Introduced in 1993, more than 2.4 million Twingos have been sold worldwide, but not many in the UK.
Renault’s useful sub-supermini offered style and functionality at low prices but UK buyers were always denied the innovative little French car thanks to Renault’s decision not to make a right-hand drive version.
Thankfully the new Twingo, available from September, rights that wrong. It will be the first Twingo officially offered in the UK and is the first model in to be introduced under the Renault Commitment Plan 2009.
This extensive renewal programme will see Renault introduce a raft of new model ranges built with the usually diametrically opposed aims of reducing costs and improving quality.
Whether that commitment will be fulfilled remains to be seen, but if the Twingo’s interior is anything to go by then it is already missing its quality targets (assuming those targets are high), as some of the plastics are woeful.
That’s perhaps forgivable given the low-price entry point, but if it’s an indication to what we can expect in future models then Renault needs a re-think.
The UK will only be offered the Twingo in two guises – the Dynamique 1.2-litre 16v priced at £8,375 and the GT featuring a turbocharged version of that 1.2-litre engine for £9,995.
Oddly, we’re not being offered any small diesels or lesser trim levels – instead an even more potent Renaultsport version will eventually head the range. Renault claims with its Dynamique competitive pricing with more equipment as standard against rivals like the Citroën C2 1.4 Design, Ford Ka Zetec, Toyota Aygo 1.0 Black and Peugeot 107 Sport XS, with the GT being better-equipped than its sporting rivals like Fiat’s Panda 100HP and Citroën C2 1.6 VTR.
More importantly for fleet buyers is that the 100bhp Twingo GT offers lower fuel consumption than both the Fiat and Citroën with a combined figure of 47.9mpg. CO2 emissions are lowish at 140g/km. The Dynamique delivers a combined consumption of 49.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 135g/km.
According to Phillip Allan, manager, fleet marketing and development, these sorts of figures will make the Twingo a desirable choice for user-choosers looking for a green choice. Also it should make its mark in public sector fleets wanting cheap runabouts.
The market for such tiny fleet vehicles is small – Citroën’s C2’s fleet/retail split is typically around 10% fleet – and Renault can expect similar with its new Twingo.
However, with the pressures of environmental responsibility to consider, the Twingo is actually well-positioned to take sales among those keen to downsize.
That’s primarily down to its practicality, as despite Renault reverting to a more traditional two-box design over the MPV-like mono-box of its predecessor, the Twingo offers remarkable space and practicality given its small exterior proportions.
Renault’s fleet sales currently command 55% though, like many, the French firm claims to be pulling out of rental sales and placing emphasis on local fleets where there are greater profit opportunities.
The new Laguna and, eventually, a 4x4 model along with the Twingo, will be pushed to user-choosers, with Mr Allan claiming that the Twingo’s fleet sales strategy will be different to that of cars like the Ford Ka and its typical bodyshop courtesy car use. Instead he envisages younger employees among clients like the NHS opting for the Twingo.
Those younger buyers are an obvious target for the Twingo. Not only will it appeal to the environmental sensibilities that are becoming a major purchasing decision among this age group in particular, but its relatively low pricing and practicality is also perfect for that demographic.
Renault is offering a degree of personalisation too, with sticker packs including swirls, flowers and tribal-like designs that can be optioned and fitted at your Renault dealer. What, if anything, these might do for residual values remains to be seen: Renault is not yet prepared to talk about what the Twingo will be worth after three-years/60,000 miles.
Behind the Wheel
What first strikes you behind the wheel of the Twingo is just how big it is. Not just the interior, but the steering wheel itself – it’s massive.
It turns with precision though, and on paper the Twingo GT we drove promises an entertaining drive with performance to give the Fiat Panda 100HP and Ford SportKa a fright.
But enjoyable as the Twingo is, it’s not really a match for either, that turbocharged 1.2-litre engine not offering the same sort of grin-inducing fizzy performance of its rivals.
Instead it feels more mature, the torquey delivery giving the Twingo decent pace, while the relatively soft chassis soaks up nasty surfaces to give an old-school French car supple ride.
That does mean you have a bit more roll in the corners than you might expect, but as the GT is more likely to be tackling the urban environment rather than a sinuous mountain pass that’s not really a criticism.
Where you might have some justification for complaint is with some of the interior plastics. The dashboard is a nasty, hard grainy effect plastic and the interior door coverings are so thin they move easily with a finger push – it doesn’t bode well for interior longevity.
The driving position is good, even with a rake-only adjustable wheel, the rear seats with their sliding ability offering proper space for adult passengers.
Details like the USB port, 2.5mm stereo jack and aux sockets in the glovebox are welcome too, particularly as you’ll want the stereo to drown out the wind noise at motorway speeds.
Has the long wait for the Twingo to arrive in the UK been worth it? Yes and no. Certainly the Twingo delivers good fuel economy, practicality and sensible pricing, but it’s not got the sparkle on the road of some of its rivals and is lacking the design quirkiness that made the old car such a success.
|Model:||Dynamique 1.2 16V||GT 1.2 TCE|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||75/5,500||100/5,500|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||79/4,250||107/3,000|
|Max speed (mph):||106||117|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||49.5||47.8|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||135||140|
|On sale: September|
|Prices (OTR): £8,375–£9,995|