By Andy Enright
Renault's Twingo has carved a reputation for itself as possibly the most fun and irrepressible of all citycars. We didn't get the original one-box model that established the badge in Europe but we did get the second generation car and British buyers took it to their hearts, its introduction coinciding with a golden generation of Renault hatches. Here's what to look for when tracking down one of the facelifted second-generation Twingos, available between late 2011 and mid-2014.
The second-generation Twingo had already been on sale for four years by the time it was finally revised by Renault. Opinions differed at the time as to the effectiveness of the exterior styling work, but it certainly changed a car that was starting to look a little old into one that was hard to ignore. With great bulging auxiliary lighting pods sitting inboard of the main headlamp units, the somewhat frog-faced Twingo couldn't ever be mistaken for its far more conventional predecessor.
When it first appeared, you had the conundrum of deciding which model to choose. Fortunately this wasn't the most taxing assignment as there was only one car; a 1.2-litre Dynamique version that would set you back the princely sum of £10,350 on the road. To help augment its chances, its importers threw in the Renault 4+ programme which offered retail customers a comprehensive four-year/100,000 mile warranty, free routine servicing for four years/48,000 miles, four years roadside cover and up to four years finance (lease or PCP, subject to status).
A Renaultsport Twingo 133 model arrived in UK dealers in June 2012. By August 2013, Renault UK were putting the word out that they had just six new cars left in stock and these were rapidly snapped up ahead of an all-new rear-engined replacement arriving in 2014.
What You Get
The Twingo was treated to quite a radical piece of cosmetic surgery in updated MK2 guise. The rather bland face of the old car was replaced by something a lot busier. The massive sidelights that bulge from the edge of the front grille are almost Nissan Juke-like, while the headlights got a set of eyelid-type mouldings that give it a sleepy-eyed look. At the back, there was a new bumper and light clusters and Renault's wheel designers must have been caning the overtime with 17 different designs for alloy rims and wheel trims. The front end of the Renaultsport model is quite a piece of work. It looks as if three separate proposals have all been incorporated. Less can be more.
The cabin demonstrated Renault's aim to improve perceived quality with some interesting uses of colour and material. The seats feature smart patterns, with edging picked out in contrasting colours. All stitching, like the leather and side panels, is coordinated. The colours also feature on the door inserts and climate control and heater system controls. It gives the car a more considered and upmarket feel than the surprisingly bland finish of its predecessor. The two rear seats can slide 220mm fore and aft to prioritise space for either people or luggage and they also fold flat and then tumble forwards, offering up to 959-litres of space in this guise.
The Renaultsport version got a smarter four-light front grille design and a front bumper incorporating what Renault calls an 'F1 blade'. At the rear, this hot Twingo featured a revised double-cluster light arrangement and is set apart by its black spoiler, a bumper design that builds in a diffuser and aerodynamic wheel arch extensions.
What to Look For
The Twingo is a tough little thing. The interior plastics don't look particularly substantial but they can shrug off some punishment, likewise the seat fabrics. Germany's ADAC organisation considers Twingo's reliability to have ranged from 'good' to 'excellent' for several years. Meanwhile, the French magazine L'Automobile Magazine put it first in its class for the second consecutive year in its overall quality ranking published in February 2011. Perhaps we can file that one under "Well they would, wouldn't they?" The Renaultsport 133 is a bit more of an involved proposition than a simple 1.2-litre Dynamique. Check HPI records, look for non-recorded accident damage, check the tyre tread wear for misalignment and make sure the clutch, brakes and tyres aren't waving the white flag. The consensus seems to be that these Twingos are hardy but steering racks can go on the fritz if the car has had a hard life and the standard suspension bushings can also need replacing sooner than many owners realise.
(approx based on a 2013 Twingo Renaultsport 133) Day to day consumables for the Twingo are in line with what you'd expect. An air filter is around £7, spark plugs are £9, whilst an oil filter is around £11 and a fuel filter £18. Tyres are around £95 per corner.
On the Road
Since diesel power generally makes sense only for larger superminis, the Twingo emphasis is, not surprisingly, on petrol power. The 1.2-litre engine is borrowed largely from the previous generation Clio. Electric variable power steering is fitted as standard, and while the 1149cc engine only manages 75PS, it's enough to punt this lightweight car to 62mph in 12.3 seconds and on to a top speed of 105mph. A combined fuel economy figure of 60.1mpg isn't going to sting too badly on the forecourt while emissions of 108g/km won't land you with a headache when it comes to re-tax the Twingo.
This Twingo concentrated on refreshing the look and feel of the car and Renault left the chassis and engines unchanged. This means you can expect a pleasantly urgent driving experience in the kind of urban areas where it will be predominantly used. The ride isn't the crash, bang, wallop affair served up by some small cars and is actually very composed on bad surfaces. It's good fun to chuck about too, changing direction promptly and able to corner with the best city car offerings in a way that makes you keen to try the top of the range Renaultsport 133 model.
The '133' is anything but your average warmed over shopping trolley, something you realise as soon as a twist of the ignition key rewards you with a decidedly rude exhaust note. It's a promise this car makes good on as soon as you bring on your favourite B road. In the unlikely event that you happen to have a go-kart track in your back garden, then one of these will be just about perfect. So yes, it takes you back to those late, great hot hatches of the Eighties and Nineties - Renault's own 5 GT Turbo for example - and yes, just like those cars, in this Cup chassis version at least, you feel every bump, ridge and pothole. There is, in short, a price to pay for your pleasures but it's one true hot hatch enthusiasts won't mind paying. You flip from lock to lock with merely a flick of the wrist, the steering response instant, the throttle response quick, the gearchange sweet. No, the 133PS that the badgework promises isn't a great deal but then, this car does weigh just 1050kgs, so you don't actually need that much grunt to get this little skateboard going quite indecently fast.
Most original buyers chose the optional Cup chassis which gives the car a 4mm lower ride height, 10% stiffer springs and dampers and 17" Renaultsport alloy wheels shod with grippy Continental Sport Contact3 tyres. None of this of course does anything for this little Twingo's outright speed (rest to sixty two in 8.7s en route to 125mph) but if you've an empty, twisting road to play on, it does make getting there a heck of a lot more fun.
The second generation Twingo will be remembered as a genuine cracker of a citycar. Lacking the rear wheel drive technical sophistication of its MK3 successor, it simply remembered that its prime purpose in life was to make you smile while keeping a timely cap on costs.
The later facelifted MK2 models we've been considering here continue with that sparkle but add an extra dash of quality to the Gallic city scoot recipe. True bargain hunters may like to wait a little while before taking the plunge on a used example but if you're looking for an entertaining tot without too much leg on the clock, a used Twingo makes all sorts of sense.