The new Renault Twingo aims to recapture the spirit of the Renault 5, according to company boss Michael van der Sande.

He revealed that the Twingo will be the latest step in the rebirth of Renault's range. The firm is "working through [the] range, looking for model opportunities – that will include big cars," said van der Sande. The new Twingo made its debut at the Geneva motor show today.

The French firm is looking to tear up the traditional city car blueprint with its new car – the Twingo takes on a new five-seat, four-door, rear-engined and rear-wheel-drive layout. That formula has not been seen in mainstream European car design since the Hillman Imp went out of production in 1976.

No pricing has been annouced, but Renault says it will be priced competitively in the A-segment. The new car will go on sale in the UK in September in a range of four colours: red, white, yellow and blue.

The production car is a very compact five-door machine, whose styling stands out from the Clio supermini. With rear-wheel drive and uncorrupted, notably quick steering, the Twingo could easily challenge the bigger and more expensive Mk3 Mini as the best-handling small car.

The new Twingo shares its all-new platform with the upcoming Smart family. A shortened version is being used for the new Smart ForTwo, and the Twingo has the same underpinnings as the new Smart ForFour.

The Twingo uses a pair of newly developed three-cylinder engines. The first is a modified version of the existing 898cc TCe 90 unit developing 89bhp and 100lb ft, which is canted over at 49 degrees to maximise interior space. The second engine is a unit of the same capacity producing 69bhp and 67lb ft. Both will be mated to a five-speed manual gearbox at launch.

Last year, Renault chief designer Laurens van den Acker told Autocar that the new Twingo’s styling was not part of the new family look established by the latest Clio and Captur crossover. He said: “Small cars can be hard to design. The new Twingo is related to our other cars, but it is not a reproduction. It is somewhat iconic.”

Van den Acker also said that the new Twingo’s shape was inspired not just by the ground-breaking original 1992 model, but also by the classic Renault 5, one of the definitive European hatchbacks. Van den Acker said that the new Twingo is 100mm shorter than today’s model, making it 3.5m long. Despite this, cabin length grows by 130mm.

“Moving the action [drivetrain] to the back gives fantastic advantages,” he added. “It increases interior space and wheelbase and shortens the overhangs.”

The boot floor is flat and can carry loads of up to 2.2m in length. Renault says it is the only car in its class capable of "carrying a Swedish book shelf".

“That means 80 per cent of the car can go to passengers. You get a lot of extra agility and, thanks to rear-wheel drive, you can achieve a turning circle like a London taxi,” said van den Acker. Renault claims the new Twingo can turn within a 8.65m radius.

The new Twingo and five-door Smart models will share all-new transmissions and be built in the same factory in Nova Mesto, Slovenia. Smart will continue to produce a two-seat city car based on a shortened version of this platform at Hambach, France.

Renault said that work on the replacement Twingo began in 2008 and explored the rear-engined format as the basis for a new city car.

The company said, “The aim was to create an even roomier and more agile city car, despite its smaller footprint. Combined with the use of a smaller block and the positioning of the wheels at the car’s extreme corners, the rear-mounted engine also frees up extra cabin space, while New Twingo also boasts the sort of wheelbase and roomy interior more generally associated with models in the next segment up.”

Renault has a history with this layout, notably with the Dauphine and Renault 8.

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