18.4.2018Renault Twingo TCe 90 review
The Twingo badge has something of a cult following, stemming in part from the original model which never made it to these shores in right-hand drive. The following generation did and reinforced Renault's citycar offering as a fun to drive and characterful model, with the current generation having strong foundations on which to build. It's small, stylish, and has plenty of promise. Next Green Car tests the Renault Twingo TCe 90.
Review by Chris Lilly
The choice of engines available for the Twingo makes up a short list; there are just two - three including the sportier GT model. None are over a litre in size and all thrum along on three cylinders, with the larger unit less powerful than the 90hp 0.9 litre TCe. The 898cc turbo-charged engine tested is the pick of the pair - again ignoring the GT - and has plenty of power to shift the compact Renault around keenly. You're never going to be bothering supercars in terms of speed - despite the Twingo sharing the same rear engine, rear wheel drive configuration famously used in the Porsche 911. Instead, the 90hp and 135 Nm of torque will require the driver to work the gearbox hard should they wish to wring power out and look for the quoted 10.8 second 0-62mph acceleration time. The five-speed manual box is a nice one to work with though, with a quick shift, and helps make driving both enjoyable and easy in and around town. On country roads the Twingo drives eagerly too, though it starts to feel out of its depth at motorway speeds. The engine will start to become breathless at speed, and there is a lack of refinement from the engine too when compared to some other citycars. It's not a car for long motorway mileages then, but to be fair, that's not what the Twingo was designed for - and in town it excels.
Renault has set up the handling charactistics to suit the engine, with sharp steering much happier on urban roads than on the motorway. In built up areas, the Twingo's party trick comes to the fore, and drivers will see a real benefit from that rear-biased configuration. Removing a big lump of metal from the front of the car - an engine say - frees up space to increase space for the front wheels. As such, the Twingo's turning circle is exceptionally good, to the extent that three-point turns become almost obsolete. Spin the wheel to full lock and the Twingo will pivot about in a manner that takes a little recalibrating to, in order to fully make the most of the Renault's agility. Suffice to say, city driving is a doddle, as is getting around a car park, and indeed into and out of a parking space. The Twingo's suspension is well suited to its design brief too. A firm but not uncomfortable ride allows for quick turns around tight junctions. The steering is light to help spin those wheels about, but this means it lacks a bit of feel for keener drivers there. For those buyers, Renault's Twingo GT offers a meatier driving experience with much of the same urban expertise.
The styling is not in keeping with Renault's current design language, but part of this wil stem from the fact that the Twingo shares a number of components with the Smart Forfour. Instead, the sharper and more expressive lines of current Renault models are replaced by a charactured retro effort. I like the looks, and the Twingo retains much the same 'happy' character that the original did so well. The exceptionally short overhangs help with the Twingo's agility, and help create a stance reminiscent of the Renault 4 or 5 et al. The packaging - pushing the wheels in the corners and engine into the boot - mean the occupant space is verg good for a car of this size. Four adults can easily be fitted into the Twingo - the Renault is only available as a five-door model to keep rear access good - and the rear space is flexible with all three seats able to be folded down. This allows the boot space to expand depending on needs, something that will prove useful for some drivers since the boot space isn't the largest around; not particularly surprising considering there's an engine beneath the boot floor. The Twingo competes well in terms of boot space though, and there is certainly enough space for general use - supermarket shop etc.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The rest of the Twingo's cabin is surprisongly spacious too, with lots of room up front, and a decent amount in the rear. There are a number of clever features that prioritise space, while making sure everything is present and correct. The puncture repair kit for example is fitted beneath a false floor in the passenger footwell. You would never know from looking at it or in terms of leg space though, and there are removable storage bins, and nicely designed features to keep the Twingo as preactical as possible. Tn terms of styling, the interior reflects the exterios nicely, with a retro-ish design to proceedings. A 'one-dial' instrument binnacle keeps everything simple for the driver, and controls are logically laid out on the dashboard. The overall fit and finish isn't of the highest quality, but then the Twingo is built as a citycar and costs must be met. It's not bad at all, but can't compete with the likes of the VW up! and fellow VW Group models in terms of overall feel.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The official fuel economy quoted by Renault for this version of the Twingo is 65.7 MPG. After my time with it, the Twingo's trip computer was showing a not unreasonable 52.3 MPG, so running costs shouldn't be too bad. A comparable 999cc 70hp SCe model is quoted at 67.3 MPG, so either option is going to cost about the same to run in terms of fuel costs. In terms of tax, all models will cost Â£140 a year to tax since conventional petrol engines are the only option, and no model will cost more than Â£40,000. First year costs will vary between Â£125 and Â£165 - though it's worth remembering this is included in a model's OTR price.
The greenest version of the Twingo doesn't feature a Twingo badge, or a Renault one for that matter. As mentioned above, the Twingo shares a number of features with the Smart range, including platform, engines, and interior equipment. As such, the Smart ForFour ED is effectively the same car, but with an electric motor rather than an engine. Ending the pedantry, the actual greenest Twingo is the 0.9 SCe 70 S&S, which has CO2 emissions of 95 g/km. The 0.9 TCe 90 S&S tested emits 99 g/km CO2 - in either manual or automatic configuration - while the SCe 70 without stop/start technology is the worst model in the range at 112 g/km CO2 (again ignoring the TCe 110 GT model). Efficient feaures include an Eco button on certain trim levels, including the Dynamique S model tested. This reduces throttle response and air conditioning power to reduce the drain on the engine. There is a gear shift indicator too, and driver feedback within one of the apps within the R-Link infotainment system. This gives you a score based on efficient use of acceleration, gear changes, and braking, plus various statistics to help monitor economy. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 46.
The Twingo comes fairly well equipped as standard for a small car, with R&GO smartphone connectivity, DAB radio, USB sockets, electric front windows, hill start assist, and remote central locking standard on all trim levels. Moving up from Expression to Play adds air conditioning, plus the availability of various options. Dynamique trim includes cruise control, front fog lights, engine stop/start, 15-inch alloys, and a leather steering wheel, while Dynamique S trim tested upgrades the wheels to 16-inch rims. It also adds sportier styling details, an aluminium pedal set, part leather trim, sports gear knob, and personalised colour highlights inside.
Overall, the Twingo is a very good citycar. The price can get quite high if looking at top trims and the better engine - the TCe 90 unit. However, the Twingo still feels decent value for money even when fully kitted out. It competes in a tough market, with a number of excellent options, but the nimble little Renault easily makes a case for itself.
Model tested: Renault Twingo Dynamique S Energy TCe 90 S&S
Body-style: Five-door city car
Engine / CO2: 90hp 898cc turbo-charged petrol / 99 g/km
Trim grades: Expression, Play, Dynamique, Dynamique S
On-road price: From £13,365
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars