The Mk1 Twingo was never fed through the Renault Sport machine, but its successor thankfully was, providing the Renault Sport Twingo RS. Built to attract a younger demographic, the junior RS model had to balance performance with affordable running and insurance costs.
Performance was thus modest, with 131bhp and 118lb ft of torque on tap courtesy of a free-revving, naturally aspirated 1.6-litre four-pot. That said, weighing little more than a tonne the Twingo scurried from 0-62mph in 8.7sec with a pleasingly rorty soundtrack. The chassis was a peach too, offering adjustability with sweet steering and good traction.
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Outside, new wheel arch and sill extensions lent the Twingo a sportier stance and covered the 40mm-wider track, while inside sport seats and a shift-light on the rev-counter were welcome additions over the standard car. Three derivatives were offered from launch: the regular 133 Sport had 16-inch alloys, a tinted rear-screen, manual air con and split-folding rear seats. You could also spec the car with a lower and stiffer Cup chassis, adding £650 to the basic £11,550 list price. Alternatively, you could have the 133 Cup, equipped with the Cup chassis and put on a strict diet ditching the air con and split-folding rear-seats.
We weren’t totally convinced by the Cup chassis; on smooth roads at the launch it seemed mad not to spec it, but back home on nuggety back roads the Cup bucked and bounced unsettlingly, whereas the longer-legged setup of the standard model was better judged for gnarly B-roads where you’d hope the Cup would excel. Mind you, ESP deactivated, the Cup makes a brilliant track day companion.
The Twingo was lightly refreshed in 2012 to maintain the Renault Sport family resemblance, gaining a bigger rear spoiler, a few interior changes and the introduction of Liquid Yellow paint to the options list (£1300). The mechanicals went unchanged while the price rose to £13,565.
Renault rolled out two special editions of the Twingo RS, the first of which was the Silverstone. It was only available as a pre-facelift model and limited to just 50 units, all in Cup spec finished in a silver/black colour scheme and equipped with a new stainless steel exhaust system. The Gordini, which featured pre- and post-facelift, and was laden with all available options plus leather and stripes.
The Twingo RS wasn’t an overwhelming sales success in the UK (its biggest year was 2009 with around 300 sold), but with the third generation Twingo yet to feature an RS model the only hot Twingo to date is the only way to enjoy RS thrills in a tiny scale.
|Engine||In-line 4-cyl, 1598cc|
|Max power||131bhp @ 6750rpm|
|Max torque||118lb ft @ 4400rpm|
|Transmission||Five-speed manual,front-wheel drive|
|Top speed||127mph (claimed)|
|Price new||£11,550 (2008)|
Engine and transmission
The 1.6-litre four-pot, lifted from the third generation Renault Clio, was uprated with more aggressive cams, a higher compression ratio and a revised intake and exhaust. Mike Mardin of specialist Rentech says it’s reliable on the whole, provided owners have kept up with scheduled maintenance – service intervals are every 12,000 miles or annually. The first major service is due at six years or 72,000 miles and it’s a labour intensive job, seeing the cambelt, water pump, filters and plugs all replaced – Rentech charges about £750. Skip it and an engine failure beckons.
Sportier exhausts and induction kits accentuate the engine’s sound but offer minimal power gains due to the engine’s naturally aspirated state. Renault Sport specialist K-Tec offer a tuning package with a bespoke exhaust system and Cat Cams camshaft, both optimised with an ECU remap. K-Tec claims 163bhp at 7050rpm and 142lb ft at 4250rpm, gains of 32bhp and 24lb ft. The extra power is noticeable and welcome, but comes at a hefty price of £2600.
Make sure the engine idles smoothly and revs cleanly, as you’ll need to charge for the red line to extract all the performance according to Mike, ‘You really have to rev the nuts off it’. If it’s not revving freely, the culprit is likely to be a knackered coil pack that needs replacing – an inexpensive fix.
Suspension, steering and brakes
The lower-arm ball joints are the Twingo RS’s biggest weakness, according to Mike, and when they go you have to replace the whole lower front lower suspension arm. It’s not hugely expensive, £250 all-in, but it’s a regular issue, so keep an ear out for clunks or knocks on the test drive.
If you come across a Cup chassis test it on a variety of road types and surfaces. The handling is excellent but the ride is jarring and only for the most committed. ‘For me, it has to be the Cup,’ says Mike. ‘The 133 is a bit underpowered, so it’s the handling that makes it fun.’ Mike only parted with his Cup due to refinement, ‘The only reason I got rid of mine was the road noise,’ says Mike. ‘As I get older, I appreciate a bit more refinement!’
Cup and standard wheels are interchangeable, so look for a purple patch code on the rear dampers and springs for Cup authentication.
Body, interior and electronics
Boot-releases are known to fail with water ingress being the typical cause, but they’re cheap to change. Check the footwells for dampness too, water can bypass the scuttle panel finding its way inside.
It goes without saying but test all the electronics work including the air con. The Twingo is better here compared to other Renaults, but the LCD displays can fade and new units cost hundreds.
Prices for Renault parts – cheaper alternatives are available through ren-tech.co.uk. Tyre price from blackcircles.com. All prices include VAT but exclude fitting charges and are correct at the time of publishing.
|Tyres (each)||£85.75 (205/140 R17ContiSportContact 5)|
|Damper (Cup)||£202.04 front,£496.54 rear|
Prices from ren-tech.co.uk, including VAT, Servicing every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever arrives sooner. Prices are correct at the time of publishing.
|Majorservice(6 yearsor 72,000miles)||c£750|