Tuesday 10 December 2019

Two sides of the Twingo get me into a tight spot

The Renault Twingo: great to park, but lacks vanity mirror for those pit stops
The Renault Twingo: great to park, but lacks vanity mirror for those pit stops
At the wheel: the Twingo starts at €13,990
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

No, it was impossible. No way could I park there. But it was dark, wet, I was late for an event. So desperation prevailed. I tried to convince myself I'd manage to get into the tiniest little parking spot you've ever seen.

Five twirls of the Renault Twingo's steering wheel later and I was in. I don't know how. I don't think I'd have done it with any other car. I could only do it because the Twingo's turning circle is extraordinarily tight.

And that's because the front wheels have no load/block on them. The engine is in the rear and the back wheels do the driving. That leaves the front wheels free to turn 45 degrees. I felt my car could swivel on a euro coin (it costs nearly 14,000 of them).

However, I'm not sure I'd steer you towards it with mad enthusiasm. I feel the pirouette steering effect comes at a cost.

First things first, however. I like the look of this 5dr city car. It never stopped reminding me of the great old Renault 5 Turbo.

There was much more room than its conservative dimensions suggested possible; it's 10cm shorter (at 3.59 metres) than the old one but with a 12cm longer (2.49 metres) wheelbase you get 33cm more cabin space. I noticed. I liked the cabin; minimalist but smart.

As I say, the Twingo is different from the rest - because the engine is at the back and the rear wheels provide the impetus.

The 3cyl 70bhp (non-turbo) engine worked hard and was fine for around town. But it, and a lot of tyre/road noise, did intrude - so much so I regularly had to increase the radio volume.

Your small (188-litre) boot is over that rear engine. Fold the back seats and you get 980 litres. There's a folding front passenger seat too.

Wondering what the shopping would be like with all that heat coming from underneath? Well the cover was warmer alright, but it didn't noticeably affect the shopping-bag contents.

I couldn't help but be cheered up by how easy it was to get around in. The weather was awful; so few parking places and so little room. Ideal.

Now for the mad/quirky/off-beat/frustrating bits. To dip the engine for oil, you have to undo six screws/bolts to lift the cover. Hello? Cars are supposed to be more, not less, user friendly.

Okay, you can argue dipping for oil is something you can get your garage to do. Don't agree. It's basic maintenance/checking. Other than that the cover shouldn't need to come off too often as servicing is just once a year or 20,000km.

But I could use the rest of the page telling you what to do out front just to check the battery or replenish the windscreen fluid. You need your ignition key to 'unlock' the grille, find two sort-of-hinges, pull, lift and …. I just hope it's nice and dry whenever you do it. And I hope you have patience. I don't.

If you can live with that then you don't need any more from me because the Twingo has got you. In my more reasonable/stable moments I could see why. Mind you, my daughter pointedly noted the absence of a vanity mirror on her front-passenger-side sun visor (and the lack of a grab handle). I could chip in too by saying it's a bit pricier than rivals such as the Peugeot 108, Toyota Aygo, Volkswagen up!, Hyundai i10, Fiat Panda, Citroen C1, etc.

However, there was another big plus. The engine. It hardly sipped a drop of petrol over what was a week of rushing into, and out of, town in wet/windy conditions. Normally I'd notice a gauge moving a chunk early on. Not with this. Remarkably frugal, I have to say. And I worked it hard. For once I believe official figures. My version (without Stop/Start) is claimed to do 4.5 l/100km (62.8mpg). Phenomenal for a car on short journeys in lower gears.

I also really liked the comfortable seats and made use of several little storage spaces around the cabin.

I couldn't help being fond of the Twingo in many ways. But some of its awkward elements dimmed my views.

Lowdown on the Renault Twingo

Twingo SCe 70, Pacific Blue 'Play' trim, 1-litre petrol (70bhp, 105g/km, €190 road tax).

Price: €14,590; range starts at €13,990. Remember delivery and related charges are extra.

Standard equipment includes four airbags, LED daytime running lights, electric power steering, electric front windows, Hill start assist, speed limiter. My version also had cruise control with speed limiter, rear spoiler, body coloured door mirrors, 50:50 foldable rear bench, DAB radio with R&GO, height adjustable driver seat and two-tone 15ins wheel trims.

Dynamic (top) trim has front fogs, electric/heated door mirror, lane departure warning and white instrument backing.

Options include electric panoramic sunroof, rear parking sensors and personalisation packs.

My side of the road

I'D say if I learned anything these past few weeks it is that many of us are 'fair-weather' drivers.

As soon as we have to cope with heavy rain or wind some of us lose the plot. Especially those in big cars and SUVs.

They plough on, splattering and splashing everything in their wake with no thought for those of us in small cars whose visibility they destroy with their incessant sprays of water.

It happens every time. No consideration for other road users. Or for pedestrians waiting for a bus or to cross at the lights. Lord, I saw a couple of schoolgirls get an awful dousing last week.

Can people not just slow down, take it easier? Some, seemingly, can't. Especially on motorways where, in the past two weeks, I've been hounded by big SUV drivers.

I can take it. I just feel for those who can't; those whose concentration is shattered by such atrocious behaviour.

Let me know your thoughts or experiences?

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