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First drive: Renault Twingo GT. Image by Stuart Price.

First drive: Renault Twingo GT
Renault's tiniest hot hatch is packed with charm, but let down by its steering as far as enthusiasts are concerned.

 



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Renault Twingo GT

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A rear-wheel drive, rear-engined Renault hot hatch developed by the boys and girls at Renault Sport should be just up our street. It even has a retro colour scheme. Perhaps we're asking too much for the Twingo city car to be turned into something really special in GT guise.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Renault Twingo GT
Pricing from: 13,755
Engine: 898cc three-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 115g/km VED Band: C (30 now, 160 if registered after April 1st 2017)
Combined economy: 54mpg
Top speed: 113mph
0-62mph: 9.6 seconds
Power: 110hp at 5,750rpm
Torque: 170Nm at 2,000rpm
Boot space: 188 litres (seats up), 980 litres (seats folded)

What's this?

It's the latest in a long line of Renault hot hatches, the Twingo GT, and therefore has rather a lot to live up to. Like the new lad at a posh school whose dad was once head boy, the Twingo GT has the heritage of the likes of the Renault 5 GT, the Clio 16v and Clio Williams and the Megane RS hanging heavy on its tiny shoulders.

Still, it has been worked on by the geniuses at Renault Sport, for while there won't be a fully-fledged RS Twingo (not enough potential in the engine for that kind of power, apparently) the Twingo GT has been developed by the same people who brought you the Megane RS.

It's 20mm lower and the springs and dampers are 40 per cent stiffer than standard, plus there's a new variable ratio steering rack that has been designed to make the Twingo GT feel more agile in town and more stable on the motorway. The engine, still mounted at the rear and driving the back wheels, is based on the 898cc turbo SCe model, and has seen its power boosted to 110hp (up from 90hp), while torque swells to 170Nm. Part of that is down to tweaking the electronics, but part is also down to good old fashioned tuning - the fuel pump has been uprated and the little boxy intake on the rear wheelarch means that the air being fed to the turbo is cooler and therefore it's more efficient.

On the styling front, it's impossible not to be beguiled by the Twingo GT's looks. It's all miniature aggression, from the flower-petal 17-inch alloys to the oh-so-seventies stripes, the optional bright orange metallic paint and the dinky little LED spot lights built into the front bumper.

In the cabin, there's lots of the same cheapo plastics that you'll find in the standard Twingo, but space is decent (although the boot is very small thanks to having the engine wedged under it) and it all looks nice. The high-backed bucket seats are quite comfortable too.

How does it drive?

And if we could just stop there, the Twingo GT would be brilliant. In terms of static appeal, with its throwback seventies sportiness and its cute styling, it's hard to beat. When you drive it though...

The engine is just terrific. It's a touch uncouth at times, and loud on the motorway and main roads, but it delivers its thrust with conviction and a pleasing three-pot warble. We realise that 110hp isn't much, but the Twingo GT weighs a mere 1,001kg so it never, ever feels slow and is more than brisk enough for a bit of in-town sportiness. Out on the motorway, it still feels strong enough to mix it with the trucks and big German saloons, although the rather vague five-speed manual shift isn't always the most helpful companion.

In town too, it feels agile and frisky, with that ludicrously tight turning circle making for easy progress even through the Parisian Monday morning traffic of our test route. As a city car with a dash of style, the Twingo GT is right up there with the Fiat 500 S.

Sadly, it can't match the Fiat for out of town ability and the culprit is the steering. For all its clever variable ratio trickery, there just isn't enough feedback nor weight, so you never feel as if you're actually participating in the action. For a hot hatch, that's a fatal flaw.

The chassis isn't bad, although you'll struggle to sense that it's rear-engined or rear-drive. Renault Sport's engineers say they've tweaked the stability control to allow a little touch of drift at the rear, but you have to be pressing on stupidly hard to get it moving, and even then it's a degree or two out of line at most. The ride, on those stiffer springs and (relatively) big wheels is also a touch too stiff and bouncy at times, especially so in the Twingo's natural urban environs.

Verdict

Dissing the Twingo GT feels a touch like kicking a puppy - one look at that adorable styling, and those retro hot hatch stickers and details ("I have been driven by Rene Arnoux! I have!") just melts the heart of any motoring enthusiast, and there's no denying that it has a truly cracking engine. The sad fact, though, is that a hot hatch is about more than an engine and the Twingo GT just isn't sufficient fun to drive.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

3 3 3 3 3 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

2 2 2 2 2 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

3 3 3 3 3 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Neil Briscoe - 1 Dec 2016









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2017 Renault Twingo GT. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Twingo GT. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Twingo GT. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Twingo GT. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Twingo GT. Image by Renault.

2017 Renault Twingo GT. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Twingo GT. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Twingo GT. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Twingo GT. Image by Renault.2017 Renault Twingo GT. Image by Renault.








 

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