25 Mar 2013

Driven - Renaultsport Twingo 133

Matt Hubbard reviews the Renaultsport Twingo 133.  Renault's tiny hatchback that's been breathed on by the Renaultsport outfit - and not too convincingly

The Twingo is a strange looking little beast from the front.  All Tusken Raider eyes and bulldog underbite.  In the deep red the test car was presented in it looked small and feisty and up for a fight, like the shortest member of the Top Gear trio.  It makes up for it's lack of size by shouting "look at me" with it's black wheels, grille and rear spoiler.

I tweeted some photos.  The responses were generally uncomplimentary.  I quite like it's looks.  Can't please everybody.

Despite it's size and short wheelbase the Twingo feels pretty spacious inside, thanks in part to Renaultsport's comfortable and supportive seats providing decent seating for four.  The front occupants sit at elbow bashing proximity but those in the back have plenty of room for such a tiny car.  As a result of those in the rear having knee room the boot is tiny.

The trim and materials used in the Twingo 133 look and feel pretty plush for a £13,500 hatchback.  The  steering wheel in particular is typical Renaulsports - thickly clad in leather and adorned with some fine stitchwork.  The seats feel good to sit in but the white edging will soon start to discolour.

The dash is pretty spartan, with a large rev counter directly in front of the driver, and a display in the centre (but angled toward the driver) that looks like it was taken from an 80s SciFi film set.

On the road is where the Twingo 133 starts to lose it's appeal.  The engine is a 1.6 litre with, you guessed it, 133bhp but it doesn't feel it.  0-60mph is completed in 8.7 seconds but, again, it doesn't feel it.  In fact the engine feels more like a tuned 0.9 TCe than a 1.6 with variable valve timing.  You have to push it hard to get any kind of performance out of it, which makes for a rather strenuous experience.

The manual gearbox is good.  Renault make great gearboxes now, with the units in the new Clio and Dacia Sandero being particularly crisp.  It snicks into gear with a short throw quite nicely.

Chuck the Twingo 133 into a corner, brakes applied until the last milli-second, and the old cliche 'you can't beat the laws of physics' comes into play.  The car has such a short wheelbase that it feels like it's going swap ends going into the corner.  Renaultsport's engineers may be talented but even they can't make a car so short handle well at the limit.

Stay at sensible speeds and don't try to throttle it and the Twingo is quite a nice handling little car with a decent ride, but venture beyond and fun is replaced with fear.  Which kind of misses the point of a hot hatch.

The Twingo 133 stops well though.  The brakes have plenty of feel and great stopping power.

The Twingo is a decent, small hatchback.  For £10,000 you can buy a 75bhp 1.2.  The hot hatch Renaultsport version may be slightly over-egging the pudding.


Price - £13,565
Engine - 1.6 litre, inline 4, VVT
Transmission - 5 speed manual, FWD
Power - 133bhp
Torque - 118lb ft
Weight - 1120kg
0-60mph - 8.7 seconds
Top speed - 125mph
Fuel consumption - 43.5mpg combined