The Renault Twingo is a little city car with a novel layout to create the maximum interior space and make it easy to manoeuvre, but it’s not the best to drive.
The Renault Twingo is the smallest car that Renault makes and it’s an alternative to other little city slickers, such as the Volkswagen Up, Toyota Aygo and Hyundai i10.
However, if you’re familiar with previous generations of the Twingo, this is something very different. It was developed alongside the Smart ForFour, so this latest version is a rear-engined, rear-wheel drive car – a layout that has real benefits in terms of how much space the car has inside and how easy it is to drive around town.
Mind you, there’s no sign of that revolutionary (for a city car) layout from the outside. That said, the car certainly looks very distinctive and, as with most little cars these days, there’s lots of scope for the owner to personalise their car. Everything from the colour of the paint to the alloy wheels can be tailored to your wishes, while you can also add on extra decals to make your car stand out.
Inside, too, the contrasting colours and strong design inject a bit of fun into the experience. And, as long as you avoid the base model, you can add a few more touches of personalisation.
One more clever touch is that Renault has an app that you can install on your smartphone. You then clip it into a cradle in the car, giving you an instant touchscreen, which you can use to control the sat-nav, phone and stereo. If you want a larger touchscreen, you can fit the optional R-Link system, which has an integrated 7.0-inch screen, through which you control the various parts of the infotainment system.
Where the Renault Twingo really stands out from the alternatives is how much room it has inside. Four adults can fit with ease and getting in and out is not the contortionist’s feat it can be in some small cars. Mind you, the optional fabric sunroof reduces the available headroom quite significantly, so be sure that won’t be a problem before ticking that box.
That excellent cabin space is thanks to having the engine at the back, but there are some compromises with that layout. Most obviously, as the engine sits below the boot floor, the boot capacity is only 188 litres, which is a little less than you’ll find in an Up, for example.
When I read that the Twingo was going to be a small, rear-engined, rear-wheel car, I was really excited. Then I drove it. What a disappointment.
You can increase this by putting the rear seat backs up to 90 degrees, which isn’t especially comfortable, but there’s also around 50 litres of storage dotted around in the cabin too in various pockets and bins. You can also fold the front passenger seat flat and the Renault Twingo will accept loads up to 2.3-metres long.
The one thing that the rear-engined layout doesn’t do is to turn the Twingo into some sort of mini-Porsche 911 supercar, which famously shares the same arrangement. In fact, this doesn’t feel like a particularly sporty car to drive at all – but it’s not without its benefits.
For example, with no engine at the front of the car, the nose feels a lot lighter. And, because the car is rear-wheel drive, the front wheels can turn further than in a front-wheel drive car, giving a very tight turning circle. As a result, the car is wonderfully easy to manoeuvre around town and get into the smallest parking spaces. However, on the open road, it’s not the most enjoyable little car to drive.
In part, that’s because the stability control system is a little over-eager to get involved when the driver gets a little keener and starts to tackle bends a bit more quickly.
Likewise, the Twingo isn’t the most comfortable little car, especially the models with larger wheels fitted. The VW Up and Hyundai i10 both have a more settled and more mature feel on the road.
As is often the case with these small cars, there’s only a small range of engines to pick from. So, if you want a Twingo, you can only choose between two engines: a 1.0-litre unit with 70hp and a more powerful 0.9-litre turbo, with 90hp. The 1.0-litre unit is enough if you spend most of your time driving around town, but it’s worth going for the stronger unit if you plan on making longer journeys beyond the city limits.
No matter where you’re heading, you’ll be pleased to know that the Renault Twingo has a reasonable four-star rating from Euro NCAP, which is pretty much identical to what you’ll find in most alternatives.
Less happily, the Renault Twingo costs a bit more than the most obvious alternatives, but every model comes well equipped – with DAB radio, front electric windows, split folding rear seats, LED daytime running lights, a tyre pressure monitoring system and USB connectivity.
Despite that high level of standard equipment and generous space for passengers, the Twingo is hard to recommend over the alternatives. It’s a little on the pricey side at the bottom end of the range and, while the more expensive models (with the stronger engine) make more sense, they cost as much as larger vehicles that offer far more space.