What is it?
The Renault Twingo 133 is the smallest Renaultsport car available, though not for long. After five years on sale the little hot hatch is being discontinued, relatively small sales of around 250 cars per year in the UK and an impending new Twingo base model putting paid to its appearance on the price lists. It’s powered by a 131bhp naturally aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, and with a handful left in Renault dealers, prices start at £13,765.
The Twingo received a facelift in 2012, with a new front-end design to bring the looks into line with the rest of the Renaultsport range, new light clusters and a bigger spoiler at the rear, some tweaks to the interior, and the addition of Liquid Yellow paint to the options list (albeit at £1300!).
Mechanically, the car is pretty much as before, although its emissions have been cleaned up a smidgeon, falling from 155g/km to 150. Claimed power and torque are unchanged at 131bhp and 118lb ft respectively.
If that’s not enough for you – and despite the Twingo’s skinny 1050kg weight, some may think those numbers too titchy – established Renault tuner K-Tec will fettle the Twingo for an extra £2625. There’s a new exhaust system, including K-Tec’s own tubular manifold, replacing Renaultsport’s intricate bunch-of-bananas design.
Added to that is a Cat Cams camshaft and a software remap, all of which endows the Twingo RS with 163bhp at 7050rpm and 142lb ft @ 4250rpm, gains of 32bhp and 24lb ft. The package can be applied to pre- or post-facelift Twingos and provides a 158bhp/ton power-to-weight ratio, just 8bhp shy of the much-loved RS Clio 200.
What’s it like to drive?
That depends on whether you spec the £700 Cup chassis or not. Without it, the 133 has a nicely judged suspension set-up for a modern junior hot hatch. It feels sporty, generates plenty of grip and allows you to make the most of the modest performance on offer.
The Cup chassis tightens things up another notch. 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.
On both set-ups the Renault Twingo 133’s light 1050kg kerb weight is obvious, helping the brakes feel strong (despite looking tiny), and ensuring brisk acceleration (0-62mph takes 8.7sec). The shift action from fourth to fifth is a bit obstructive, though – we’ve experienced this on two different cars, suggesting it’s normal.
The K-Tec Twingo feels quicker than standard but not by the advertised 32bhp and it certainly never has the bite of a Clio despite what the power-to-weight ratio says. The more aggressive camshaft also brings a pronounced flatspot from 2300-2800rpm or so, which is a bit of a pain in everyday driving.
Admittedly, as the engine doesn’t really get going until after 3000rpm it’s less of an issue when you’re enjoying a quiet road and from about 4500rpm it definitely pulls harder than the standard car. Apart from that the inherent Twingo qualities shine through – sweet steering, good traction, adjustable balance, slight instability on the brakes (and too much ABS intervention) and a lumpy, physical ride. Added to one of the bargain, £5000 used Twingos on the market, it looks like an enjoyable upgrade.
How does it compare?
The Renaultsport Twingo 133’s most obvious rival is the Suzuki Swift Sport. Although the Renault is now well equipped as standard, with manual air conditioning, Bluetooth, cruise control, electric door mirrors and a USB socket for iPods and the like, the Swift – which is £16 cheaper – tops this with keyless go, a six-speed gearbox, automatic air con and xenon headlamps also on its standard kit list.
The 134bhp Swift is a great drive too. In fact it beat the Twingo in a recent evo twin test, although it must be said that some in the evo office still prefer the more hardcore Twingo.
The 120bhp, £14,900 Mini Cooper is another rival worth considering, while a barely used 197bhp Renaultsport Clio 200 would make an interesting alternative.
Anything else I need to know?
The Twingo 133 with the Cup chassis was half a second quicker than the Suzuki Swift Sport around a lap of the Bedford Autodrome’s West Circuit when we timed the two. Not that lap times are everything, you understand…
And if you want an RS Twingo, we'd advise you to rush to a showroom and grab one rather than hang around for its replacement. That won't appear for at least a year, and while it will be based on the rear-engine, rear-drive Twingo 3, it might not be as wild as that recipe suggests, sharing its platform with the next Smart and using a small capacity turbo engine rather than the rev-tastic 1.6 in the outgoing car. It should still be fun, but in quite a different way.