Currently reading: Renault Twingo long-term review
Renault has turned the traditional small car formula on its head. Or rather, back-to-front. We're spending six months in this quirky city car, to see if rear-engined and rear-drive is actually an inspired idea

The third-generation Renault Twingo is something of a departure from that which has gone before it.

Generation one (which never made it officially to the UK) and recently replaced second generation car two were both monobox designs with three doors. The styling of the latest Twingo — the newest addition to our long-term fleet — has more in common with the old Renault 5, and it has now grown into a city car-size five-door hatchback.

Like the original incarnation, this third-generation Twingo stands out from the rest of the class thanks to its bold styling and colour options, and our long-termer is a great example of this.It’s certainly no wallflower; the Inca Yellow paint turns heads on suburban streets and the decals on the sides, white exterior pack and snub-nosed shape help it to stand out even more.

Inside, things are slightly more subtle. Our car comes with an optional leather steering wheel and white touches that lift what could otherwise be a rather sombre dashboard.The interior is also a move away from those of the previous Twingos.

The digital central speedometer has gone and is replaced by a traditionally located analogue dial with a digital sub-display inside it, while the centre of the dashboard looks like those in most other cars until you attach the smartphone holder that juts out of it.

Do so and you can then connect a smartphone to the car using an app that includes audio playback, Bluetooth hands-free phone calls, a trip computer, a rev counter and sat-nav. I’m looking forward to seeing how it works. It seems like a clever move by Renault and is standard on our Play-spec Twingo, which also comes with air conditioning and is our pick of the range because it brings with it a sub-£10,000 price tag.

Front occupants have plenty of room. The rear seats are only for two people. Leg room isn’t awful compared with that of rival cars, but it is worth noting that even with the adjustable rear seatback in its most reclined position, the seats are very upright and could be uncomfortable on longer journeys.

Besides the styling, the biggest difference between the Twingo and the rest of the city car class is with its underpinnings. Small cars are traditionally front-engined and front-wheel drive, the idea being that the cabin remains free of as much intrusion from the underlying mechanicals as possible, in turn allowing more room for people and their luggage.

When developing the Twingo, Renault teamed up with Daimler, which was about to start work on the new Smart Fortwo and Forfour. The partnership settled on a rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive configuration. At the front of the car, there’s a bonnet that covers the battery, oil filler and washer fluid container and that’s about it. All the mechanicals are at the back of the car, under the boot floor.

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So how does this work on a day-to-day basis? Time will tell, but first impressions are good.

This isn’t the first time that Renault engines have been used to power rear-wheel-drive cars. Formula Renault first started in 1971 and today operates the Formula Renault 1.6, 2.0 and 3.5 series.

Strakka racing invited me along to see their 3.5 Series car and the state-of-the-art workshop that the team has built to help them with their 2015 season.

The cars are powered by a 3396cc Renault Sport V8 engine that produces 530bhp and drives all that to the rear wheels. That’s considerably more than our Twingo.

On the practicality front, we were worried that the boot would be so small that it would be almost unusable. That is not the case. The boot offers 219 litres, which is less than that of the Hyundai i10 and Volkswagen Up, but it’s still a decent size. There’s no lip to get in the way of loading heavier items, the rear seats can be folded and the front passenger seat can fold flat, allowing the transportation of longer items, so the little Twingo should prove to be quite practical.

One area where it could be beaten by the competition is performance. Our car, the 1.0 SCe 70, comes with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that produces 69bhp and can ‘power’ the Twingo from 0-60mph in 14.5sec. It’s fine for town use, although the notchy five-speed gearbox, vague clutch and lack of a footrest by the clutch pedal could prove tiresome. On the motorway, the performance is disappointing. The Twingo struggles to keep up with traffic and maintaining speed on an incline requires a down change. 

The Twingo isn’t as refined as the competition and at idle there’s a lot of vibration through the cabin. That’s frustrating because the car will spend a lot of its life sitting in commuter traffic.

Where the car really excels is with its turning circle. Moving the engine to the back of the car means that the front wheels can turn more than on a front-engined car. Small car parks aren’t a bother at all and turns in the road are handled very quickly indeed. Is there anything we’d change?

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Just the registration number. The car attracts enough attention as it is.

Renault Twingo 1.0 SCe 70 Play

Price £9995

Price as tested £10,735

Options

Inca Yellow non-metallic paint £250,

Retro-side decal £150, premium audio system with electrically adjustable and heated door

mirrors £150,

Exterior Touch Pack in white £100, 

Leather steering wheel £75

Storage pockets in rear doors £20

Storage areas under rear seats £20 

Economy 62.8mpg (combined) 

Faults None

Expenses None

 

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Dolphinman 3 June 2015

Motorway miles

I was drawn to this article as a 'long term review' but you haven't tried it on a motorway! How long will you have to run it before you're brave enough to take it on one?
I'm really interested in the fact that this car is so technically different from its classmates so please give us a PROPER long term assessment.
TegTypeR 2 June 2015

I'm looking forward to seeing

I'm looking forward to seeing if the character of the car is as one dimensional as the initial reports have suggested or if there is something a little more charming about this car.

I have a soft spot for this little motor and would like to see it succeed in this busy sector of the market.

BigMitch 29 May 2015

Cute car. I'd definatley give

Cute car. I'd definatley give it a look if I wanted a small city car. Nothing else comes close for desirability at this price.