Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Why I can't wait to test the new Renault Twingo

RENAULT’S Twingo has soared straight to the top of the list of cars I’d most like to drive this year. Even though at least one of my petrolhead pals reckons it’ll be a little bit rubbish.

The argument goes that the Twingo, after 20 years of being resolutely French in its insistence on having a front-mounted engine powering the front wheels, is now a rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive car. Just like the Volkswagen Beetle your grandparents used to drive 35 years ago.

The prosecution also moans that the reason why the new car has its engine stuffed into the boot is because it’s based on the Smart – a city car not exactly renowned for its brilliant handling – and that as a result, there are no plans whatsoever for a Renaultsport hot hatch version. The new Twingo, therefore, will be a slovenly supermini that’s too tall to go around to go around corners properly with its engine in the wrong place.

None of which matters, because the Twingo’s baby brother is also afflicted by being too tall and having its engine in the wrong place. The electrically-powered Twizy, however, is one of the gems of Renault’s range. Look at a Twizy and you’d probably just laugh – it’s far too narrow, it has flimsy struts instead of doors to protect its two occupants, and it maxes out at just 45mph.

Drive one, however, and you’ll discover that it’s a mid-engined, rear-wheel drive car with skinny little tyres and a chassis set up by Renaultsport, who also did the wonderful Clio Williams and the race-bred Spyder. As a result what looks like a Government disability car for the new millennium will drift for England if you ask it to. It is utterly brilliant to drive.

 In fact, I’ll go further than that – it’s the only electric car I’ve ever actively wanted to buy with my own money, and seriously thought about saving up for until I learned you have to lease the batteries separately. To me, that’s a bit like buying the house of your dreams only to learn you have to rent the living room separately.

The new Twingo, with its four seats and its proper petrol engine which comes free with the rest of the car, has every opportunity to be similarly smile-inducing to drive without costing you a fortune in fuel and speeding tickets.

If anyone at Renault is reading this, count me in for a test drive!

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