, “We looked at the A-segment in the UK and you have a wide range of models offering different things. These range from the chic and fashionable Fiat 500 to the practicality offered by the Hyundai i10 and VW Up but we see the new Twingo having the best qualities of all as design and image are the main selling factors in the sector. Virtually all Twingo UK sales will go to conquest customers with a slight majority of drivers being female.”

 He said, “With prices starting under £10,000 Renault believes this is the figure most City Car buyers have in mind when they are looking what to buy. But we are not competing on price alone because the Twingo has a lot to offer and it’s different to what is already out there.”

 With the Twingo’s rear-engine design there is a boot above it which extends when the rear seats are folded flat. Unlike most other rear engined small cars of the past there is no boot space at the front where the engine compartment usually is. This small space with its sliding plastic bonnet lid is given over to the location of fluid filling points, the radiator and the intercooler for turbocharged model. The Twingo is only available with a five-door body but the hidden rear door handles give the impression it has a three-door design.

 The boot holds between 188 and 219-litres depending on how the back seats are set and up to 980-litres of maximum load space with them folded. With no restrictive drive shafts at the front the turning circle is that of a London Black Cab which will appeal to city drivers.

 Another part of the Twingo’s appeal will be the low taxes with the 70hp unit and 90bhp both with Stop & Start producing 95 and 99g/km of CO2 emissions respectively while the entry level 70hp model without the system pushing out 105gkm. Insurance costs are low as well with the lower powered engine being rated Group 3 and the higher powered model at Group 8.

 Renault UK said they expect 85% of customers to choose the 70hp engine and the Dynamique specification will be the most popular so the best selling Twingo with Stop & Start will cost £10,995. Virtually all UK sales will go to retail customers.

 Renault TwingoRenault TwingoCore specification for the Twingo includes ABS braking, hill start assist, electronic stability control, tyre inflation kit, rear spoiler, electric power steering, trip computer, LED daytime running lights, halogen headlights, rear tailgate wiper, electric front windows, R&GO infotainment and connectivity system, DAB radio, free to download R&GO navigation app, rear bench seat with split folding seat backs, fold-down front passenger seat back and remote central door locking. The Dynamique specification level additions include manual air conditioning, 15-inch alloy wheels, leather covered steering wheel and gear knob, front fog lights, heated door mirrors, cruise control and height adjustable driver’s seat. Option packs cover such items as heated front seats, a Techno Pack which includes a touchscreen and sat-nav, Convenience Pack which includes automatic climate control and automatic lights and wipers and Personality Packs offering a combination of different coloured trim items and retro and modern decals.

 With its compact 3,595mm body length, its stubby short nose bonnet, relatively high roof, wide rear haunches (reminiscent of the Renault 5 Turbo) and deep glass tailgate the Twingo is easily identifiable from other City Cars so I think its uniqueness will have some appeal.

 I’m not so convinced that the rear engine layout is quite the breakthrough it seems. Being located under the boot floor does not give easy access to it to check the engine oil for instance and the boot floor certainly feels warm when the engine has been running which is not so practical for carrying perishable items of shopping or the family dog. The sliding front plastic bonnet lid didn’t seem that easy to operate either to check other fluid levels.

Inside the front space is adequate although I thought both seats felt a bit high in the car but there was plenty of headroom. In all other respects the interior is a cheery environment and can be customised with the application of coloured styling trims so personalisation is easy and popular with today’s small car buyers.

 There is some body roll and the high unsupportive seats didn’t feel comfortable during cornering made worse by having no roof mounted grab handle to hang onto. Handling is relatively neutral, some understeer moving to some oversteer with the weight balance being 45/55% front to rear. On small front wheel drive cars the weight balance is normally around 70/30% front to rear which I think gives better directional stability during cornering.

As for the choice of engines? Both are three cylinder units which emit the usual throaty noise and slight vibration. The 70hp unit will be fine for city and town commuter travel as well as the occasional longer trip. It is adequate enough given its working environment with a top speed of 94mph and a zero to 62mph acceleration time of 14.5 seconds. With CO2 emissions of 95g/km there is no VED road tax to pay. Officially this unit returns 67.3mpg (38.7mpg on test) and insurance is Group 3 so the lack of zip from the engine is potentially offset by low running costs.

I preferred the more powerful 90hp unit, it is more responsive with 44Nm more torque at 135Nm from 2,500rpm and so it coped better with brisker acceleration to overtake slower traffic and more importantly it coped better with going up hills. Top speed is 103mph, zero to 62mph takes just 10.8 seconds, official fuel consumption is 65.7mpg (46.6mpg on test), CO2 emissions are 99g/km so VED road tax is still zero cost. Apart from the brisker acceleration the sharp-eyed among you will have noticed the better real-life fuel economy during our UK test driving appraisal using the same routes and traffic conditions. I think it is well worth paying the extra £700 for this engine, it is just easier to live with and because it is not worked as hard it returned almost 8mpg better fuel economy. On the downside the insurance is Group 8 rather than Group 3.

The Renault Twingo is an interesting addition to the very competitive City Car sector. It will potentially be seen as the new small car with big appeal.

MILESTONES: Renault Twingo Dynamique SCe 70 Stop & Start (best selling model). Price: £10,995. Engine/transmission: Rear engine, 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder, normally aspirated petrol, 70hp, 91Nm (67lb ft) from 2,850rpm, 5-speed manual, rear wheel drive. Performance: 94mph, 0-62mph 14.5 seconds, 67.3mpg Combined Cycle ( 38.7mpg on test), CO2 95g/km, VED road tax £0. Insurance group: 3. Warranty: 4-years/100,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 3,595mm, H 1,554mm, W 1,646mm, boot/load space 219 to 980-litres, 5-doors, 4-seats. For: Cute retro looks, spacious interior, wide range of personalisation options, low running costs, easy to drive, easy to park, the turbo 90hp engine is the better and more fuel efficient choice. Against: Sluggish 70hp engine for out of town driving, negative handling and steering response, not as sharply priced as others in this class, engine heats up the load space, fiddly to check the engine oil and other fluid levels.  Miles Better News agency 

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