From £8,8457
New city car is entertaining to drive and commendably spacious, although it lacks the refinement of the Volkswagen Up

Our Verdict

Renault Twingo
The Twingo is a compact, rear-engined city car

Will Renault storm the market with its rear-engined city car?

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28 August 2014

What is it?

The all-new Renault Twingo, the product of a co-operative project between the French company and Daimler’s Smart brand. It’s the first five-door Twingo and the first new rear-engined Renault since production of the boxy 10 saloon ended in 1971.

The new Twingo is just 3.59m long, which is pretty compact for a full four-seater with a well-sized rear cabin. Indeed, the new Twingo is a full 10cm shorter than the outgoing three-door Twingo but has a 12cm longer wheelbase.

Renault says the rear-engined layout has allowed its engineers to push the dashboard further forward. This lengthy cabin, combined with a front passenger seat back that folds forward, allows loads as long as 2.31m long to be fitted inside the Twingo.

Although there’s no luggage space under the bonnet (the space is filled with the radiator and various fluid reservoirs), Renault says that not having the engine mounted between the front wheels has greatly improved crash safety. 

Renault expects a four-star result in the NCAP tests, but says it will regard that as a good result in the wake of more the stringent regulations introduced in January this year. The Twingo structure’s main safety cage is made of very high strength steel than can absorb forces of "120kg per square millimeter".

Pedestrian protection is also claimed to be much improved thanks to the amount of free deformation space allowed by the empty nose. Renault engineers have not had to raise the bonnet line to meet the pedestrian protection regulations, which – along with the very short nose – they say gives the Twingo driver the best forward view of any car in the A segment.

Perhaps the biggest advantage with the rear-engined layout is the ability to allow the Twingo’s front wheels to pivot by 45 degrees off the straight-ahead position (the previous Twingo managed only 30 degrees). This gives the Twingo a tiny turning circle of just 8.9m, only marginally larger than that of a London black cab.

At the rear is a re-engineered version of Renault’s familiar three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine. The unit has been rotated by 49 degrees, so it is 15cm lower than its usual upright position, sitting under the boot floor. Renault says that this re-positioning of the engine means half of the components have had to be re-designed. The rear suspension is an unusual De Dion torsion beam design.

This turbocharged engine, like the 69bhp normally aspirated unit, drives a conventional five-speed manual gearbox. There will be the option of a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, but it won’t arrive for another 12 months. Interestingly, the engine block can be lowered by 150mm to aid with major servicing.

Inside, Renault’s designers say they have managed to carve out 52 litres of storage space, including space under the rear seat bench (like the original Mini). The boot offers a limited 188 litres, however. The seat backs can be locked in a more upright position to stretch that to 219 litres. Pushing the rear seat backs forward creates a completely level load bay.

What's it like?

Hardly anything like a rear-drive car. The new Twingo, by Renault’s own admission, has been tuned to be as similar to a typical front-drive city car as possible. 

Even though the car’s weight distribution is balanced 55 per cent rear and 45 per cent front, there's hardly any sense that the Twingo is moderately tail heavy. It’s even hard to place the source of the engine’s prominent warbling note when you're hard on the gas.

The Twingo’s driving position is higher and more upright than normal and none the worse for it. The dash is flat and upright, as are the door panels and the overall effect makes the cockpit feel quite spacious and liveable for car this compact. 

That effect is magnified when bowling along at 70mph on the motorway, where the Twingo is quite hushed and feels unusually capable of longer, high-speed, journeys than nearly any other A-segment car (save for the exemplary VW Up). 

There was a reasonable amount of wind noise and whistle around the A-pillars and wing mirrors, but it is possible that this was more noticeable due to a lack of noise from under the bonnet. The Twingo also felt pretty well tied down at motorway speeds and straight running, perhaps another benefit of the rear-mounted engine.

On more winding roads, it was possible to get this car flowing quite nicely, once the engine was operating around its peak torque levels (frustratingly, the Twingo does not have a rev counter as standard). The shift action is little overlong, but then the linkage has to reach back into the rear of the car.

