By Andy Enright
Between 2008 and 2013, Renault delivered a convincing 1-2-3 in the hot hatch sector with its Renaultsport versions of the Megane, the Clio and the Twingo. The latter is perhaps the least celebrated of the three, despite being easily the most accessible. Launched in 2008 and revised in 2012, it's the later improved facelifted version of the car we look at here, a guide in which we'll be assessing the value of the used examples that were sold from early Summer 2012 until the model's eventual deletion from Renault's books in 2013.
3dr hatchback (1.6 petrol [Cup])
The Twingo Renaultsport 133 was a car that never really got the recognition it deserved. Had it been a stand alone sports hatchback in a range of mediocre cars, its light would probably have shone a bit brighter but a 133PS hatch isn't going to challenge for top billing when there's one with twice that power being sold across the same showroom. This means that while it's been a slight disappointment in terms of new car sales, it makes a great used buy. The car was originally imported in 2008, quickly vying with the Suzuki Swift Sport as the small car to go for if you wanted some inexpensive jollies behind the wheel. The revision that we look at here happened relatively late in the Twingo's lifespan, the facelifted car arriving in UK dealers in June 2012. By August 2013, Renault UK were putting the word out that they had just six new cars left in stock and these were rapidly snapped up ahead of an all-new replacement arriving in 2014.
What You Get
It's said that little dogs are more likely to bite and this Twingo isn't shy of baring its teeth. Hearing that Renault had fitted a deep front spoiler, a huge rear wing, side skirts and enormous alloy wheels to this car, you might fear the worst before you even set eyes on one: surely, this can't be anything other than a painful example of Max Power excess? In actual fact, it looks punchy and purposeful, the extrovert look balanced by careful touches like the gloss black detailing and the chrome tail pipe, while the 17-inch alloy wheels on this Cup chassis version look just brilliant. This facelifted version is certainly a little more in-your-face with its smarter four-light front grille design and a front bumper incorporating what Renault calls an 'F1 blade'. At the rear, this hot Twingo has a revised double-cluster light arrangement and is set apart by its black spoiler, a bumper design that builds in a diffuser and aerodynamic wheel arch extensions. The theme continues inside. A pricier MINI Cooper or a Fiat 500 Abarth would certainly feel more upmarket but this Twingo eschews all that in its mission to distil its offering down to the things that really matter. So as well as the Renaultsport logos, you get chunky sports seats that now have extra side bolstering, a perforated leather-trimmed steering wheel, aluminium for the pedals and gearknob and a prominent rev counter with a number font that gets bigger as you approach 7,000rpm, plus a stitched marker on the steering wheel to indicate the straight ahead position. It's all proper stuff.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The Twingo Renaultsport 133 was never a car that appealed to dilettantes who just wanted the 'nicest' Twingo. It was a bit too focused for that, so you should approach any purchase safe in the knowledge that the original purchaser knew what they were getting into and that it has been used in exactly the required fashion. 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. The consensus seems to be that these Twingos are 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.
(approx based on a 2013 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.
On the Road
This is anything but your average warmed over shopping trolley, something you realise as soon as a twist of the ignition key rewards you with a decidedly rude exhaust note. It's a promise this car makes 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. So yes, it takes 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, in this Cup chassis version at least, you feel every bump, ridge and pothole. There is, in short, a price to pay for your pleasures but it's one true hot hatch enthusiasts won't mind paying. You 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 133PS that the badgework promises isn't a great deal but then, this car does weigh just 1050kgs, so you don't actually need that much grunt to get this little skateboard going quite indecently fast. Most look for the optional Cup chassis which gives it a 4mm lower ride height, 10% stiffer springs and dampers and 17" Renaultsport alloy wheels shod with grippy Continental Sport Contact3 tyres. None of this of course does anything for this little Twingo's outright speed (rest to sixty two in 8.7s en route to 125mph) but if you've an empty, twisting road to play on, it does make getting there a heck of a lot more fun. Not a lot happens aurally below about 4,500rpm, but beyond that, the exhaust note ramps up and the car flings itself towards the horizon until it's rev limited at 7,000rpm. Body roll? Not much to speak of. You line up a corner, choose your blade of grass and aim at the apex. Brilliant.
Renault launched the revised Twingo Renaultsport 133 with a minimum of fanfare and, as a result, few even know that it exists. It was only sold for just over a year which gives it a certain rarity value and it might well be one of the most informed sports hatch choices you can possibly make. It still feels delightfully analogue and old school with enough modernity about it to make things reasonably civilised. Find one that's been well looked after and serviced on the nose and you shouldn't go far wrong. In fact, it's hard to think of a better performance hatch buy right now.