The Renault Twingo is a small five-door city car with a difference. Unlike its competitors, notably the Skoda Citigo and Hyundai 10, the Twingo has its three-cylinder engine in the rear rather than the front. This is more than just a technical talking point – it means the car makes the best of its compact dimensions by having a surprisingly roomy and versatile interior.
Not only that, moving the engine to the back means the little Renault has a tighter turning circle than most, making it ideal for town and city driving. Its cause is further helped by a choice of small yet responsive petrol engines that give their best at lower speeds. Bizarrely, the larger 1.0-litre engine, called the SCe 70, is less powerful than the smaller TCe 90, which is turbocharged. For mixed driving – urban and longer, motorway drives – this smaller engine is the better choice.
Unfortunately, it's available only in Dynamique trim, which pushes the Twingo's price to around £12,000 – a lot of money for a city car. In fact, it's about the same price as the most expensive Hyundai i10 and a lot more than the most expensive (and better) Skoda Citigo.
At least this dearest Twingo is well equipped, with features including engine stop-start, cruise control, lane-departure warning, a leather-covered gearlever and steering wheel, plus 15-inch alloy wheels.
For a wider choice of trims, you must look to the less powerful SCe 70 engine. Twingos with this engine are available in a choice of three trims: basic Expression, mid-range Play and well equipped Dynamique.
Of the three, Play is our favourite. To the basic Expression's already-generous equipment, which includes DAB digital radio, electric mirrors, LED daytime running lights and useful side protectors, it adds air-conditioning and driver's-seat height adjustment. These are just enough to make it a more comfortable proposition, although its 0-62mph time of 14.5 seconds, compared with the TCe 90's 10.8, is likely to wear thin.
Perhaps inspired by the Mini and Vauxhall Adam, there is a range of personalisation packs costing around £200 each that allow you to mix and match interior colours and trims to your taste.
The Twingo's interior is solidly built, spacious and comfortable, while controls are straightforward and simple to use. The ride is comfortable but wind noise can be a problem at speed. The boot isn’t especially large but can be made bigger by folding down the rear seats. Unusually, the front passenger seat also folds flat. The Twingo has a relatively generous four-year warranty and despite its compact dimensions is quite safe. Anti-lock brakes, stability control, emergency brake assist, hill start assist and four airbags are standard from basic Expression upwards.