I never wanted to be the kind of woman who would only drive a tiny car. At 17, I had visions of transporting myself in lanky great Merc or, lottery win permitting, Lexuses.
But more than a decade of living in London, astronomical insurance premiums on my husband’s car for his journalist wife (what do insurers think hacks get up to? I sit quietly in front of a computer for 11 hours a day; fat chance I’d ever get involved in high-speed pursuit in the name of reporting) and no sign of a winning ticket, I flinch at the prospect of a Chelsea tractor and when offered a car to review, ask for something, you know, small, to tool around town in.
So I took timorous possession of a Twingo. It was the RenaultSport 133 Silverstone GP Limited Edition, which wasn’t too shaming, but it did have a wince-making name and was certainly very compact.
As you’d hope from its Silverstone moniker and racing red seatbelts (as well as its impressive engine to size ratio), the Twingo is a sporty little beast. The model I drove is one of 50 special-edition models (you get some internal and external design flourishes, an onboard performance tracking system and a RenaultSport track day experience at the Silverstone circuit to put it through its paces), but the standard model is very similar, though priced at £12,960 on the road.
On the plus side, its sportiness means that it’s perfect for pulling away at a lick from traffic lights and nipping hither and yon where congestion allows. But while its brakes are hilariously responsive, to the point of making passengers bounce in their seats, the smoothness of the ride was startling in its total, utter absence. I’d been warned by an in-the-know friend that the suspension would be “sporty” but I didn’t realise this meant that taking speed bumps at anything more than 2mph would be downright painful.
However, once on the open A-roads the car felt solid but speedy and I would have been happy to tackle a lengthy motorway drive in it. As it was, the RenaultSport took me from city to suburbs, via country lanes and a field-based car boot sale with aplomb. Its seemingly titchy boot happily held a weekly supermarket shop while the interior housed my husband, stepchild, her car seat, weekend bags and dreaded viola without feeling overloaded.
Its compact size meant parking – and avoiding the myriad cyclists in central London – was a breeze. While it was no Mini (the small car it’s definitely OK to love), I didn’t think RenaultSport was girly in the way that, say, the super-cute Fiat 500s can be, but a male colleague who drove it complained that his knuckles scraped the seatbelt holster every time he put the handbrake on. I didn’t suffer from the same problem, so either his Neanderthal hands are to blame or the Twingo really is designed for fairer drivers.
Either way, I was sad to see my sporty super-mini go – a bumpy ride aside, I found it small but, almost, perfectly formed. A great little city car if you live somewhere without speed bumps.
RENAULT TWINGO RENAULTSPORT 133 SILVERSTONE GP LTD ED
Engine capacity: 1.6 (131 bhp)
op speed (mph): 125 0-62 mph (seconds): 8.7
Fuel economy (mpg): 42.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 155