Renault's Twingo citycar would appear to have the cute angle all sewn up but can it also show a feistier side? Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the GT derivative.
Ten Second Review
Renault Sport has established quite a reputation for cracking sporty hatches. With a perky engine, beefed up driving dynamics and a whole heap of attitude, this hot Twingo GTshows that the French brand hasn't forgotten its younger customers.
If you've a memory of one of the original Eighties or early Nineties hot hatches to hit the market, then the chances are that it'll be a happy one. These cars were magic: light, quick and nimble. Sure, they were noisy, bumpy and crude too, but on the right road on the right day, you didn't care. Here were glorified go-karts that didn't need much power to please: they satisfied in so many other ways. Today's GTis are safer, smarter and more refined but when driving them, it's hard for hard-core enthusiasts not to feel that perhaps something has been lost along the way. Something perhaps returned to us by this car: the Twingo GT. It's the least powerful and most affordable route into Renault Sport motoring that then leads forward to the critically acclaimed Clio and Megane Renault Sport models, cars that overcome unpromising ingredients to provide a truly red-blooded driving experience. But then to deliver that with 200bhp or more under the bonnet is a lot easier than doing so with just 110bhp. If Renault's Dieppe division can make this car work and return us to the halcyon days of the hot hatch, then you'd have to believe it to be capable of just about anything.
This is anything but your average warmed over shopping trolley, something we reckon you'll realise as soon as a twist of the ignition key rewards you with the decidedly rude Renault Sport exhaust note. It's a promise this car should make good on as soon as you bring on your favourite B road. In the unlikely event that you happen to have a go-kart track in your back garden, then one of these will be just about perfect. We think it'll take you back to those late, great hot hatches of the Eighties and Nineties - Renault's own 5 GT Turbo for example - and yes, just like those cars, you'll probably feel every bump, ridge and pothole. There is, in short, a price to pay for your pleasures. But it's one true hot hatchers won't mind paying. The Renaultsport approach means that you'll flip from lock to lock with merely a flick of the wrist, the steering response instant, the throttle response quick, the gearchange sweet. No, the 110bhp that the GT's tuned 898cc 0.9-litre TCe turbo engine develops isn't a great deal but then, this car does have a superb power-to-weight ratio of 110hp per ton, so you don't actually need that much grunt to get this little skateboard going quite indecently fast, flicking through the slick ratios of the 5-speed Renault Sport-tweaked gearbox. 62mph from rest takes 9.6s en route to 113mph.
Design and Build
This styling of this Twingo GT is apparently based on the looks of Renault's wild 'Twin'Run' concept car which paid homage to the brand's legendary Renault 5 Turbo and Clio V6 sporting models. The Twin'Run's influence is most obvious in the GT's 17-inch 'Twin'Air' diamond-cut alloy wheels and also extends to the lateral air intake, the rear bumper diffuser - redesigned to incorporate the twin exhaust pipe - and the Renault Sport markings on the side and rear of the car. Exterior GT features include extra tinted rear windows and a body kit that consists of side skirts, extended wheel arches and rear diffuser. Buyers can set off this little hot hatch's distinctive look with a range of in-your-face bright paint colours and optional contrasting NACA aircraft-inspired stripes. Inside, the colour scheme echoes the exterior. Orange trim details feature on the part-leather upholstery, the air vents and the base of the gear lever. Grey touches to the interior surround the dashboard, air vents and steering wheel. The Twingo GT also has Renault Sport-badged door sills, aluminium pedals and a Sport gear lever knob. As with standard Twingos, this model has a practical side too, thanks to a 200-litre rear cargo area that offers a flat boot floor and the ability to carry items up to 2.2m in length.
Market and Model
The Twingo GT is priced from just under £14,000. If that's a little much for you, then your dealer will point you towards the less potent but almost equally sporty-looking 'Dynamique S' variant, a derivative that isn't quite as powerful but will be cheaper to insure. Standard equipment includes all the usual sporty hot hatch touches plus there's plenty of opportunity for further individualisation. Options include GT roof and bonnet decals, an electric panoramic fabric folding sunroof, a lane departure warning system, heated front seats and the 'Techno Pack' that gives you an 'R-Link multimedia system' that, via a 7-inch touchscreen, gives you 'TomTomLIVE' navigation, USB and Bluetoothconnectivity, voice control and a reverse parking camera that works with parking sensors. Setting off the GT's distinctive look is a special 'i.d Blaze Orange' metallic paint colour that'll be popular with buyers, or customers can choose 'Crystal White', 'Lunar Grey' or 'Diamond Black' body colours. All of the shades have optional contrasting NACA aircraft-inspired stripes, which are black on the Blaze Orange paintwork and orange on the other bodywork colours. There is also a contrasting Sport exterior touch pack that adds orange or black detailing to the front grille, side door strips, door mirrors and rear spoiler.
Cost of Ownership
Even though the Twingo GT is a sporty little hatch, you'd hope that its 110bhp 0.9-litre TCe engine would turn in some strong economy and emissions figures. It does. Expect 54.3mpg on the combined cycle and 115g/km of CO2. To give you some perspective on that, a Twingo with the 90bhp version of this same engine manages 65.7mpg and 99g/km. That model is rated at insurance group 8E, while a Twingo GT comes in at group 11E. Residual values of hot Twingo models have always been very good and this one should be no different. In fact, such is the buzz created by its novel engineering that it ought to do better than its predecessor when it comes to holding onto its value. As for the warranty, that's good for up to four years or 100,000 miles. Years one and two are unlimited mileage.
Power, people think, is what brings driving satisfaction. But people are wrong - and this car proves it. On a tight, twisting road, it'll serve up more smiles per mile than almost any of its more sophisticated shopping rocket rivals. Of course, you've to pay for your pleasures - it's bumpy, can be noisy and it's certainly anything but subtle. But then, there's a time and a place for being low key and it's not behind the wheel of this car. This Twingo reminds us exactly why the hot hatch genre took off in the first place. It was all about practical performance that almost anyone could afford, something most brands have forgotten. Renault hasn't. Thank goodness for that.