The Renault Twingo does an entirely reasonable, broadly uncompromised job of covering the dynamic basics and satisfies its primary purpose as a manoeuvrable, manageable city car adequately.

However, it doesn’t go very far above and beyond that remit to conjure the qualities of bigger hatchbacks like the better city cars can. It doesn’t ride or handle well.

The car's front end won't be hurried, and the stability control only stays out of the way if you're super-smooth

And, tellingly, you could drive it 150 miles without realising which axle was driven. Which is exactly how Renault wants it. You can be reassured by the handling of this car, but not really engaged or entertained by it.

The opportunity to produce a feelsome steering system, thanks to plenty of mechanical advantage and low weight on the front end, has largely been missed. There are almost four full turns between locks on the Twingo’s tiller; skinny five-inch-wide rims on the front axle too, as standard. But although you get fleeting snatches of contact patch feedback, there’s not quite enough of it to be worth noting.

Moreover, the hoped-for cornering balance of an even vaguely sporting rear-driven machine has been painstakingly engineered out, lest you happen to be a giddy 19-year-old who’d freeze at the very idea of it. The chassis develops only limited lateral grip at the front wheels, and the ESP intervenes very early before understeer is given the chance to morph into knee-jerk throttle-off oversteer.

The adhesive limit of the Twingo’s handling is easy to approach and defined absolutely by its front wheels. Early-onset understeer, managed by a sensitive ESP system, has been deemed a small price to pay to stop almost any chance of lift-off oversteer. Many would claim that’s an appropriate compromise for such a car. To us, though, a balanced, progressive and controllable chassis is always the safest and best option.

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The car’s propensity to plough on isn’t so serious that it’ll present at town speeds, but you could certainly encounter it on a wet country road at plenty less than 60mph. The steering just about communicates the point of breakaway, and the ESP chimes in subtly, allowing you to keep your foot in as if nothing was happening.

You have to be very committed and aggressive to elicit even a hint of oversteer from the car. We managed it once during several kinds of limit handling test — and the electronics managed the situation almost instantly.

Driving the car remotely keenly gives you the impression that Renault has deliberately taken grip away from the front end, so that the stability control will keep cornering speeds down almost routinely – like a proxy for a tutting driving instructor. Turbo versions benefit from a steering rack which is half a turn quicker than the naturally aspirated models, though, resulting in a slightly more keen feel.

Being rear-engined, the Twingo is inevitably more prone to directional disturbance than something with its mass centred further forwards, so over bumps, camber changes and through crosswinds, it’s not as stable and directionally faithful as it might be.

The car rides quietly but not with the low-speed absorbency of an Volkswagen Up. At higher speeds and over more troubling surfaces, the necessary firmness of the rear suspension manifests in a tendency towards head toss and a noticeable fidgeting in the body control.