I’m Eternally Jealous of Every Market That Got the Renault Twingo II
It would answer many people's small-car prayers in the US.
The Renault Twingo is one of the brand’s smallest offerings, but it seems like it’s always offered the biggest amount of fun. The second generation, known as the Twingo II, is particularly noteworthy, as it matured in its older years, and some trims got the Renaultsport treatment.
I say seems because we never got them here in America. Renault left the US market in the early ’90s, and it’s not looking like Stellantis, the umbrella company that includes Renault, has any plans of offering anything resembling the Twingo here in the future. That’s a shame, as I believe the Twingo II would be the answer to so many people’s small-car prayers in the US.
The Twingo II, which was made between 2007 and 2014, was a three-door hatchback with a short wheelbase, and it looks cute as hell. It has a curb weight that starts around 2,200 pounds, and engines vary from 1.2-1.6 liters. I’m sure the ultra-base trims are fun in their own way, but the trim I’d absolutely love to drive is the Renaultsport Twingo 133. This version had the 1.6 that made around 130 horsepower, which is more than enough for anything that’s naturally aspirated and weighs less than 2,500 pounds. It also had tuned suspension that was significantly stiffer, some sportier body work, and stickier tires. This is a French three-door version of my Mazda2, just with more power. If the Hiroshima brand ever did a Mazdaspeed version, it’d probably be just like it.
Living Vicariously Through YouTube
My earliest memory of this glorious car, which included me yelling, “God dammit, I wish we got this here!” at the TV was seeing it on the old Top Gear, when Jeremy Clarkson does a sensible review around the city of Belfast:
My interest turned into obsession when I discovered the trove of excellent Twingo track footage on the internet, like of this one chasing a McLaren at the Nurburgring:
Renault gave the Twingo II a mid-cycle refresh, and they were named Phase One and Phase Two. Not much was changed, but I personally prefer the face on the Phase One. Evo loved the hot versions of the Phase Two, so they’ve got to be pretty brilliant, and Renault even offered a stiff Cup chassis, which is my kind of factory option.
“The Cup chassis tightens things up another notch,” Evo said. “It’s perfect for trackdays, but on the road you’ll find yourself pogo-ing in your seat along bumpier tarmac; it can even be a limiting factor on particularly poor surfaces. It’s bearable for the driver (just), but your passengers will complain. A lot. The payback, however, is fabulously instant and accurate responses to your steering inputs.”
Yep, that’s my kind of hot hatch. Well, it only goes from zero to 60 mph in over 8 seconds, so we’ll call it a fairly hot hatch. Life would be so much more fun and easier for track rats, as there would be so many more capable used, cheap cars to choose from. More power than a Honda Fit or Mazda2, yet no forced induction to complicate things or add heat, and great factory suspension options. The 25-year wait is a killer.
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