"The Renault Twingo is as spacious and practical as ever, but lacks the comfort and value of its major rivals."
The Renault Twingo received a facelift in 2011, which brought a new grille, headlamps and choice of colours to brighten up the range after the arrival of new city car rivals like the VW up! and Skoda Citigo. Better still, the small Renault received a spruce up to the interior that brought soft-touch plastics, a higher premium feel and gave the car a more up market presence than before. The Twingo had always been a spacious, practical and decent car to drive but now it stood out from the crowd and felt like a good car to own.
The small size and dimensions of the Twingo make it an ideal city car. Parking in tight spots is easy, and scooting along the narrows streets of UK cities is a doddle. The only engine available on the standard Twingo is also best suited to driving in the city. Outside of urban areas, the Twingo can handle B-roads with ease as it doesn’t suffer from too much body roll and inspires high levels of confidence. The steering may feel a little light for some and the grip isn’t at sports car levels, but this is a city car and there's enough fun in the drive to keep people interested. If fun is your main interest, Renaultsport offer a version of the Twingo with a 133bhp 1.6-litre engine aimed at enthusiasts that impresses with its handling. The petrol 1.2-litre 74bhp can feel a little sluggish and noisy on the motorway, but, other than that, is a good choice.
The interior of the Twingo is quite spacious and the rear seats can slide back and forth, which gives decent legroom to rear passengers, who should find the Twingo a pleasant place to be on shorter journeys. As for drivers, the steering column doesn't adjust for reach and, while many won’t find this a problem, some may struggle to find a comfortable driving position. The Twingo's biggest problem comes from the sporty focus of the Renault city car - it has a stiffer suspension than the VW up! so some passengers can find the ride quite firm, especially over potholes. Noise is also an issue. The engine can be heard in the cabin almost all of the time and at motorway speeds can be very intrusive. Out of town, wind noise can also be an unwelcome companion on longer journeys.
The most recent facelift brought a much more quality feel to the interior of the Twingo. The addition of soft-touch plastics and higher-quality seat materials has really improved it over the previous model. The Twingo still doesn’t feel class-leading in this area, however, with the VW up!, Skoda Citigo and their SEAT sister all feeling much better built. On the plus side, the Twingo feels little worse than the Citroen C1 or Toyota Aygo and there's very little to go wrong with the car itself and so should be more reliable than many cars in the Renault range. The Twingo was awarded four stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests and comes with driver and front passenger airbags.
The rear seats come with the facility to slide back and forth, allowing the boot space to grow from a relatively small 165 litres to a quite impressive 285 litres. Fold the rear sets down and the boot grows to a huge 959 litres, which should be more than enough for most. The sliding mechanism also means that rear passengers won't feel as cramped as in some of the Twingo's rivals and headroom is adequate enough for all but the tallest passengers. The spacious rear is difficult to get to, though, as the Twingo only comes in a three-door versions that restricts rear access a result. What compensates for this is the generous amount of storage space dotted around the interior.
Value for money
The Twingo's facelift brought an attempt by Renault to improve the personalisation options that are so popular on cars like the Mini and Fiat 500, but it's only half-hearted and includes some stickers, door mirror options and some contrasting cabin trims. The Twingo doesn’t come in a wide range of engine or specification level choices either - in fact, there's just one model on offer, the Dynamique, and just one engine choice, the 1.2-litre petrol. The lack of choice isn’t reflected in a budget price, unfortunately, with the Twingo Dynamique priced at a little more than the base VW up!. The Twingo Renaultsport offers better value for money overall, being comparable with rivals like the Suzuki Swift Sport and coming with cruise control, air-con and central locking as standard.
The Renault Twingo's 1.2-litre engine emits 119g/km of CO2 and returns 55.4mpg. In isolation these figures are good, but when compared to much larger cars like the BMW 3 series, which can offer similar levels of emissions, and rivals like the Hyundai i20, which can return nearly 90mpg, the Twingo starts to somewhat pale in comparison. The Twingo doesn’t qualify for free road tax or go particularly far on a tank of fuel and this puts it well behind its competition. Resale value doesn’t help soften the blow either, as, along with many Renaults, it can depreciate quite badly.