It is possible to pull a series of B-road curves in to a satisfying whole, once you’ve got the engine on the boil. Despite its resolutely ordinary set-up (although this model does get steering which is usefully half-a-turn quicker than on the normally-aspirated car) the Twingo has some country road potential.

Our test car had covered just 250 miles or so, and felt very tight and took some revving to get going. That will improve over time, but it has quite a decent pace. In general, the Twingo’s ride was pretty good, though it was disturbed by short-wave undulations and broken surfaces. The tyres also kicked up something of a racket on coarse surfaces.

Naturally, the Twingo was at one with the city environment, especially thanks to its exceptionally tight turning circle. 

Should I buy one?

As city cars go, this Twingo is definitely one of the more entertaining options available. It is reasonably brisk and will get better with miles, the interior is genuinely accomodating for such a small car and the extraordinary turning circle should not be underestimated in everyday use. 

This Twingo also has the legs for motorway running and is more spacious than the latest city cars such as the Toyota Aygo. It could use another round of refinement work to best the VW Up, but overall the Twingo is near the top of table.

In this Dynamique form, it’s also remarkably well equipped. It gets 15-inch alloys, air conditioning, a DAB/Bluetooth sound system, stop-start, front fog lamps, lane departure warning, leather wheel and gear knob, remote locking and even hill-start assist.

We'll have to wait for the warm and hot versions of the Twingo to see its potential as a pocket sports car, but for now the Twingo TCe 90 is an intriguing and innovative model whose unique engineering package has allowed it to shake off most of the downsides of conventional city cars.

Renault Twingo TCe 90 Dynamique

Price £11,695; 0-62mph 10.8sec; Top speed 103mph; Economy 65.7mpg; CO2 99g/km; Kerb weight 943kg; Engine 3cyls in line, rear-mounted, 898cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 89bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 99lb ft at 2500rpm; Gearbox five-speed manual

Join the debate

Comments
22

28 August 2014

We've waited and waited for this, I think it's fair to say. Whilst Autocar's review isn't exactly gushing, as they can be for some cars, it's clear that this Twingo is a fun proposition. Perhaps Autocar's slightly begrudging 3.5 stars is a little harsh, given the overall lack of criticism? I get the feeling that had VW done this with the Up, as they originally intended, it would have a higher rating.
Slightly pricier than the competition, perhaps, but it looks like a worthy contender and much more in the Up/Citigo/Mii territory than Aygo/C1/108 territory, the latter of which don't seem to have gone down well with the motoring press. This class seems to be getting more and more popular though; I've seen quite a few new-shape Aygos on the roads, joining the hoards of Ups, Citigos and previous-gen PSA triplets we've already seen. By comparison, you don't see that many previous-gen Twingos. Looking forward to a good poke around one of these soon.


"Work hard and be nice to people"

28 August 2014

It's interesting that Renault are going to aim low in the crash test result. I wonder if this is because they're not fitting enough safety equipment or because they know the structure isn't up to it. Either way it's a change from the Renault of old. Personally, I'm not sure I'd settle for four stars as a buyer, unless it's just because there's no warning sticker on the back door or something. In the smallest cars you need every star you can get to have some chance of survival when something bigger hits you. And there's always the question mark in Europe-only cars about their performance in the the small overlap test, a test Euro NCAP is suspiciously reluctant to carry out (probably knowing that most French cars would fail it).
Otherwise, this is one of the more interesting cars of the past few years.

28 August 2014
androo wrote:

It's interesting that Renault are going to aim low in the crash test result. I wonder if this is because they're not fitting enough safety equipment or because they know the structure isn't up to it.

This crossed my mind as well, but the new Hyundai i10 also didn't get 5 stars; in fact the only small-ish car that got 5 stars in the last year or so seems to be Renault's own Zoe. Don't forget that EuroNCAP's criteria for getting 5 stars have become tougher recently. Rather than how many stars it gets, I'll be more interested in the 'Adult Occupant Protection Rating', which is pretty much the most important result. I'd be disappointed if it got anything less than 85% given the lack of engine at the front and the fact that Renault knows how to make a safe car.

