"The Renault Twingo is as spacious and practical as ever, but lacks the comfort and value of its major rivals."
The Twingo did get an update in 2011 to try and compete, adding a new grille, headlamps and a new range of colours to brighten it up. Even more so, the interior also got a makeover that introduced soft-touch plastics, a higher premium feel and gave the car a far more upmarket appeal than previous models.
It's always been a practical, spacious car, but now the Twingo stands out a bit and feels like a genuinely good car to own. It's only available in one specification – the Dynamique 1.2-litre 16v three-door.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The Twingo's 1.2-litre engine returns 55.4mpg in combined fuel economy and emits 119g/km of CO2. These kind of numbers were good in 2011 and are still reasonable in isolation, but start to look less impressive when you realise that bigger cars like the BMW 3 Series offer similar economy and emissions.
Then you see that rivals like the Hyundai i20 can return as much as 90mpg and the Twingo begins to pale in comparison and actually look a bit expensive. It doesn’t qualify for free annual road tax or get you that far on one tank of petrol – suddenly it looks like a diesel option would have been a good idea.
Resale values don’t soften the blow either, because like many Renaults, it can depreciate quite badly so you’re unlikely to get much money back in a second-hand deal.
Interior & comfort
There is a reasonable amount of space inside the Twingo, and the back seats slide back and forth to adjust the legroom for rear passengers or increase the boot space, depending on your needs.
Certainly, passengers should be fine for shorter journeys in the Twingo. Unfortunately for drivers, the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach and rake, which can make it hard to find the best driving position.
It's main failing, though, is the firm suspension that comes with the Renault city car's sporty focus – it's less comfortable that the VW up!, with a hard ride that can really jolt over potholes. Noise is also an issue, with the engine audible inside the car most of the time, and becoming very intrusive when driving on the motorway. And wind noise is also an unwelcome presence on longer journeys, too.
Practicality & boot space
Having back seats that can slide back and forth does boost practicality in the Twingo, allowing you to adjust boot space of passenger legroom depending on your needs.
The boot offers a fairly small 165 litres, which can be expanded to a better 285 litres by sliding those rear seats forward. Fold the standard-fit split-fold seats down and the boot expands to a much more useful 959 litres, which should serve most city car buyers well.
The sliding mechanism does also mean that passengers in the back won't feel as cramped as in many of the Twingo's rivals, with there being enough headroom all but the tallest of occupants. It is a bit tricky to actually get in the back, however, with the Twingo only coming as a three-door, which does restrict rear access.
Renault tries to balance this out with a generous amount of storage cubbies and compartments throughout the interior.
Reliability & safety
Renault isn’t renowned for its reliability, but it has been making determined strides in the right direction in recent years – which is reflected by it climbing six places up the manufacturers rankings in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, to come 21st out of 32.
The Twingo didn’t manage to rank in the list of the top 150 cars, but that 2011 facelift did improve the quality and feel of the interior. Introducing soft-touch plastics and better-quality seat material has made a real difference, even though it still doesn’t quite match the standards set by the Skoda Citogo and VW up!.
On a positive note, the Twingo feels on par with the Citroen C1 or Toyota Aygo and there isn’t much that can go wrong with the car itself, so it should be more reliable than a lot of the cars in the Renault range.
The Twingo was awarded a four-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, but it's often common for small city cars to struggle to get the maximum five stars – the up! got them - and the Twingo does comes with driver and front passenger airbags, but electronic stability control (ESP) is only available as an optional extra.
Engines, drive & performance
Like any city car, the Twingo has small dimensions that make it ideal for zipping around urban streets and make it easy to slip into tight parking spaces.
The one engine that's available on the standard Twingo is also best suited to town driving. Out on the open road, the Twingo does handle B-roads with relative ease, with minimal body roll and generally good handling.
The steering does feel a bit light and it could use a bit more grip, but as this is a city car, there's definitely enough fun to be had for most drivers.
If fun is your main interest, though, there's a Renaultsport version, with a 133bhp 1.6-litre engine that has better performance, grip and handling. The 74bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine can feel somewhat sluggish and gets pretty loud at motorway speeds, but, other than that, is a strong choice.
Price, value for money & options
Thanks to the 2011 update, you can now personalise your Twingo in a fashion similar to the MINI hatchback, Fiat 500 and Vauxhall Adam. But it is a bit half-hearted, mostly being some stickers, door mirrors and some contrasting interior trims. Hardly the thousands of options you get in the 500 or Adam.
Plus, there's only engine on offer - the 1.2-litre petrol – in only one specification – the Dynamique. This lack of choice isn’t reflected in the price, alas, with the Twingo Dynamique priced at a bit more than the entry-level VW up!.
The Twingo Renaultsport does offer better value for money overall, though, being more on par with rivals like the Suzuki Swift Sport, and adding cruise control, air-conditioning and central locking as standard.