The Twingo is celebrating its 20th birthday and many people the world over are celebrating and reminiscing of times gone by in what was a car that dared to stand out in a staid market accustomed to treating A-segment buyers as second class. Renault came along and actualized Patrick Le Quément’s vision, and in the process, created a legend.
The biggest reason the first generation Twingo was so popular and successful was that basically Renault took a minivan layout and used it on a very small platform. As such, the car had some of the solutions found in minivans, such as their space efficiency, and flexible seating, and put it all into a very small car. At a time when French people travelled and oftentimes slept in their car, the front seats could be laid all the way back and make two pretty comfy beds as it fit perfectly into the back seats.
The engines, especially the 1.2, was quite refined for the time and could move the car with a semblance of gusto all the while returning good mileage In much of the world, this is important, as gas guzzling is never a virtue and is often a major deal breaker. Getting wider tyres also solved some off its dynamic limitations, specially at high speeds. Add to the mix Renault’s traditional competence of making soft yet competent suspension systems and a veritable myth was born.
Although we regard the Twingo as something of a milestone for automotive design now, the initial reaction was highly polarizing – months ago, I likened it to the Cherokee’s design in an article about it for TTAC. It was a polarizing design that at first shocked then delighted most consumers. Positively refreshing for the times. The cars being available in all sorts of internal and external colors only helped its cause.
It might be hard to understand the Twingo from a North American perspective, but it was an almost ideal solution for a particular point in time, in a country and a continent where it made all sorts of sense. What’s more, it was successfully exported and built in many other places, proving once again that the world at large prefers, needs and wants this kind of car over any kind of superlative automotive contrivance. As the rest of the world continues rising, one can only hope that other car companies can come up with such a beautifully executed product.