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Driven: Renault Twingo SCe 70. Image by Renault.

Driven: Renault Twingo SCe 70
Longer time behind the wheel of Renault's rear-engined, rear-drive Twingo.

   



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Renault Twingo SCe 70

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: pretty exterior, interesting cabin, decent motorway ability, low running costs, manoeuvrability

Not so good: mid-range performance, handling doesn't feel special considering drivetrain layout

Key Facts

Model tested: Renault Twingo Dynamique SCe 70 Stop & Start
Price: Twingo range from 9,495; Dynamique SCe 70 from 10,995 (12,935 as tested)
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, five-speed manual
Body style: five-door city hatch
CO2 emissions: 95g/km (Band A, 0 VED annually)
Combined economy: 67.3mpg
Top speed: 94mph
0-62mph: 14.5 seconds
Power: 70hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 91Nm at 2,850rpm

Our view:

When due to spend a week behind the wheel of the dinky third-generation Renault Twingo - a car so cutesy, it looks like it could slot straight into a Pixar film without any digitisation - and you're feeling a little self-conscious about being a big bloke in a tiny car, the last thing you want is for it to turn up with a number plate that reads TW14 NGO. But this little Flame Red (595) Dynamique with a white exterior touch pack (100) bore just such a registration, leaving anyone in little doubt what car this was. A Renault Tw14ngo, of course.

Nevertheless, despite such awkwardness, the Twingo looks superb. The Ford Ka has lost its shape, the Hyundai i10 is attractive but reserved, and none of the Citroen C1/Peugeot 108/Toyota Aygo trilogy is what you'd call beautiful (the Toyota has its striking x-face, at least). Nor are the Volkswagen up!, SEAT Mii and Skoda Citigo. Also, the cousin of the Twingo, Smart's ForFour, is veering towards being outright ugly, so in this segment the 'training shoe' appearance of the Twingo is the winner.

It's a strong aesthetic performance that continues with the interior, which was completed in a red style pack (another 100, coating the front storage box, door armrests and bits of the seats in the colour) to complement the bodywork. Maximising cabin space by sticking the engine at the back under the boot floor and keeping the front end as snub as is humanly possible, the Twingo makes the best of what it has got but it's not enormous in there. The boot is also diddy, at 189 litres, although with a commendable 980 litres with the rear seats folded the Twingo isn't without practical merit. And it's comfortable, at least for front seat occupants - the back bench feels firm so sitting on it for long distances might not be so pleasant.

We like all the Twingo's trimmings and options, and the fact that city cars these days no longer feel cheap and spartan inside, but this mid-spec Renault with a few more cost additions (16-inch diamond cut alloys, 275; a full-length, panoramic folding fabric roof, 850; and 20 on some storage under the rear seats - 29 litres' worth with a net) totted up to just shy of 13 grand; giving lie to the idea that four-figure city cars are a reality any more. Apart from Dacia, a window sticker of 8,995, 9,495 or 9,995 these days is nothing more than price point marketing designed to draw you into the showroom, where you can spend a few thousand more on the car you really want.

Still, the Renault is not alone in this game and it's a lot cheaper than the Smart, which only starts at 11,265. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, front fog lamps, heated door mirrors and a leather steering wheel/gear knob - as well as cruise control and Lane Departure Warning, which both hint at some civility on the motorway.

Civility that 70hp and 91Nm do not promise. OK, there are plenty of normally aspirated, 1.0-litre triples in this market that are hardly what you'd call quick, but once beyond 35-40mph (the Renault's zippy enough to these speeds, optimising it for its preferred urban environment) acceleration becomes a struggle. Indeed, at one point on a trip to Manchester over the moors, while trying to use an uphill passing lane to overtake we ended up marooned off the rear three-quarters of a Peugeot 307 HDi doing 56mph; no amount of downshifting, pedal mashing or bouncing up and down in the driver's seat like a demented jockey would drag us past the Pug.

Bizarrely, once it's up to 60- or 70mph on the motorway, the Renault feels stable and up to the job of going many miles. It's like it works brilliantly in a city, it's passable on a motorway, but on open A-roads it feels out of its depth. A fact exacerbated by the benign handling, which isn't improved one iota by the rear-engined/rear-drive layout that can have you crowing to those in the know that your Gallic city car has the same configuration as a Porsche 911. The Renault has plenty of grip and is composed and capable of switching direction quickly... but so are all the front-engined, front-wheel drive cars in this sector. Perhaps a Renaultsport version can unlock the latent potential in the Twingo, but for now, don't expect any dynamic fireworks from the French machine.

That's not to say it has a bad chassis, far from it. The steering is nice and clean, if incredibly light in operation, while body roll is kept to acceptable levels and the brakes are spot on for the 865kg Twingo. With a bit of revving and some stirring of the reasonably easy-going gearbox, the Renault (sort of) perks up and the little 1.0 makes a pleasing three-pot thrum. You won't be going quickly or getting any type of rear-led sensation, but we still prefer this engine - for all its paucity of torque - as opposed to the 90hp/135Nm 0.9 turbo, which has that weird, sticky-feeling throttle. So despite a few odd occasions where we were lost in the mid-range wilderness of the 1.0, otherwise the Renault proved to be a likeable companion across 290 miles of mixed-roads driving. The biggest benefit to the rear-engined car is a massive amount of steering lock and thus a hilariously tight turning circle, allowing it to spin round on the proverbial sixpence. Superb.

And the running costs are low, as they should be in this segment. No road tax thanks to 95g/km CO2, an insurance group of three and Benefit-in-Kind of a mere 12 per cent mean it'll be pennies to keep the tiny Twingo on the roads, whether you're a private buyer or business user. Including two trips over the Woodhead Pass in TW14 NGO, hardly the sort of route most owners will use, we saw 47.5mpg at an average speed of 35.5mph. So a typical Twingo owner doing more urban/extra-urban commuting should get a lot closer to the 67.3mpg quoted by Renault.

Maybe the expectation of the drivetrain layout has slightly soured our final judgment but as appealing as the little Renault is, it doesn't quite do enough to take class honours. You'd have it over a Ford Ka or the Smart ForFour, no doubt - but what about the bargain Vauxhall Viva? The competent PSA/Toyota three? Volkswagen Group's polished offerings? A Hyundai i10? That's harder to call. We like the Renault Twingo but we're probably waiting for an RS version before we can say we love it.

Alternatives:

Hyundai i10: brilliant third-gen i10 has an interesting and impressive interior, lovely looks and good driving manners. Two engine choices and the smaller 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is the better bet.

Peugeot 108: one of the trio of cars from PSA and Toyota that are all the same but a bit different, chic 108 offers a 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine that's better than the Renault's 0.9 turbo, so if you want a (slightly) more powerful city car, opt for the Pug.

Smart ForFour: essentially the same car as the Renault, with uglier styling but perhaps a more stylish interior. It's also more expensive.


Matt Robinson - 26 Sep 2015



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2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.

2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.



2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.
 

2015 Renault Twingo. Image by Renault.
 






 

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