Some of our more aged readers will probably remember the Fiat 850 TC, arguably the most well-known rear-engined, rear drive hatch-back ever made; thanks in no small part to an Italian tuning company called Abarth, who breathed so much fire into the little 850’s motor that the bonnet needed to be permanently propped open for extra cooling.
Together with the original Fiat 500, that’s been pretty much it for rear engine hatch-back’s as the revelation of front wheel drive took the motoring world by storm; allowing manufacturers to package the entire drivetrain up front, leaving plenty of room for supposedly more important things, like people and their things.
So it came as a great surprise when Renault revealed the latest generation of their small city runabout, the Twingo, in Geneva last week. The revelation being a 900cc turbo charged motor packed away under the floor of the boot, driving the rear wheels.
In a joint venture with Daimler, Renault has developed a completely new platform that is decidedly unconventional for a modern city car, yet comes with some decidedly brilliant benefits. For example this Twingo is shorter than the last one, but has a lot more interior space. It also benefits from a smaller turning circle than any of its competitors, meaning it’s more nimble and agile in tight spaces – perfect for the city.
Moving away from the revolutionary underpinnings, the Twingo’s styling is somewhat less ground breaking. More like the love child of a Fiat 500 and, according to Renault themselves, the Renault 5. Yet unlike the 500, the Twingo manages avoid being so cute that a bloke would feel silly behind the wheel. I rather like its friendly face and generally uncluttered surface – there’s even a bit of a Clio V6 (see Renault 5 Turbo) look around the back which is a nice touch.
Inside is a contrasting mix of black and glossy white accents that surround the instrument panels, air vents and other bits and bobs around the cabin; while a choice of various coloured fabrics break up the monotone seats and door panels. High spec models will benefit from R-Link, Renault’s in-dash infotainment system from the new Clio, featuring touch screen navigation and media options. R&Go radio will be standard on base models and incorporates a universal smart phone mount; the idea being that customers will download the R&Go app which links to the car via the radio to provide Navigation, Telephone, Trip Computer and Media capabilities.
You’ll often hear people say that a newly launched car is a breath of fresh air in the marketplace; more often than not it’s a load of rubbish. The Twingo however is exactly that; a revolutionary idea that completely breaks preconceived notions of what a city car should be. Unfortunately, Renault South Africa say the Twingo isn’t destined for SA ‘in the near future’. A real pity in my books.
First published in Autodealer KZN