Car review: Renault Twingo

Carlton Boyce / 18 April 2017

A small, cute city car that’s almost impossible to dislike – if you can live with the compromises.



Score

6/10

Review

The Twingo is a small, cute city car that it’s almost impossible to dislike. It looks fabulously retro in a very modern way and is much less contrived in appearance than some of its rivals. Its stance is nigh on perfect and the graphics - often an afterthought that the marketing department insisted on adding at the last minute - suit the car perfectly and look fabulous.

The interior features the sort of primary colours and Playmobile chunkiness that are de rigueur these days for small city cars; despite my reservations about companies infantilising their customers, I liked it. (Which might add weight to my claim that I’m not quite the grumpy old man my family think I am.)

10 laws motorists ignore or forget

Informative, in-depth and in the know: get the latest money news with Saga Magazine. 

A genuine four-seater

A small footprint usually means a small interior but other than banging my left leg on the (removable) cubby box that sits in front of the gear lever, I didn’t ever feel too cramped. The driving position is good, even for someone of my size, and the controls are easy to locate and intuitive to operate.

Access to the rear seats is good too thanks to the four-door layout, and the Twingo has more space in the back than many in its class, making it a genuine four-seater rather than the more usual two-seater that can occasionally accommodate rear-seat passengers.

Seven things you need to know before buying a new car

Surprises that aren’t entirely pleasant

The Renault Twingo has two surprises up its sleeve compared to almost every other small city car. 

The first is that it is the rear wheels that are driven rather than the front. The other is that the engine is in the boot instead of under the bonnet. 

The Renault team was coy about the advantages of this arrangement on the Twingo’s launch, citing a smaller turning circle as one of the more significant benefits. 

The other, which remained unsaid, is the development cost. The Twingo shares a platform with the Smart ForFour, which made it much, much cheaper to bring to market than having to start from scratch all by yourself.

Unless you are a black cab driver then the turning circle will be much tighter than anything else you will have driven, but other than that I found only disadvantages compared with a more conventional layout. 

(Of course, a conventional layout only becomes conventional because of the advantages it confers; if the rear-wheel-drive, rear-engined configuration was significantly better than any other then it would, of course, be the one we are all used to.)

Petrol versus diesel: which engine will suit you best?


Carlton Boyce If you enjoy Carlton's inimitable style of writing, you'll love his motoring column - to have each one delivered straight to your door every month, subscribe to Saga Magazine today!

Storage an issue

For a start the front ‘boot’ is full of stuff, rendering it useless for storage. 

The rear boot area is full of engine, so the proper boot is quite high as it sits above the engine. 

This also means that your luggage will get hot as it soaks up the heat generated below. However, you can fold the rear seats down, enabling you to fit much more luggage in there, half of which won’t be slow-roasted by the engine.

Defaqto 5 star car insurance 2016
PROMOTION Saga Car Insurance Great Cover, Great Price!
Defaqto 5 Star Rated Comprehensive Cover.
Over 50? Click to get a quote!

Susceptible to crosswinds

The Twingo is also more susceptible to crosswinds than its rivals. Driving at 60mph is fine, but anything more feels distinctly precarious in anything other than still air. 

Even articulated lorries buffet the little Renault in an alarming fashion, making this something of a one trick pony rather than the sort of multi-purpose vehicles that it is competing against.

However, you don’t have to worry about the Twingo’s rear engine and rear-wheel-drive chassis making it the sort of car that will slide off the road backwards if you try and corner a bit too quickly, or back-off the throttle mid-bend. 

The chassis is, if anything, too benign, suffering from too much understeer. The complete absence of torque steer – when the steering wheel tugs gently from side-to-side as you accelerate hard - was welcome but it was difficult to come up with a compelling case for the Twingo as a car the keen motorist will enjoy driving.

 Six secrets car dealers don't want you to know

A great town car

And yet, if your journeys are almost solely confined to the city, its tiny dimensions and super-small turning circle do help it make a case as a great town car. The trouble is that cars like the VW/SEAT/Skoda up!/Mii/Citigo and Suzuki Celerio do the job just as well and make fine motorway cruisers into the bargain.

Despite all this, I warmed to the Twingo. If you can live with the compromises it forces upon you then it is a stylish and unusual alternative to the more traditional suspects.

Stats

Power – 70bhp

Torque – 67lb ft

0-62mph – 14.5 seconds

Top speed – 94mph

Kerb weight – 864kgs

Official average fuel consumption – 60.1mpg

Honest John real world fuel consumption – 46.8mpg

CO2 emissions – 105g/km

VED class – Band B

Warranty – 4 yrs/100,000 miles

Price – £10,995

Price as tested - £11,935

Best-in-class

The Suzuki Celerio is a brilliant example of how to make a cheap car that is fun to drive. It also handles long journeys with the same competence as it does urban commuting, making it a great choice for anyone who needs a car that can do (almost) everything on a budget. 

The best of the rest

The VW up!, Skoda Citigo, or SEAT Mii are all nicer to drive on the motorway and just as wieldy in the city. They’re all essentially the same car, so just pick the one that you can get the best deal on.

Left-field alternative

The Vauxhall Viva revives an old name is a thoroughly modern way.

Try 12 issues of Saga Magazine for just £12

Subscribe today for just £12 for 12 issues...


...Previous article

Car review: Renault Clio
Next article...

Car review: Renault Kadjar

 

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.