The absence of a rev-counter is the first sign, upon clambering aboard the Renault Twingo GT, that it may not be a hot hatch in the company’s finest tradition. You can add one, but only via on app on your phone screen.
The tech spec is actually pretty promising. A rear-mounted 0.9-litre three-cylinder turbo engine sends 108bhp to the rear wheels. The well-thumbed book of motoring cliches will tell you that makes it a Porsche 911 Turbo in miniature. And while the same oily bits also sit beneath the Smart ForFour Brabus, the Twingo eschews paddleshifting for a manual gearbox.
Beyond additional power, the changes over a regular Twingo 0.9 include 40 per cent stiffer damping, a 20mm drop in ride height and new 17in alloys wearing bespoke Yokohama tyres. A revised stability control system is said to allow “slight drifts” out of tight corners, but can’t be turned off.
In reality, though, this is no miniature hero like the RenaultSport version of the previous, FWD Twingo. That was a raw but rambunctious little car, an utter joy to drive. In comparison, this GT feels like a Renault Twingo that’s a bit faster. So all of the current Twingo’s positive traits – its canniness in congested traffic, its absurdly tight turning circle (thank rear-wheel drive for that), its pleasantly laid out interior – remain. It’s a chirpy little city car.
But take the GT out of town, onto a bumpy country road, and the stability control will still get itself in a fluster. You’d be hard pushed to tell it’s been retuned, and the only time you’ll feel the slightest bit of movement at the rear axle is with some deliberately yobbish use of first gear. Drive it like you might a regular RWD car, leaning on its (admittedly decent) grip before trying to power neatly out of a corner, and you’ll see a flashing ESP light as torque is taken away as uncouthly as in a standard Twingo.
The Twingo GT is usefully quicker than standard, and there’s still fun to be had. Namely the mischievous kind that overdriving a small, sensible car brings. Hire car fun, basically. But there’s no depth to the GT beyond that. – Hop into one of RenaultSport’s greats, and you instantly know you’re driving something special. Hop into this, and it’s all too apparent you’re not. And not just because there’s no rev-counter.
898cc three-cyl turbo, 5spd manual. RWD, 108bhp, 125Ib ft
54.3mpg, 115g/km CO2
0-62mph in9.6secs, 113mph
Good at being a quick Twingo, not so good at being a hot hatch. Bit of a shame really.