Long-term test update - 26 May 2009
Is there a more appropriate car for our times? After all, how many of us really, genuinely need anything else other than a tiny, fun, practical tearabout for our day-to-day transportation needs?
The Twingo seats four, the boot isn’t huge but I’ve managed to fit a Marshall 2x12 amp and an industrial dehumidifier in it, its compact footprint makes it an absolute joy to park and zip around town, it looks fabulously sporty, it’s fast enough to frighten more mature hatchbacks and when the mood really takes you and it’s as fun to punt down a twisty B-road as any car in any performance/price bracket.
Did I mention that it costs just £12k too?
The crucial point here is the sheer joy you get when the road opens up and start chasing the rev-light. It delivers everything that a true petrolhead wants in a car, distilled into a teeny blue whizzbang of a car. Sure, the ride is hard and dash layout haphazard but neither are unbearable.
This car’s former keeper, Ben Whitworth, is now cruising around in a Megane Coupe. His loss.
By Nick Trott
Zip, hi-rev surge
It's going back soon
- 23 March 2009
My initial rush of enthusiasm for the hot Twingo was tempered by the voice of reason that quietly but insistently told me that the feisty and vocal engine, nuggety ride and zipcar handling that had me enjoying every mile would soon wane. I would, it said, fall out of love and very soon. Well 5080 miles later and the honeymoon phase seems to stretch on indefinitely.
It’s the all-alloy engine that defines the RS’s character. Hand-assembled by Renaultsport’s engineers at its factory in Dieppe, it feels and behaves just like a rather high-strung powerplant should. On cold mornings it jerks and hops grumpily on anything but the smoothest of throttle actions, and refuses to do anything remotely brisk below 4000rpm. Once warmed up it’s far more tractable, pulling smoothly from walking pace in the taller gears. But that 4000rpm mark still seems to flick a switch in performance from fast to frantic.
The howling engine, closely stacked gears and raucous cabin would have you believe the Twingo is absolutely flying – but a glance down at the speedo shows that while certainly quick, it’s never anywhere near as rapid (for a supermini it weighs a lardy 1049kg) as you’d think. Which, given the appalling attitude the Government is adopting towards speed in this country, is no bad thing. Better to feel like you’re busting the sound barrier within the legal limits than rack up career-killing points.
And yes, apologies for the delay, but we are working on getting some video footage of the Twingo revving its lungs out. It’ll be up as soon as possible.
By Ben Whitworth
A trawl this week through the numerous Twingo 133 fora on the renaultsport.co.uk website – the company’s dedicated site for its RS-tweaked cars – threw up an interesting bit of DIY induction work. On the left-hand side of the engine’s air intake is a rubber flap, about the size of a business card. Peel it off to reveal a perforated hole in the box, and as a result, the Twingo’s growly engine note instantly jumps a few decibels. Loud enough for my three-year old daughter to ask why the Bouncy Blue Car was making that funny noise and could she have her music – The Mary Poppins soundtrack is a bit hit this month – turned up a little louder.
There’s no additional volume on constant throttle openings, but under acceleration the engine sounds much more guttural and hard-edged, particularly when chasing down the 7000rpm redline. And the underside of the rubber bung is nobbled so it can easily be replaced. Makes you wonder why it was fitted in the first place.
Officially, this quick audio upgrade is aimed at trackday enthusiasts who want to meet legal driveby noise regulations but want their cars to sound a bit tastier when wringing it around the ‘Ring. Read between the lines, and it’s a pretty cheap and easy way of giving Renault owners a bit more aural enjoyment without resorting to expensive after-market exhaust system. What a pity that removing the rubber bung doesn't liberate a few more horsepower – now that really would be a smart bit of DIY work.
By Ben Whitworth
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Going Green - 30 January 2009
Winter driving is crap, isn't it? The roads are all slimy, everyone drives like a moron the moment any weather falls out the sky and most of the time it’s either too dark to see anything or you’re blinded by the low-lying sun reflecting off the wet salty roads and straight into your eyes. But the Twingo has changed that. Its feisty, tail-up demeanour has turned even the most mundane of trips into a high-revving bit of grin-inducing drama.
The Twingo’s effervescent nature makes me rev the engine a little harder, change gears a little later, play my music a little bit louder and generally drive with a bit more of a – how shall we out this – liberal interpretation to speed limits. It’s a car you just don't want to drive slowly.
Of course, I blame the green change-up light in the central rev-counter than flashes brightly just before the rev-limiter cuts in. It’s the very opposite of those lightshows in hybrids that bathe the cabin and your conscience in a soft green light when you trundle around at a silent 35mph saving the world from imminent meltdown. The Twingo’s green light is just that – a visual provocation to wring the last drop of speed from the engine. ‘Real men’, it flickers, ‘change up at the green light.’ All of which might explain why overall economy has plummeted to 31mpg, with a worst of 28mpg recorded after a somewhat quicker than normal journey along some of Devon’s fine country roads. Ooops…
By Ben Whitworth
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We like Renaultsport’s Twingo, like it very much indeed. Chris Chilton was so enamoured about it after its Dieppe launch, that we were straight on the blower to Renault to snaffle one of our own for a few months. And it’s just arrived. Key figures are – £11,309, 1598cc, 133bhp at 6750rpm, 118lb ft at 4400rpm, 125mph, 8.7seconds to 60mph, 40.4mpg and 165g/km. And sitting there looking all squat and cheeky makes me want to just go out and drive the pants off it.
But first some details of our car. We opted for Extreme Blue metallic paintwork - a £375 option and a hue that’s a little more distinctive than the silver, grey and black metallic on offer. Other options include a chunky metal-topped gearlever (£150 well spent to replace the naff standard item) a Sound Pack for a more powerful £250 MP3-ready four-speaker stereo, along with the obligatory USB port and hands-free iPod controls (£175), Bluetooth connectivity (£250) and a rather galling £75 for floor mats. Oh, and some fool in the office also decided that squandering £90 on some ‘Cup’ decals for the car’s flanks would be a good idea. As soon as we find out who it was the correct measures will be taken.
The basic Twingo may be a pretty bland bit of design – particularly after the cuddly quirkiness of the original – but the 133’s style upgrade gives it a decent dose of visual tail-up aggression. Key to its engaging looks is those gunmetal grey 17-inch alloys and rubberband Continental tyres. They’re part of the Cup upgrade - a relatively inexpensive £650 option. Ticking this box was a bit of a no brainer. As well as the trick wheels and rubber, the ride height is dropped by 4mm and the springs are 10% stiffer front and rear. On past experience with Renaultsport’s Cup tweaks we reckon the very firm anticipated ride quality will be offset by the car’s sharper dynamics. This is a pocket rocket, after all.
That brings the Twingo’s grand total up to £13,249, which is rather close to the £14,995 Clio Cup. Did we make a mistake here? The bigger and more powerful Clio is a real cracker – it took quite a few scalps at our PCOTY last year – but it's a different proposition to the Twingo. And with each drive of the Twingo, I’m becoming more and more smitten with its effervescent character. Its feisty engine, grippy chassis, sparky steering and huge appetite for speed in such a small package makes it a hugely engaging proposition. Not sure how it’s going to cope with dealing with carting around my family, but as long as I’m behind the wheel, I’ll be happy….
By Ben Whitworth