Renault Twingo pictures and hands-on

Renault started the supermini revolution back in the late 70s with the classic Renault 5. It did it again with the first generation Twingo in the early 90s - a car that never came to the UK. So it's perhaps not the greatest shock to see the company reinventing the city car with the new, third generation Twingo, as seen at the Geneva Motor Show.

Yes, we know, it hardly looks like a revolution. More - according to most people we spoke to - like the lovechild of a Fiat 500 and a retro-modern Renault 5. Except this one's got five doors. Yet while the looks are hardly smack-you-in-the-face crazy, the design is quite revolutionary.

Developed on a new platform shared with Smart - and likely to be found underneath this Autumn's Smart ForFour - the Twingo tucks its engine under the boot floor and transmits drive to the rear wheels. That's decidedly unconventional for a city car. It means the new Twingo is shorter than the last one, but has more room inside and gets a way better turning circle of just 8.65 metres too. It should be perfect for the city.

It looks good enough to be called cute, too, yet not so cutesy that blokes will feel silly in them. The wheel-at-each-corner stance helps it look suitably planted, while the calm surfacing and gentle, friendly Renault detailing also gives it a lot more appeal than the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108 trio. Throw in some fun colours and graphics and we can see why people might think about trading in their Fiat 500 and Mini for Renault's new baby.

The benefits of Renault's engine layout means that there aren't loads of mechanical bits in the spaces where you typically want to put people. The reality is that it doesn't seem to have been designed to fit anyone over about six feet tall though. One of the reasons this has occurred is because the floor is flat - there's no sill (so that in the future they can do a battery-powered version and put the batteries under there, we suspect) - which means we felt like we had little leg and foot room when sat in the front. And because the engine's underneath the boot floor, the boot itself isn't exactly big either. Probably around the same size as the about-to-be-replaced Mini, though, and no one really seems to care about that being small.

Space issues aside, there is stuff inside to really fall in love with. We love the little Twingo graphic on the door handles. And while it'll be a cheap car to buy, it doesn't feel it. Liberal use of colour and clever grain on the plastics gets the Twingo away from the typical small car Fischer-Price-esque toy-quality issues.

And in the centre stack you can choose from two Renault interfaces. There's R+Go which uses your phone, mounted in a holder projecting off the dash to drive various functions such as music and nav, as well as running Renault-specific applications. Or you can get R-Link Evolution, which is the same touchscreen system you'll find in the Renault Clio, running a TomTom-based navigation system and more.

There's some stuff that'll make you smile in here too, such as the glovebox which doubles as a handbag. Genuinely: you can actually remove it from the car and carry it around.

So unless you're a big bloke who regularly carries lots of people and really needs the space, the Twingo looks like it'll be a really refreshing alternative in the city car segment. It doesn't feel cheap, but it does feel loveable and fun without resorting to outright silliness. And the rear engine - we hear it'll get the snappy 0.9 three-cylinder turbo petrol from the Clio - and rear drive layout means it's got the potential to be great fun to drive, too.

Prices haven't been announced yet, but we'd expect it to sit slightly above the Aygo, C1 and 108 bargain-basement propositions, yet below cars like the Fiat 500, which major on personalisation and premium qualities.

We can't help thinking that could give the Twingo quite a lot of appeal. It's different without being daft, far more innovative and chic than the car it's replacing and extends your choice in this market in an appealing way.

All we need to do know is know how much it'll cost on the road, what it drives like and how it compares - in looks and interior space - to its forthcoming sister car, the Smart ForFour. All will be revealed in time as and when we get our mitts on them for future test drives.



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