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Renault Twingo GT review: tiny RenaultSport hot hatch driven

£14,035 when new
Published: 01 Dec 2016


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Which Renault Twingo review is this, then?

This is the Renault Twingo GT. It’s as fast as the current Twingo gets and, if Renault is to be believed, as fast as it will ever get.

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It remains rear-wheel drive, its rear-mounted engine a tuned up version of the 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbo you’ll find in regular Twingos. It now makes 108bhp and 125lb ft: modest figures, but enough to take a 1,001kg car like this from 0-62mph in under ten seconds.

The same engine powers the Smart Brabus, but the weeny Renault differs by offering a manual gearbox rather than a paddleshifter. Expected to make up five to ten per cent of Twingo sales, GT prices start at £13,755.

The old RenaultSport Twingo was good, I recall.

It was fantastic. A high-revving, naturally aspirated 1.6 engine powered a front-driven chassis that was unyieldingly firm, but extremely fun. It was a raw but rambunctious little thing and proved RenaultSport could do tiddly hot hatches as well as it could do madly powered Meganes.

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This Twingo is being sold as a GT, rather than a full-strength RenaultSport. But we’d argue the customer might be hard pushed to decipher the difference, when RS badging is so prevalent on the Twingo’s posterior.

The RS team has also had a hand in its development. Key chassis changes over standard see a 20mm lower ride height, 40 per cent stiffer damping, new 17in alloys with bespoke Yokohama tyres, and a retune for the stability control system. It’s a bit more lenient we’re told, and will allow a ‘slight drift’ out of corners. Though it can’t be turned off.

So it’s a Ford Focus RS in miniature?

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Um, no. Clamber into this without prior knowledge of its setup and you might not know it’s meant to be the performance version. It goes well enough – a 20bhp power increase is notable in a car like this, and acceleration is nicely brisk – but there’s little sparkle to the chassis beneath you.

The closest you’ll get to a ‘slight drift’ is with deliberately yobbish use of first gear out of a corner; the rest of the time, the ESP feels as strict as in lesser Twingos. Perhaps it’s for the best: in the wet, a RWD car with this sort of wheelbase might spin like a top into the nearest field if you’re being careless.

But the way the ESP uncouthly robs power out of a corner, even when you carefully feed in the throttle, is a bit disappointing. It’ll even get upset in a straight line on particularly bumpy roads.

You can still have fun in the Twingo GT, but it’s the kind of fun you’ll get from driving any small, sensible car with too much vigour. Despite being front-engined and front-driven, a VW Up is simply a smarter handling car. Not to mention that old RS Twingo.

I thought you liked the latest Renault Twingo?

We still do. As a city car, it’s very smart. Being rear-driven may not add anything to the dynamics, but it does make this an absurdly manoeuvrable car.

Its turning circle is half a London taxi’s, it’s an absolute doddle to park, and its slim bodywork is uncannily easy to thread through congested traffic. We tried the GT in Paris rush hour, and it was as effortless as a car can probably get in such circumstances.

It’s a fun piece of design, too. Though you’d better like orange: the GT comes with your choice of orange paint (with black decals) or white, grey or black paint (with orange decals). A similar colour scheme continues inside.

Downsides to the Twingo’s design include a small boot (though the engine is angled in a way that you’ll still get a couple of bags in there) and fragility during motorway crosswinds. It’s a bit busier when cruising than we’d like, but how many make it out of the city we don’t know. Urban settings are certainly its home, even if the stiffer suspension makes the GT a bit untidier over speed bumps than its base car.

So it’s not a proper hot hatch?

Nope. There are clues before you get going – there’s no rev counter (unless you use a phone app), and the engine sounds pretty meek on start-up – but given how thrilling the old Twingo was in high-performance form, it’s hard not to feel a little let down here. Especially when Renault is citing similarities between the performance levels of the old and new cars.

Just like the Renault Megane GT, this isn’t RenaultSport truly stamping its mark on a car. The results when that happens are almost always enthralling. Though unlike the latest Megane, a full-strength RenaultSport Twingo is not on the cards, says boss Patrice Ratti. No more performance can be reliably extracted from the 0.9-litre engine, and little else will squeeze in the small space beneath the boot floor.

Our only hope is for a return of whatever was running in the water at RS HQ when the zany mid-engined Clio V6 was signed off. Who needs back seats, anyway?

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