Once upon a time, the ancestors of the Renault Twingo stalked the earth. Small hatchbacks were the order of the day for mass-market motoring in the 1980s and 90s and the market leaders were built to a budget, eschewing fripperies for hard-edged function, lightness and simplicity.
Two decades later and a great deal has changed. For a start, the European small car market is dominated by ’premium’ brands, upstart models that build on iconic designs and names to lure in the punters and drive prices into a more profitable place. The market for rock bottom motoring long ago gave over to the Korean manufacturers, and within a few years China will be playing the same game, churning out bare minimum cars for those sensible people who chose to care nothing of branding.
Renault know budget all too well, and the company’s Roman sub-brand Dacia builds about the cheapest cars in Europe, without losing sight of clean, simple designs. In a sense, Dacia has inherited Renault’s genetic predilection for small, light cars that it developed in the 1960s and 70s with the Renaults 4 and 5, and then on through a host of other modest family models that came to define the French motoring experience.
Back in the early 1990s, Renault recaptured something of that original flavour with the first Twingo, a deliberately cutesy city car inspired by a long-forgotten Polish hatchback, but styled up with chunky detailing inside and out. It was a cult hit, despite being largely confined to mainland Europe.
A few years ago, the company revived the Twingo name, penning an all-new small car that didn’t have same pint-sized verve as the original. That car was face lifted late last year and has been on sale in the UK for a few months, offered with a plentiful array of options in order to scoop up the burgeoning trend for distinctive, small scale city cars.
Renault are even planning on bringing an electric Twingo to the party, the Twingo Z.E., to add to their burgeoning line-up of pure EVs. Together with sister company Nissan, Renault is making the most noise about all-electric propulsion, from their diminutive commuter car, the new Twizy through to the Fluence Z.E. Saloon.
Right now, however, it feels like a conventionally powered Twingo sits at the tipping point of electric automotion’s practicality. When the base car is as simple and frugal as this, what real justification is there for the added weight and expense of batteries?