2017 Renault Twingo GT. Rear-mounted engine, rear-wheel drive, more power, and input from Renault Sport… The hottest Twingo ought to be a blast.
There are certain things I could tell you about the Twingo GT that would probably make it sound quite intriguing. It is rear-engined and rear-wheel-drive for one thing, and for another it has been given a good seeingto by the hot-hatch wizards at Renault Sport. But I wouldn’t want to mislead you because, as it turns out, the Twingo GT is much more interesting in concept than it is in reality.
The little Twingo shares its underpinnings with the Smart ForFour. That unusual mechanical layout is not some laudable attempt to channel the spirit of the Porsche 911 into a city car, unfortunately, but instead it’s a clever way of reducing the car’s turning circle (with no engine between the front wheels, they can reach much greater steering angles). Hardly the stuff of a petrolhead’s dreams.
With only 109bhp, the Twingo GT is one of the least powerful cars to carry the Renault Sport badge in the division’s 40-year history, although with just 1001kg to lug around, that needn’t be a deal-breaker. Power from the 898cc, three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine has been increased from 89bhp in the standard model thanks to revised enginemapping and a GT-specific air-vent over the left rear wheel, which feeds cooler air to the intake. With a five-speed manual gearbox, the Twingo GT springs itself to 62mph in 9.6 seconds and tops out at 113mph.
Renault Sport has tweaked the Twingo’s chassis, too, with springs and dampers that are 40 per cent stiffer, a ride height that’s been lowered by 20mm and a thicker front anti-roll bar. The steering, meanwhile, has been revised to give more direct response and the stability control now cuts in a little later – although it can’t be turned off completely – in a bid to make the GT more fun to drive.
The Renault Sport-fettled model also gets 17-inch wheels, twin exhaust pipes and unique graphics. it looks quite cool in a tough-but-cute kind of way and with decent build quality and a good level of standard kit – partleather upholstery, climate control, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control – the cabin is pretty good, too. With much stiffer chassis settings than the base model, the GT does have a firmer ride quality, but not to the point of ruin. What’s more of an issue is the variable-ratio steering, which is so vague and rubbery, despite Renault Sport’s tuning efforts, that you wonder if there’s a small component in there somewhere that’s made of half-chewed liquorice.
You could live with the dull steering if the car were entertaining to drive. Although it’s small and light enough to have an inherent agility and the bespoke Yokohama tyres do offer good grip, the Twingo GT just doesn’t have the poise or balance of Renault Sport’s best small cars. The chassis has been tuned to be very safe at the limit to mitigate the pendulous effects of the rear-engined layout, too, and although the stability control system has been revised for the GT, it still intervenes very early. In fact, it’ll nibble away at the brakes and cut engine torque if you merely turn into a corner with any sort of enthusiasm, which means you could drive the car for mile after mile and never be aware that the power is being sent to the rear wheels.
The Twingo GT can be quite amusing to drive in the same way that any small, low-powered city car can be fun on the open road – maintain momentum and never brake – but it’s a shame Renault Sport hasn’t injected some genuine sporting ability and dynamism into its chassis.
Similarly, the engine labours through its rev-range rather than zipping to the red line, and with no rev counter the only way to be sure you’re using all of the revs – absolutely critical in a small car such as this, of course – is to let it butt into the limiter. At least it has enough straight-line performance to nip its way through urban traffic. Throttle response is much improved over the standard Twingo and the gearshift is quite slick and precise, too.
Ultimately, though, the car’s billing as a GT model rather than a full Renault Sport product tells us everything we need to know. This is not a successor to the hugely entertaining and very capable Twingo 133 of 2008-2013, but instead it’s a slightly quicker, funky-looking alternative to the basic Twingo. Judged that way, the GT is quite an appealing little city runabout.
We’ll never see a full Renault Sport version, sadly, because the rear-engined layout means there’s no room for a bigger engine and there isn’t any more power to be squeezed from this three-cylinder unit. The third-generation Twingo, it seems, will never fulfil the promise of its unusual mechanical layout.
Above and left: ideal for the cut and thrust of city driving, the GT is less well suited to the open road; it’s still fun to be around, though, with neat detailing and plenty of toys.
‘The steering is so vague you wonder if there’s a component made of half-chewed liquorice’
Technical Data Specification #2017-Renault-Twingo-GT
Engine In-line 3-cyl, 898cc, turbo
Power 109bhp @ 5750rpm
Torque 125lb ft @ 2000rpm
0-62mph 9.6sec (claimed)
Top speed 113mph (claimed)
Weight 1001kg (111bhp/ton)
Basic price UK £13,755
+ Funky styling, nippy performance
- Much less fun than a rear-engined Renault Sport-fettled car should be