The designer whose early sketches inspired the shape of the new Renault Twingo explains the philosophy and packaging behind the clever city car
Steve Cropley Autocar
20 June 2014

Csaba Wittinger, the designer whose early sketches inspired the shape of the new Renault Twingo, pulls a well thumbed magazine from his bag and finds a grainy photo of a 1980s Renault 5 Maxi Turbo rally car.

“The driver of this car was a local star in Hungary, where I come from,” he says, “and I’ve been looking at this picture since I was 10 years old. The original 5 was always my favourite Renault, and this was the best-looking of the lot. So I’m really pleased we used some of its features to influence the new Twingo.”

It’s not that Wittinger and colleagues actually set out to recreate a rally Renault in a 2014 city car. They had no such pre-conceived ideas. What they had instead was a package model, an object that demonstrated the hard-points already agreed with Renault’s co-developer, Smart.

“When I saw that package model,” says Wittinger, “certain features reminded me of the 5, so I proposed a design that used some of the detail: the rake of its C-pillar and rear window, the shoulders over the rear wheels, the rear lights positioned like the 5 Turbo’s engine air exit vents and so on. It worked. Our chief designer, Laurens van den Acker, saw the allusion at once and liked it, and he helped me and my design partner, Raphael Linari, preserve it all the way to production.

“I’ve had a very productive partnership with Raphael,” says Wittinger, who also designed the recent off-the-wall V6-powered TwinRun concept. “But I guess it was me who came up with the original sketches that kicked the project off.

“It occurred to me early on that what we had here was a rear-engined car, a type that doesn’t come along very often. I thought the design should reflect what we had. We did a lot of work on the car’s haunches, on the rake of the tailgate and the shape of the C-pillar, not to copy the 5 but to convey a little of its magic.”

There were problem areas, and Wittinger recalls them vividly. “We knew we were going to share the front structure, the windscreen, the front pillars, the front side windows and the front section of the roof. That led to some ‘energetic’ discussions about the belt-line, because Smart was aiming for a wedge profile and we needed something more classical. But by negotiating over millimetres, we managed to work it out.”

The depth of the body was another concern (Renault’s remedy has been to introduce a selection of waistline decals) and so was subtle stuff like the size of the headlights. Wittinger is pleased, if a little surprised, to learn that I’m impressed with the car’s shape, which to my eye shows no evidence that, partly at least, it is formed by negotiation with another manufacturer.

“I am pleased to hear you think we have succeeded,” he says, modestly, “but I believe we will only really know for sure when we see the car on local roads, surrounded by traffic. If it works there, then we will know we have succeeded.”

Our Verdict

Renault Twingo 2008-2013

The Renault Twingo is fun, versatile and only slightly flawed. It’s a great effort

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Comments
11

20 June 2014
The disguise job is generally pretty successful on the side, but the 3/4 view really highlights the excessive height of the bodywork next to the long glass rear door.

20 June 2014
Stop with the 5 Turbo!
Boring...

20 June 2014
I love this car, can't wait to take one for a shot. Looking forward to see what Smart's interpretation of it will be as well.

20 June 2014
This looks very interesting, but I wish its designers would stop trying to claim any influences or references to the Renault 5, which, basically aren't there. The Twingo doesn't need all this nostalgia, it looks a good enough car in its own right, and many of the people who it will probably appeal to will never even have heard of the 5. The only thing I would say is that Renault are missing a trick with there being no 3-door version. The 500, Up/Citigo/Mii and PSA/Toyota trio suggest that there is still a good market for fashionable 3-door versions, and I think losing the rear doors would make it even more attractive.

20 June 2014
I want one if it drives well and if it´s comfortable. Looks a lot better than the old car and hopefully it will be just fun, especially with the rag roof. Can´t wait to get inside one.

21 June 2014
This may well be the city car of choice as a drivers car, but it looks so dull. Its all doors (those daft rear door handles wont fool anyone), and too tall. It looks nothing like any Renault 5 i have ever seen either, but i can see plenty of Fiat 500 in it. (perhaps the designer would have been sacked if he admitted that was his inspiration). I suspect Smart will do better, with their own style

21 June 2014
I don't think the smart version will be hugely different from the spy shots I've seen

21 June 2014
I like this Twingo, I have been looking to re buy a FIAT 126 BIS that I had as a first car 25 plus years ago just as a little run about when I haven't got the family to drive every where but I'm seriously thinking of buying a new Twingo. I was going to spend some money on updating a 126 and would have spent in the region of £8000 buying and renovating one. Now I have some thinking to do

Optima2

22 June 2014
When I saw this at Geneva (sadly we couldn't sit inside them on the show stand by the time it got to public days), I was actually surprised at its unusual proportions. It looks a lot more Renault 5 in the metal than it might in photos. It's the proportions and rake of the rear screen more than anything. I think it looks like it might be great fun.


"Work hard and be nice to people"

23 June 2014
I love it. These things will be everywhere. I predict a smash hit for Renault.

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