 

- Follow your own star -

28 August 2014
androo wrote:

It's interesting that Renault are going to aim low in the crash test result. I wonder if this is because they're not fitting enough safety equipment or because they know the structure isn't up to it. Either way it's a change from the Renault of old. Personally, I'm not sure I'd settle for four stars as a buyer, unless it's just because there's no warning sticker on the back door or something. In the smallest cars you need every star you can get to have some chance of survival when something bigger hits you. And there's always the question mark in Europe-only cars about their performance in the the small overlap test, a test Euro NCAP is suspiciously reluctant to carry out (probably knowing that most French cars would fail it).
Otherwise, this is one of the more interesting cars of the past few years.

As it says in the article, it reflects the more stringent NCAP ratings. For example, a four-star new Twingo would probably be equivalent to when the Megane achieved 5 stars back in 2002. In contrast, go on Euro NCAP's website and you'll see that the current Megane only achieves 3 or 4 after being downgraded following the facelift. I know what you mean though... surely 5 stars is the aim. I'd say it's down to safety spec being standard... daft things like the seatbelt warning not being available in every single language (something the latest Megane has failed on).


"Work hard and be nice to people"

28 August 2014

I would much rather have this than the up!, it just looks so much better. Plus it has that turbo engine option, which will make living with it on longer journeys that more pleasurable. Looking forward to seeing how the forfour stacks up. The twingo is better looking on the outside, but he forfour interior looks like a step up in quality

28 August 2014

... fine looking city car. The 90hp engine clearly works far better in this smaller vehicle, than in say the Clio. Where according to tests, it appears only to grant mediocre performance. But in this car, it appears to work fine indeed.

28 August 2014

The VW Up is bland compared to this and to be frankly honest Renault has been on the rise recently, thanks to there new modern and tasteful designs and clean engines. The Twingo has a far better infotainment system than the tacky add on screen of the VW Up. The new Twingo and all the new Renaults that are coming out at the moment go back to the core of what made Renaults so popular before. Practical, Ergonomic, Funky Design and fun to drive cars. Renault should be applauded for what they have achieved with there new line-up. The new Captur and Clio are stunning cars in design especially when chosen in the right colors, they turn heads in the city. For example I recently went to Johannesburg in South Africa and other parts of the country and I was stunned by how many New 2014 Renault Clios are circulating and in what a broad range of colours that really make them stand out from the rest. Renault is doing what a lot of manufactures have stopped doing nowadays. A lot of manufactures are producing bland and unispiring cars that have no soul what so ever. Renault is brining the fun back in car design and for that I congratulate them, and I really look forward to the replacement of the Megane and of the Espace and other future models that they plan on realising soon.

TS7

28 August 2014

...knocking on the cost door of the class above. It may compete with a Fiesta et al in terms of passenger space, but the boot isn't big enough for the weekly shop.

28 August 2014

This review confirms what I suspected - it'll be good but perhaps won't topple the Up in terms of dynamics. Still, if I were in the market for a city car I would definitely consider the Twingo (and Forfour) along with the Up! triplets, the Hyundai i10 and the Fiat Panda. But I'd probably go for the Twingo or Forfour, simply because they seem to do what a city car should do the best - i.e. cram as much space as possible in a car that is comfortable, easily manoeuvrable and agile - and this is all largely thanks to mounting the engine at the back. Being fun to drive is a bonus, albeit a welcome one. It's a pity that it doesn't have normal rear windows that go up and down, and those door handles on the front doors don't befit a 2014 car...but a great package nonetheless.

 

- Follow your own star -

28 August 2014

I wondered if there was something seriously wrong with the Twingo as it seemed to take Renault ages to release them to the press, but this sounds very promising indeed. Renault have clearly thought carefully about the packaging and I think they've done a good job. As for minor refinement issues - it's a small car designed mainly for the city, so keeping the weight down is more important than keeping all the wind noise out.

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