Twingo a go-go for Renault
Smalls cars are now big news – and you can't ignore the Renault Twingo, says Andy Russell.
I never really decided whether it was pinky-purple or purply-pink. Either way it was the first thing everyone mentioned about the car.
'What a colour...'
But whether they thought it good or bad, the second question, having been told the colour was actually described as 'fuschia', they asked referred to the car itself.
'What is it?'
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If I told one person it was the new Renault Twingo, I must have had the same conversion with a couple of dozen people while I was driving this latest-generation city car.
For a car-maker to deck out its new demonstrator models in, let's call it, an eccentric colour is a clever ploy for it certainly gets the new range noticed.
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It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, and I certainly would not be wanting to sell it on in the used market, with fuschia definitely an acquired taste, but if you want to get your new car to make an impact go for the garish colours to get people talking about it.
But, equally, we shouldn't let it colour our judgment because there is a lot to talk about with the Twingo.
Firstly, it's a pretty little car and my test model had some of the most styling alloy wheels wheels I have ever seen and in any other colour but fushcia it really would have been the bee's knees.
But it's not just a pretty face for the Twingo is a very good little city car and one that would make my shortlist.
There's two 1.2-litre petrol engines – a 75PS naturally-aspirated unit in Expression and Dynamique and the 100PS turbocharged TCe in Gordini. The latter also shares a 133hp 1.6 petrol with Renaultsport versions.
For most people the lower-powered 1.2-litre engine will be absolutely fine. It's flexible around town and will take fifth gear at 30mph which helps economy – I was regularly averaging 50-55mpg. It picks up willingly, if not briskly, from low revs – if you want to get a spurt on you need to work it hard. But what really impresses is that it is so easy and relaxing to drive – not something you can say about a lot of small cars – and once up to speed it can comfortably maintain 70mph and cope with the cut and thrust of motorway cruising although you do notice more engine and road noise.
With its compact dimensions and wheels pushed out the corners the Twingo feels firmly planted on the road and, combined with French car-maker's flair for building cars that handle well, the Twingo is great fun to drive even with the least powerful engine. And the supple suspension also does a good job of cushioning passengers from the worst effects of poorly-surfaced roads.
What surprised me was how spacious it is inside. Here is a city car that can carry four large adults in comfort, certainly in Dynamique trim which has two 50/50 split rear seats which slide back and forth independently 220mm to create the best combination of rear legroom and boot space.
With the seats right back the remaining 165 litres of boot space is enough for a few bags of shopping or a couple of holdalls. Slide the seats forward and, while you'll only get small children in the back, the boot has grown to a supermini-like 285 litres and is really quite practical. For larger loads the 50/50 seat backs fold flat and then the whole seat tumbles forward and upright.
Adding to the sense of fun is the curvy fascia with its rev counter perched on the steering column, which adjusts only for height, with a digital speedo and fuel gauge on top of the centre of the dashboard. And you soon feel at home in the driving seat with straightforward switches and controls.
You can see how and where Renault has kept costs down – the plastics are hard to the touch but nicely textured – but the cabin is comfortable with decent storage space.
The Expression model includes electric front windows, front airbags, remote deadlocking, front foglights and sports body styling. Dynamique is the one to go for, adding Bluetooth, sports interior trim, air-conditioning, side airbags, 15in alloy wheels, sliding rear seats and height-adjustable driver's seat.
Apart from the colour, I really enjoyed the Twingo, so much so that I was sad to see it go.