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Renault Twingo (2014) technology and in-car entertainment review

Michael Passingham
24 Oct 2014
Renault Twingo 2014 viewed from the front

We get behind the wheel of Renault's new rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive city car

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Despite their small proportions, city cars can squeeze a lot of character into a small space thanks to quirky design choices, and you can customise some cars to your own taste. The 2014 Renault Twingo is one such car, with its unique rear-engine, and rear-wheel-drive layout, which not only allows for great inner-city handling, but plenty of interior cabin space too. It's in a tough market, though, up against the likes of the Fiat 500 and the Ford Ka.

Styling and interior

It's a distinctive design, with a high front-end that has the driver sitting relatively high up so that they can see more of the road. There are also plenty of go-faster stripes and paint jobs to choose from, as well as a £250 body kit and up to 16in alloy wheels. You can customise the Twingo's interior, too, as the plastic interior panels are available in a variety of colours.

The interior of the 2014 Renault Twingo is very customisable

There's plenty of interior storage, too, including a 2.1-litre, centrally mounted box that can be removed to reveal a pair of cupholders. Quite what you're supposed to do with the box while you're using the cupholders is a mystery, though, as it's fairly bulky. You could chuck it in the rear footwell if you have room. The steering wheel has media control buttons, which is a great addition, and there are cruise control and speed limiter buttons by the gear stick.

There's plenty of room for passengers in the Renault Twingo

There's room in the back for adult-sized passengers, but they'll be slightly squashed up against the back of the driver or front passenger seat. The engine sits beneath the boot, which means it's slightly raised. Thanks to the relatively high roofline, it's quite capacious at 188 litres, or 219 litres with the rear seats in a bolt-upright position, which won't be comfortable for rear passengers. With the seats folded down there's get 980 litres of space.

Performance and handling

The whole car feels better suited to city and town driving than the fast, undulating country roads of the Cotswolds on which we drove our review car. The Twingo has an automatic stop feature that saves fuel by switching off the engine when you come to a stop, such as when you halt at traffic lights. However, we found the automatic stop feature didn't always kick in when expected.

The lack of a rev counter is a little beguiling, particularly as Renault has chosen to take up the full width of the driver's instrument panel with the speedometer. There's a central area for the trip computer which displays information about various parameters including MPG, journey distances and cruise control, but there's no way to make it display even a digital rev counter. The 900cc car we drove produces 135Nm of torque at 2,500rpm and develops 90hp at 5,500rpm. The power band is fairly narrow, but in calm and considered everyday driving the engine is easily powerful enough. If you're looking to overtake, you may wish to drop a couple of gears rather than one. Renault claims that the Twingo will reach 62mph from standstill in 10.8 seconds, and that it has a 103mph top speed.

The engine noise becomes quite loud when you're revving hard, but is quiet for a caqr of this size at cruising speeds. The noisiest thing when driving on a motorway is the wind, which rushes around the door pillars.

Even though the Twingo directs power to the rear wheels, it behaves like a conventional front-engined, front-driven car. The electronic stability control is always on-hand to keep you safe and moving in the direction you intended to travel. Go into a corner too fast and understeer is the order of the day, so you won't be caught drifting in the Renault Twingo.

The electrically assisted steering feels a little numb, which left us feeling slightly disconnected from the road. The steering was fine when driving through town or parking, though, and we certainly appreciated the Twingo's quick and nimble steering. Being rear-wheel-drive, this car has one practical advantage over its front-wheel drive rivals, and that's a tighter turning circle. With no driving axle at the front, the Twingo's front wheels can turn up to 45 degrees, giving the Twingo a London Taxi-rivalling 8.6m turning circle. You'll feel certainly the benefit of this when parking or making a multi-point turn.

Technology

There's a distinct lack of mod-cons in the Twingo, but we'd expect that to be the case at this price. The top-end, £12,465 Dynamique model that we drove requires a £600 "Techno pack" in order to gain a 7in centre console touch screen complete with TomTom navigation and some other multimedia functions. For those unwilling to shell out this extra cash, Renault has an alternative that can be found in the palm of your hand. The firm's R & Go app, available for both Android and iOS devices, connects to your car via BlueTooth.

The R&Go app is a satnav application with CoPilot mapping software

The app is free and, when connected to your car, gives you access to CoPilot GPS mapping software. Buying the Twingo gets you two years of free UK map updates and one year of live traffic updates. CoPilot is a reasonably good satnav replacement, but it has a tendency to mispronounce road and place names, which can prove grating. For A-roads, it pronounces the "A" as "Argh". In order for the satnav to work properly, the radio must be switched on, and in order to hear voice instructions, the volume has to be turned up, even if you're not in the mood for listening to the radio.

The app also hooks into the car's telemetry, giving you more detailed information about how economical your driving is. It also gives you a digital rev counter. Sadly, this rev counter is rendered useless by the half-second delay between reality and the app updating. The app's buttons are large and, most of the time, easy to prod. You can also access your SMS messages and calendar from within the app, although we wouldn't recommend doing this while driving. There's an optional universal smartphone cradle available, which sits in the centre console, but it does obstruct all of the radio station shortcut buttons and also partially obscures the radio station info display and the clock, which seems like a bit of an oversight. Conveniently, the Twingo has a USB charging point so that you don't empty your phone's battery before you reach your destination.

The claimed combined fuel economy is 65.7mph which is slightly below the claimed 71mpg by the equivalent 875cc engine found in the Fiat 500. The Twingo we drove is in insurance group 8 and tax band A, making it fairly cheap to run.

We like the 2014 Renault Twingo. It's a charming car with some handy design features such as the high roofline and high driving position, both of which make it feel like a bigger vehicle. Its rear-wheel-drive layout makes it great for tight city driving and parking, too. We don't think the exterior is as pretty as that of the Fiat 500, but it's great that you can customise it with your own choice of colours. If your budget can stretch to it, you should add the £600 Techno pack, which gives you better speakers, a reversing camera and the 7in touchscreen centre console. If you can't stretch to the Techno pack, the R&Go app is a useful free alternative.

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