From £8,8456
The Twingo GT is the most enjoyable to drive Twingo there is, but it's not enough to warrant buying one before better rivals

Our Verdict

Renault Twingo

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

  • First Drive

    2016 Renault Twingo GT review

    The Twingo GT is the most enjoyable to drive Twingo there is, but it's not enough to warrant buying one before better rivals
  • First Drive

    2016 Renault Twingo The Colour Run review

    Special-edition Twingo is packed with kit for a reasonable price, but a practicality deficit and a gutless engine leave us feeling cold
Neil Winn - Autocar
1 December 2016

What is it?

A low-weight, rear-wheel-drive, rear-engined French hatchback with forced induction: sounds like the perfect recipe for an engaging city car, no? Well, that’s what we hoped for when the latest generation of Twingo was unveiled at the 2014 Geneva motor show. Sharing a structural design with some of Renault Sport's most famous sports cars, such as the iconic Clio V6, the Twingo promised everything from engaging handling to impressive levels of practicality.

Unfortunately, the car we ended up with felt closer in character to a Renault Dauphine than an R5 Turbo. The steering was decidedly vague, straight-line performance was modest and that innovative and potentially playful chassis was set up for safe and predictable understeer. In short, Renault had failed to make the most of a platform that we knew could do better.

Two years on from the Twingo’s initial launch, however, it looks like Renault has recognised the error of its ways. Handing the reins over to the talented guys at Renault Sport, the new Twingo GT hopes to emulate the success of the previous-generation Twingo 133 Renault Sport, a car we loved for its frisky handling and easily accessible performance.

Starting with a strong platform (in theory, at least), the team have fettled rather than replaced. With no space to fit a new engine, the strongest motor in the current line-up, an 898cc turbocharged triple, has been treated to a revised air intake, a stronger turbocharger and new engine mapping. Combined with a new exhaust system, power is up to 108bhp while torque rises to 125lb ft – that’s 19bhp and 25lb ft more than the current most powerful Twingo

Chassis-wise, the GT also receives all-new shock absorbers, a stiffer anti-roll bar and tweaked suspension to sharpen up the handling, with variable-ratio steering and new electronic stability programme (ESP) mapping promising livelier on and over-the-limit dynamics.

What's it like?

Turn the key and the 0.9-litre engine fires into life with a distinctive offbeat three-cylinder thrum. It’s noticeably louder than the standard car thanks to a new twin-pipe sports exhaust, but it’s not as sonorous as the characterful triple found in the new 1.0-litre Fiesta ST-Line.

Plant your right foot, however, and the engine impresses with its new-found willingness to pull from lower revs. Thanks to shorter gear ratios and a revised turbocharger, the GT feels positively sprightly on Paris’s tight and technical inner-city streets, accelerating with far more urgency than the lesser engines in the range.

The engine's response isn’t perfect, though. Boost comes in quite abruptly at 2000rpm, and even if you’re higher up in the rev range, there's a noticeable delay before the engine starts producing usable power. Granted, this isn’t so much of a problem when driving on fast and flowing B-roads, but it can make smooth city driving a challenge when you are continually on and off the throttle.

Country roads highlight a different limitation in the form of poor body control. The boffins at Renault Sport may have made tweaks to improve the standard car’s chassis, but it’s certainly no Clio RS. Turn in to a relatively quick bend and the body pitches on its springs, taking a moment or two to settle before it shimmies its way out the other side. Throw in a mid-corner bump and the resultant instability can be enough to trigger the retuned ESP.

With variable-ratio steering, it feels rather darty, too, a characteristic we suspect we’d enjoy if only there was more feedback through the wheel. Push on in a tight corner and it’s almost impossible to judge where the limit of grip is, with virtually no change of weight communicated through the rim.

Ultimately, the Twingo still feels most at home in the city, the environment in which the platform was designed to excel. With light steering, an 8.9m turning circle and short overhangs, you’d be hard pushed to find something more manoeuvrable this side of a black cab. And somewhat surprisingly, the ride hasn’t suffered too badly from the retuned suspension or the whopping 17in wheels.

Should I buy one?

With Renault confirming earlier this year that a proper RS version is off the cards, the GT is the fastest, most driver-focused Twingo that’ll be offered. But should you buy one?

Well, we’d recommend thinking carefully about what you’d be passing up before you do. Yes, £13,795 isn’t an unreasonable sticker price for a lukewarm hatch with a sub-10.0sec 0-60mph time, but there’s precious little joy to be had from driving the GT quickly. And that, we’d argue, is the whole point.

We reckon you’d have more fun in the cheaper-to-buy, cheaper-to-insure VW Up 1.0 TSI 90. Or if you can stretch the budget by a grand or so, there’s the stellar Swift Sport or Ford Fiesta Ecoboost ST-Line. Both of those are bigger, faster and vastly more dynamically interesting. 

2016 Renault Twingo GT

Location Paris; On sale Now; Price £13,755; Engine 3 cyls, 898cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 110bhp at 5750rpm; Torque 125lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual; Kerb weight 1001kg; 0-62mph 9.6sec; Top speed 113mph; Economy 54.3mpg (combined); CO2 rating/BIK tax band 115g/km, 20% Rivals Hyundai i10 Premium SE 1.2, Volkswagen Up 1.0 TSI

 

 

 

Join the debate

Comments
7

1 December 2016
Much as I like this car for its looks and unusual configuarion, it's pretty clear it'd be a better car if it were front engined and front wheel drive.

In part, I guess we have Mercedes to blame, as it's a joint product and their desire/need to keep the Smart four two rear engined.

1 December 2016
And even if it was any good, we still wouldn't buy it. We car buyers are a deeply conservative lot who don't trust anything new or different. I think the Hillman Imp proved this half a century ago. The best hope for Renault would be to make an electric version. The packaging and weight distribution might be easier, and maybe electric car buyers would me more receptive?

1 December 2016
One of Fiat decent car's, Fiat 500 Abarth which is A LOT quicker for only around 8% more

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

1 December 2016
... is
Autocar wrote:

thrilling to drive

.

Really? Not saying that the Twingo is a good car, but describing the up! as " thrilling " is... erm... let's call it " interesting ".

I hope that for the next gen Twingo the Alliance taps into Mitsubishi's K car experties and we get a properly fun, usable and practical car like the first gen, instead of this ( likable but flawed ) rebodied Smart.

 

 

2 December 2016
I love the look of this, and the layout of the engine/drive, but I am disappointed that it isn't as good to drive as it should be. Still, makes more sense than the forfour brabus, which is ridiculously expensive!

4 December 2016
I quite like the look of it, not an over-styled design, with a nice silhouette and a bright and perky interior. But it sounds as if they've got the suspension all wrong and it's too jiggly and bouncy on bumpy roads yet lacking grip in tight corners. Bit of a shame, because 113mph, 9.6 seconds and 54mpg is a sensible mix.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

31 January 2017
I like rear-engined Renaults. I wanted to like this one but the steering & handling balance flaws are severe.
Hopefully a later "facelifted" model will remediate these matters.

sigh!!

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