Renault Twingo Renaultsport 133 (2008 - 2012) review

By Andy Enright

Introduction

Renault has established a towering reputation when it comes to building pocket rocket hatches and although the Twingo Renaultsport 133 is at the more manageable end of that continuum, don't take that to mean it short changes you in the fun department. Quite the contrary in fact, if you can drive one of these down a country road and not feel the urge to plant the loud pedal through the carpet, you've truly got no life left in you. Here's what to look out for when tracking down a lightly used example.

Models

3dr hatchback (1.6 petrol [Cup, Silverstone, Gordini])

History

For a small car the Twingo Renaultsport 133 had some big boots to fill. As the entry-level sports hatch in Renault's range, it had cars like the Renault 5 Gordini and the original Clio 16v as forebears. What's more it also had some rather well-renowned Renaultsport siblings it needed to make the grade alongside in the form of current Clio and Megane variants. Right out of the box it was clear that this little Twingo was a winner. Shown at the 2008 Geneva Show and launched in the UK later that year, the Twingo Renaultsport 133 was affordably priced at £11,550 and, as the name suggested, packed a useful 133bhp punch, which wasn't at all bad in a car that weighed about as much as a typical Audi fascia panel. It was also offered with a £650 Cup chassis package that featured lower ride height, stiffer springs and dampers and 17-inch anthracite alloy wheels. In response to customer demand, Renault launched a specific Cup model in September 2009. This did without air conditioning, automatic headlamp and wiper operation, extra tinted rear windows and featured a one-piece bench in place of the usual independent sliding rear seats. With the Cup suspension pack in place, this model was priced at £1,350 less than the standard car and instantly became the poster child for a generation of young enthusiasts. In November 2009, a plusher Gordini version was introduced that was mechanically identical to the standard Twingo 133 but which got some flashy seats, stripes and leather trimmings. June 2011 saw another limited edition, the Silverstone which sat on the Cup chassis, but got a burbling stainless steel exhaust.

What You Get

When the concept of a Renaultsport version of the Twingo was first mooted, I groaned inwardly, thinking the end result would sully the Renaultsport badge and look a bit, well, dorky. The results are anything but and the Twingo actually looks more aggressive than the Clio and the Megane. It's said that little dogs are more likely to bite and this Twingo isn't shy of baring its teeth. The exterior highlights would take some time to cover in detail but include 16-inch alloy wheels, a wide air intake in the front bumper, side sills, front and rear wings, a chrome tail pipe, dark grey detailing for many body parts and the no-cost option of Renaultsport chequered flag details. Twee it is most certainly not. Go for the Cup model and you'll get 17-inch anthracite-coloured alloy wheels shod with Continental Sport Contact3 tyres, a wide air intake in the front bumper, side sills, front and rear wings, a chrome tail pipe and quite a bit more besides. Build quality seems decent enough, the Slovenian factory where the Twingo is built enjoying a decent reputation for low warranty claims. The car's interior is also spacious for the citycar sector with the available room maximised by clever split rear seats that individually slide and recline. Push these right back and you'll get proper sized adults in the back with ease, while head and legroom for those in the front is also generous. The boot is decidedly cramped but can be extended when you've no rear seat passengers by folding the seat backs down.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

Approach any prospective Twingo Renaultsport 133 purchase with the suspicion that the car has been thrashed to within an inch of its life and inspect the car accordingly. Check HPI records, look for non-recorded accident damage, check the tyre tread wear for misalignment and make sure the clutch, brakes and tyres aren't waving the white flag. Of course, you will find cars owned by buyers who merely wanted the best looking car in the Twingo range and these are the ideal owners to sniff out. These cars are used as starter cars by a number of race schools and the consensus seems to be that they're tough things but steering racks can go on the fritz if the car has had a hard life and the standard suspension bushings can also need replacing sooner than many owners realise.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2009 Twingo Renaultsport 133) Day to day consumables for the Twingo are in line with what you'd expect. An air filter is around £7, spark plugs are £9, whilst an oil filter is around £11 and a fuel filter £18. Tyres are around £95 per corner for a 16-inch wheel.

On the Road

The Twingo Renaultsport 133 is one of those cars that doesn't attempt to hide its light under a bushel. As its name suggests, it packs a 133bhp punch which is quite a hit in a car this small. The engine is a 1.6-litre unit that delivers its peak power at 6,750rpm, so you'll need to be quite aggressive with the throttle if you want to extract optimum performance. You'll be rewarded with a decidedly rude exhaust note from the four-into-one system and a deep-chested timbre from the induction system up front. This is not your average warmed over shopping trolley. Many manufacturers juice the engine up, add a few sports trimmings inside and leave it at that. Renault distinguishes itself by sweating the details. That's why this Twingo Renaultsport 133 features bigger brake discs and calipers, and a track width that has been increased by 60mm at the front and 59mm at the back over the Twingo GT. The optional Cup chassis is designed largely for track use although the little Twingo can feel rather dwarfed by the wide open expanses of some circuits.

Overall

If you want the very best small performance hatch on the market, look no further than the Twingo Renaultsport 133. I'd be tempted to look for the hardcore Cup version on the basis that if you're in this far, it makes sense to do things properly but bear in mind that customers who choose the Cup option probably aren't going to baby their cars around. A well serviced car owned by a knowledgeable keeper is a very tempting proposition though.