There was a time when small rear-engined cars were the rule, rather than the exception.
In the 1950s, the likes of the Beetle, Fiat 500 and Renault 4CV were multi-million sellers that all placed the engine behind the driver.
However, since then, there hasn’t been a mainstream rear-engined, rear-wheel drive small car in Europe since the Hillman Imp went out of production in 1976.
Renault are set to change all of that, though, with the introduction of the third generation Twingo model.
Due to launch in September, the Twingo is the latest step in Renault’s attempt to revamp itself and is looking to tear apart the current small-car market.
Styled similarly to the Twin’Run concept that Renault debuted in Monaco last year, the Twingo features the same cute looks with a flatter face and wide rear wheel arches.
It also comes with a new five-seat, five door layout for the first time in the Twingo’s history, making it easier to get into and more practical. However, it’s definitely the powertrain layout that’s the major talking point for the new model.
According to Renault’s senior vice president of marketing, Michael Van der Sande, the new Twingo is aiming to recapture the spirit of the legendary Renault 5, the last model made by the carmaker with the same rear-engined, rear-wheel drive format.
Produced in two generations from 1972 to 1996 across the world, more than 5.5 million Renault 5’s were produced, and the model gained a well-earned cult status among car enthusiasts.
The Renault 5 became near mythical especially in the motorsport world, particularly amongst rally enthusiasts who used the Renault 5’s drift-friendly layout to swing the car around corners faster than many of its competitors could manage.
If that’s what Renault are aiming to channel for the new Twingo, then there should be no doubt about it; if all things go well, the Twingo could well be the most entertaining small car to drive of recent times.
New Renault Twingo Engines
Full performance specs haven’t been released just yet, but the new Twingo will come with a pair of petrol engine options upon release.
A 89bhp turbocharged three-cylinder engine continues the current trend for downsized but power-boosted units, while there’s also an entry-level 69bhp version that’s naturally aspirated, keeping things firmly fun but frugal.
There are other things that the shift in engine position means for the Twingo, too. For a start, forward visibility is immediately increased. There’s no engine below the bonnet, meaning that the bonnet lid can sit lower than it usually would, boosting the view of the road ahead.
No driveshafts in the front section of the car likewise mean that the wheels can turn further than usual, decreasing the Twingo’s turning circle to just 8.65 meters. That’s around a full meter tighter than the class average and therefore extremely handy for navigating in small city environments.
Sticking the powerplant in the rear of the car also frees up more interior space. Despite the fact that the new Twingo model is 100mm shorter than the outgoing model, interior cabin length has grown by 130mm.
According to the carmaker, 80 per cent of the Twingo’s space is usable by the passengers, meaning that despite its compact nature, there’ll be plenty of room for all members of the family.
What’s more, the Twingo’s boot floor is flat and can carry loads up to 2.2 meters in length. Renault have made a tongue in cheek claim that it’ll be the only car in its class capable of carry bookshelves from a certain Swedish flat-pack furniture retailer.
With better handling, a frugal engine range and additional design highlights including LED daytime running lights, concealed rear door handles and a one-piece glass tailgate, the Twingo could be one of the best new small cars in recent history.
Renault seem to be confident that the Twingo can challenge the monopoly on the market currently held by the Ford Fiesta.
Not only that, but the Twingo could be the most revolutionary small car since the original Mini, which ironically did more than perhaps any other car to kill off the rear-engined small car trend.
It’s also due to be offered in more trim levels than the current model and will debut with a range of four bright and eye-catching colours: red, white, yellow and blue.
Pricing for the new Twingo has yet to be announced, but Renault have said that it will be priced competitively in the A-segment when it comes out in September.