Road test: Renault Twingo GT TCe 110

  • Rear engine and rear-wheel drive are a USP in the hot hatch class
  • Zippy performance, great steering and terrific turning circle 
  • Limited boot space, overprotective stability system rob it of fun

Here's something a bit interesting: a rear-engined, rear-wheel drive hot hatchback - something we have not seen for a very long time. To create it, Renault has taken its Twingo city car, and given it a little more va-va voom via its Renault Sport division.

The question is: does 110hp turn the snub-nosed five-door into a baby Porsche 911 it shares its engine layout with? One thing's for sure, the Twingo GT arrives in the middle of a golden age for hot hatchbacks. But while there's lots of attention on the 300bhp-plus top end, there aren't so many options if you're on a budget and still enjoy a good time.

Sidestepping some talented rivals

Before we raise your hopes too much, we should say that the Twingo GT is more warm, than hot hatchback. It will be the most powerful production Twingo you can buy, though, mainly because Renault can't fit anything larger than the 898cc three-cylinder power unit under its engine cover.

Despite that, you can't help but admire the concept, especially as it means the GT has no direct rivals. It looks the part, with a lovely set of 17in alloys (above), side skirts, eye-catching (but optional) go-faster stripes, and a cheeky little turbo air intake on the rear flank. Subtle, but striking.

Sportingly equipped on the inside, too

The interior looks the part too, and you can't argue with the amount of room you get upfront. There's plenty of headroom, and although elbow room is a tad tight, it's perfectly acceptable for a city car. You can't say the same for the cramped pedal box, which for drivers with big feet can be annoying on longer runs. And rear seat passengers aren't so lucky, where head and legroom are tight.

It's well equipped for the £13,755 the standard car costs. The most notable standard kit includes:

  • Rear parking sensors
  • Cruise control
  • 17-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels
  • Twin chrome exhaust pipes
  • Automatic climate control
  • Alloy gear knob and aluminium pedals
  • Sat-nav
  • Automatic headlights and windscreen wipers

It should be a cheap car to run, with a real world average consumption figure over a typical weekend's driving working out at 41mpg. That compares with the official combined fuel consumption figure of 54.3mpg. CO2 output is 115g/km, which at the time of writing will cost you £20 per year to tax, and puts it in the 20% BIK band.

Our car was optioned with the following additional features, bringing the total price up to £15,200:

  • Blaze Orange paint (£625)
  • GT roof and bonnet decal (£200)
  • Techno Pack R-Link, which adds a parking camera, Bluetooth, upgraded audio, and hands-free phone on 7.0-inch screen (£600)

Does it perform like a GT should?

As soon as you fire it up, you'll be put in the right mood. A freer-breathing twin-tipped exhaust gives it a bassy note, and once underway, you feel the extra urge from the additional 20hp immediately. It sounds great when you put your foot down - the little three-cylinder thrumming busily behind you (like a baby 911) without being too intrusive.

It revs freely, and the throttle responds instantly. The gearing has been lowered, and the engine pulls responsively at low speeds, meaning it's on the boil more of the time, and eager to get on with it. Acceleration isn't earth shattering, with a quoted 0-62mph time of 9.6 seconds - but most of the time, away from the motorway, it feels more than quick enough.

Does the rear engine give it exciting handling?

Initially, it feels impressive. The speed-sensitive steering is nicely weighted and has impressive response. If you're used to the standard Twingo, the GT's steering is a bit of a revelation. In town, you'll love the tiny turning circle the rear-engined layout lends it, but it's when you start to drive it more enthusiastically that things fall apart a little.

With its 20mm-lowered suspension, new dampers and thicker front anti-roll bar, the GT should have excellent handling. It's stiffer all round, but still has a comfortable ride. There is a fair degree of pitching on lumpier roads, though, which means you'll always be aware you're in a small car.

In corners, there’s a little more body roll than you might expect, although it always feels precise and in control. But it never inspires, and more worryingly, if the road conditions aren't perfect and you're heavy with your right foot, the overly-intrusive ESC system will be flicking on and off far too often. It’s safe, but frustrating if you're a keen driver.

Verdict

Given the non-sporting nature of the car it's based on, Renault has done a good job of adding some pizzaz to the Twingo in making the GT. It's hugely likeable, and one that you might end up buying for irrational reasons. It's quick enough, good value, steers nicely, and sounds great - but ultimately, it's flawed dynamically.

There are also some very capable cars that you might want to look at instead. The Suzuki Swift Sport and Ford Fiesta ST Line - both which are soon to be replaced, and therefore, likely to be subject to some great deals - will drive the socks off the Twingo GT. It's definitely no baby 911, but it is a great city car capable of cutting a dash in the country.