What is it? The Renault Twingo GT is a performance-pitched version of a novel city car.
Key features: Rear engine, rear-wheel-drive, sharp turning circle.
Our view: The Renault Twingo GT offers pace and handling improvements over the standard Twingo, but not to a level that makes it truly sporty.
Type of review: Taster test.
The Renault Twingo has enjoyed a complex history. It started life in 1993 as a quirky city car that could only bought as a left-hand-drive model, then evolved into a somewhat dull if right-hand-drive available second-generation model in 2008.
The third-generation model is a different proposition altogether. Signing a partnership deal with Mercedes-Benz enabled Renault to turn the concept on its head. The third-generation Twingo, closely related to Merc’s smart forfour, combines style and space thanks chiefly to its rear-mounted engine under the boot and the consequent rear-wheel-drive powertrain.
Of course RWD also suggests sporty performance, so it’s no surprise that around 18 months on from the launch of the latest Twingo, we are now getting a GT-badged variant.
Powertrain and Styling
Breathed upon, a little, by the brand’s RenaultSport performance division, the Renault Twingo GT uses the same 898cc three-cylinder petrol engine available in mainstream Twingo models, but modified to free up an extra 20hp, along with 35Nm of extra torque.
Changes to the turbo, uprated fuel and water pumps, revised engine mapping and a new free-flowing twin-silencer exhaust contribute to the power hike. There’s a new air intake too, mounted on the left-rear flank and providing a visual differentiator to other Twingo variants.
The visuals are aided by a styling package evolved from the Renault TwinRun concept first seen at the Monaco GP in 2013. There is a body kit, with side skirts, extended arches and a rear bumper diffuser with the twin exhaust pipes incorporated. The 17-inch alloy wheels are to a bespoke design, as is the ‘Blaze Orange’ metallic paint available as one of the four exterior finish options, and over which are placed RenaultSport graphics.
Inside reflects the image, with detailing to match the exterior colour, part-leather upholstery and more RenaultSport badging. Tinted rear windows are included too.
On the road
So the Twingo GT looks the part, but does it fulfil the role? Well, only partly. On slipping inside one is immediately impressed by the room in what is a small four-seater – that rear-engine layout liberates 33cm more cabin space despite the car being 10cm shorter than the previous Twingo. At 180 litres the boot is smaller though it can be extended by dropping the rear seats.
To go with the engine upgrades the GT has gained changes to its gear ratios, stiffer dampers, a thicker anti-roll bar and 20mm cut from the ride height, while the Electronic Stability Control has been recalibrated for a little more sportiness.
The result is a nippy, rather than quick car. It accelerates smartly, passing 62mph in 9.6 seconds, and will go on to 110mph where allowed, but the GT does not offer the fun, purposeful handling through corners that one might expect with rear-wheel-drive. The steering is too light and indecisive, the car too soggy in its reaction to a challenging corner. It’s better than a standard Twingo, but beaten by rivals such as the Volkswagen up!
Where the GT does impress is in an urban environment. Without driveshafts and such restricting the front wheels, it boasts an impressively-tight turning circle of only 8.6 metres. Combined with that nippiness in the powertrain, this really is a true city car.
The Renault Twingo GT costs a significant £13,755. However it is also the best-specified car in the line-up – based on the top Dynamique trim which already includes such niceties as cruise control, the GT adds auto lights and wipers, cornering fog lights, rear parking sensors and auto climate control.
The Renault Twingo GT goes some way to overcoming the on-the-road limitations of the stock Twingo, in a sporty, stylish package. But with only a warmed-up engine and handling that disappoints for a rear-wheel-drive model, it does not go far enough to be truly regarded as a pocket hot hatch.
Renault Twingo GT – key specifications
Model tested: Renault Twingo GT TCe 110
Price: £13,755 (Twingo range starts £9,545)
On sale: Jan 2017
Engine: 898cc petrol, 110hp, 170Nm
0-62mph and max speed: 9.6 sec, 113mph
Economy and emissions: 54.3mpg, 115g/km
Key rivals: Volkswagen up! TSI, Skoda Citigo
Test date: Feb 2017
The Car Expert Taster Tests are concise summaries of new models to the market, that we have driven for under 50 miles.