SINCE its inception in the 1990s, the Renault Twingo has garnered a reputation as a fun and funky town runabout. The latest iteration now offers a sporty model that has been extensively fettled by the company’s tuning division, RenaultSport, which has proven its prowess at teasing great dynamics, enhanced performance and sporty styling from such cars as the Mégane and Clio. Can it work a similar magic with La Regie’s smallest offering? The
Twingo’s wedge-shaped profile forms a good foundation for those flared-out wheelarches, which are filled by a set of neat 16-inch rims shod with 195/45 tyres. Sculpted sills, an enlarged front air dam and a racy roof spoiler combine with a lowered ride height to give the car a squat, purposeful look. The cabin also serves up a number of RenaultSport touches, some of which work well and others that border on the slightly kitsch. The metal-tipped gearknob is a tactile treat, and the bolstered sports seats – clothed in a durable coarse cloth – are supportive without being constrictive. The Twingo’s facia layout has always met with mixed reviews, and quirks such as the centrally-mounted digital speedometer and busy CD player interface have found their way across to the RS. Much of the standard car’s instrumentation remains, and while the climate control switches are intuitive and fall easily to hand, the allimportant buttons for the hazard light switch and door locks require a fair stretch to operate.
The chunky, leather-bound steering wheel, whilst very nice to hold, has a broad boss that all but obscures the indicator stalks and satellite audio controls. To-ing and fro-ing one’s gaze between the speedometer and the white-dialled rev counter mounted above the steering wheel does take some getting used to. Imaginative optional aluminium pedal rubbers with “pause”, “stop”, and “play” motifs, and the orange seatbelts do tip-toe that fine line between sporty and tacky.
There’s a surprising amount of room up front aided by a windscreen sitting some way from the driver’s perch, and plentiful headroom. The seating position is just about spot-on; neither too high nor necessitating any acrobatics on exit. The same cannot be said of the rear seats, however. There’s only enough room for small adults back there and the boot space on offer with the seats upright is scant, but the seats can be individually tumbled forward to accommodate larger loads.
The major changes RenaultSport has made to the Twingo lie under the skin. The model-specific chassis treatments include front and rear tracks widened by 60 and 59 mm respectively, and a suspension set-up that incorporates stiffened springs that drop the ride height by 10 mm. The brakes have also been uprated to 280 mm ventilated discs up front and 240 mm solid discs at the rear. Power is provided by a 1,6-litre, 16-valve engine developing 98 kW at 6 750 r/min and 160 N.m of torque at 4 400. This unit is mated with a close-ratio version of the standard car’s five-speed gearbox.
On the road, the Twingo RS is one of those cars that proves power isn’t everything. The engine’s peak outputs deliver performance that is in the warm hatch bracket, with the 0-100 km/h sprint dispatched in 9,94 seconds and a top speed of 193 km/h. But the dynamic set-up enables you to really make the most of what the engine has to offer.
The suspension is taut but not bone-jarringly so, and the Twingo’s wide-track footprint makes it very stable at speed. What’s more, the engine’s in-gear flexibility and willingness to spool-up swiftly makes the RS ideal to tackle twisting roads. The steering doesn’t provide a great deal of feedback, but it is weighty and precise enough to place the car exactly where you want it. The short throw and mechanical feel of the gearshift is very satisfying, as is the solid action of the clutch and the progressive, strong feel from the brakes.
All of the aforementioned attributes lend the car a wieldy and punchy nature that allows you to carry a good deal of pace into a corner. There’s the merest hint of understeer that can be corrected by straightening-up the steering wheel for a split second and applying a prod to the throttle pedal. With bags of grip on offer, a drop of a cog enables you to slingshot out of the corner with aplomb. All accompanied by a spirited and grin-inducing barp from the chunky chrome exhaust tip…
The car feels well balanced and eminently nimble; as one member of the CAR team so aptly put it, “the Twingo RS is a real fox terrier of a car that eagerly attacks and harries challenging roads”. Even around town, that demeanour and the car’s diminutive stature allows you to comfortably keep pace with free-flowing traffic. The RS also impresses on the freeway with its pace and composure, although a fair bit of tyre roar does permeate the cabin at speeds above 100 km/h. And, with the engine pushing 4 500 r/min at the legal speed limit, an extra cog in the gearbox would certainly have reduced mechanical noise, let alone fuel consumption.
Specification is generous and includes such features as power steering, ABS, ESP, automatic headlamps, auxiliary line-in for an MP3 player, and speed-sensitive windscreen wipers.
Ultimately, the RS is simply desirable for its sheer smile-permile factor… It successfully emulates the cockiness and joie de vivre of the iconic Renault 5 GT Turbo. If Renault could make it a bit more affordable, it would be a cracking little package.