Be­hind the wheel of Re­nault’s quirky Twingo

Twingo is great in town but less so on the open road, writes Steven Chisholm

The Scotsman - - Front Page -

Be­hind the wheel of Re­nault’s quirky Twingo, page 7

If there’s one seg­ment other than the Suv/cross­over gravy train that’s seen growth in re­cent years it’s the city car.

There are more op­tions than ever for driv­ers look­ing for a small, low-cost runaround to get them from A to B within the city lim­its and there’s been a quan­tum leap in terms of the qual­ity of build and equip­ment on of­fer in what was – tra­di­tion­ally – a niche, nofrills seg­ment.

Orig­i­nally only avail­able in left-hand drive, the Re­nault Twingo is a case in point. Now in its third gen­er­a­tion, the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion Twingo to be avail­able in right-hand drive is a far more ma­ture of­fer­ing than the tinny, Fiat Cin­que­cento com­peti­tor orig­i­nal launched in 1993.

I put the Twingo to test re­cently and our demon­stra­tor came equipped with air con, part-leather seats and an in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem in­side, 16-inch al­loy wheels and a sporty bodykit out­side plus a host of safety equip­ment like anti-lock brakes and emer­gency brak­ing as­sist.

It was a blast to drive round the city. The 900cc, 89bhp en­gine is am­ple for a car that can be com­fort­ably parked in a 1960s multi-storey car park with space to spare and the light steer­ing and a classlead­ing turn­ing cir­cle made ne­go­ti­at­ing the town traf­fic a dod­dle.

Our ‘crys­tal white’ test car was dec­o­rated with or­ange side de­cals and con­trast wing mir­rors and rear spoiler. Com­bined with the op­tional front split­ter and side skirts, extended wheel arches and di­a­mond cut al­loys it all looks pretty sporty. Slap a num­ber on it, cover it in dirt and squint and it might pass for a Group N rally car.

I wouldn’t fancy rac­ing in one though.

While the en­gine might be po­si­tioned to­ward the rear of the car, that’s where the sim­i­lar­i­tieswith a porsche 911 be­gin and end. It might excel within the city lim­its, but the steer­ing is too light, the ride too twitchy to be any fun at speed.

Add to that a lib­eral amount of body roll thanks to the nar­row foot­print and tall body and you start to get the pic­ture.

The en­gine in this car – one of two on of­fer in the stan­dard Twingo – is a de­tuned ver­sion of the tur­bocharged unit from the Twingo GT. It’s ac­tu­ally a great fit for the car but if you rev it hard – as you will if you take it onto the mo­tor­way – it’s too noisy, the whine from the turbo grat­ing in what is a rel­a­tively light­weight feel­ing cabin.

Youth­ful looks and a fairly com­fort­able cabin un­der nor­mal con­di­tions can’t mask that the Twingo lacks the ‘big car feel’ you get from other cars in the class like the Kia Pi­canto.

It also lags be­hind in terms of boot space, 219 litres com­pared with 255l in a Pi­canto and 251l in a Skoda Cit­igo.

The Twingo is one of the best look­ing cars in its class in my book and it works great in an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment, which is where it is de­signed for. The prob­lem is, in a seg­ment that’s made great strides in re­cent years, many of its com­peti­tors – the afore­men­tioned Kia and Skoda to name two – work bril­liantly ev­ery­where else too.

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