If there’s one segment other than the SUV/crossover gravy train that’s seen growth in recent years it’s the city car.
There are more options than ever for drivers looking for a small, low-cost runaround to get them from A to B within the city limits and there’s been a quantum leap in terms of the quality of build and equipment on offer in what was – traditionally – a niche, no-frills segment.
Originally only available in left-hand drive, the Renault Twingo is a case in point.
Renault Twingo Dynamique S Energy TCe 90
Price: £13,365 ( £15,045 as tested)
Engine: 900cc, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Top speed: 103mph
CO2 emissions: 99g/km
Now in its third generation, the second generation Twingo to be available in right-hand drive is a far more mature offering than the tinny, Fiat Cinquecento competitor original launched in 1993.
I put the Twingo to test recently and our demonstrator came equipped with air con, part-leather seats and an infotainment system inside, 16-inch alloy wheels and a sporty bodykit outside plus a host of safety equipment like anti-lock brakes and emergency braking assist.
It was a blast to drive round the city. The 900cc, 89bhp engine is ample for a car that can be comfortably parked in a 1960s multi-storey car park with space to spare and the light steering and a class-leading turning circle made negotiating the town traffic a doddle.
Our ‘crystal white’ test car was decorated with orange side decals and contrast wing mirrors and rear spoiler. Combined with the optional front splitter and side skirts, extended wheel arches and diamond cut alloys it all looks pretty sporty. Slap a number on it, cover it in dirt and squint and it might pass for a Group N rally car.
I wouldn’t fancy racing in one though.
While the engine might be positioned toward the rear of the car, that’s where the similarities with a Porsche 911 begin and end. It might excel within the city limits, but the steering is too light, the ride too twitchy to be any fun at speed.
Add to that a liberal amount of body roll thanks to the narrow footprint and tall body and you start to get the picture.
The engine in this car – one of two on offer in the standard Twingo – is a detuned version of the turbocharged unit from the Twingo GT. It’s actually a great fit for the car but if you rev it hard – as you will if you take it onto the motorway – it’s too noisy, the whine from the turbo grating in what is a relatively lightweight feeling cabin.
Youthful looks and a fairly comfortable cabin under normal conditions can’t mask that the Twingo lacks the ‘big car feel’ you get from other cars in the class like the Kia Picanto.
It also lags behind in terms of boot space, 219 litres compared with 255l in a Picanto and 251l in a Skoda Citigo.
The Twingo is one of the best looking cars in its class in my book and it works great in an urban environment, which is where it is designed for. The problem is, in a segment that’s made great strides in recent years, many of its competitors – the aforementioned Kia and Skoda to name two – work brilliantly everywhere else too.