By on February 18, 2014

renault-twingo-03-1

Just when it looked like Citroen had a lock on weird, funky French cars, rival Renault has come out swinging with their new Twingo A-Segment car.

 

Unlike previous Twingos, which had a transverse layout, the new one has a rear-engined, rear-drive setup, like the best Porsches, Fiat 500s and wide-arched Renault hot hatches. TTAC’s Europhiles will be pleased to know that we are actually getting the Twingo, but not in a Renault wrapper – thanks to a platform sharing agreement with Daimler, the Twingo will underpin the next Smart. Meanwhile in Bavaria, a front-drive BMW is coming. Who would have thought?

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44 Comments on “Nobody Told Renault That It’s Backwards Day...”


  • avatar
    Quentin

    A possible challenger to the MINI appears… and could have a Smart badge on the nose in the US. This was unexpected.

    As a side story, I sat in a Fiat 500L at an autoshow this weekend. That parking brake is an ergonomic nightmare if you have the, I assume optional, center arm rest. You literally cannot set the parking brake without lifting the arm rest. The 3 piece windscreen makes you feel like you are driving an exploratory submarine.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    A cute little thing , let’s hope it fares well .

    -Nate

  • avatar

    Well, I’m guess I’m too used to small cars to see anything really funky here. Looks very nice, an even balance between agressive and cute design cues. Due to the good Twingo name, and the ties to Mercedes, depending on pricing, could be a home run for Renault. The only question mark is if consumers in this segment will not mind the RWD. Maybe there’ll be a conventional, run-of-the-mill FWD version later on?

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      No way they would offer FWD and RWD of the same vehicle. Maybe the next generation in 5~7 years, but not on the vehicle we see on this page.

      RWD is pretty easy to tame these days. It isn’t like the RWD cars of old on skinny, slippery tires that were just waiting for a small amount of weight transfer to try to kill you.

      • 0 avatar

        Seems complicated to be sure. But I can see lots of people born and raised on FWD getting into trouble on little mountain roads if the back does break out as the counter measure would be counter intuitive to most drivers nowadays. A few bad accidents and this car could fast get a bad reputation. Renault/Mercedes probably understood and accounted for this though. Maybe they think modern tech will keep tabs on it for it not to become an issue.

        It’s a nice car, I’d buy one. But I do think it’s a risk.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          Yeah, people still have concerns about RWD and that perception could hurt sales. Having driven my 4Runner in RWD through all sorts of snow and slick stuff, I have zero concerns about modern RWD stability. It will take time and experience for most buyers to come to that conclusion.

          Is stability and traction control mandated in Brazil? I had to actively turn all that stuff off to get the rear end to step out for any decent amount of time in my 4Runner.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Dude WTF are you talking about? RWD + rear-engine tiny hatch + tiny wheelbase is not equal to RWD + giant, tall front-engine 4Runner.

          • 0 avatar

            Hey Quentin.
            Nope. Though that equipment is becoming more and more common and (very) gradually making it into the smallest cars. There are people trying to make them mandatory though, and it could be that it becomes mandatory in the not too far off future.

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            Corey – I’m just highlighting how much stability and traction control play a role in how RWD handles these days. The 4Runner and Twingo are definitely going to be different dynamically, but hamfisting a generally stable RWD vehicle without stability control results in the same thing as something more inclined to be “twitchy”. I was just saying that even when trying to be dumb with all that stuff on, stability control steps in and stops it. When driven like a sane person that wants to be safe, stability control will keep this Twingo in line.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I see.

  • avatar
    nine11c2

    Doesn’t this have potential, if done right? This has the potential to have all the Pro’s of FWD without the cons. I just don’t think its ever been done right in an ecomomy format since the Bug.

    Pro
    Packaging Efficiency – Yes
    Engine over the Wheel Traction – Yes
    Small and Light – Yes

    Con
    FWD Dynamics – NO- Driver oriented RWD.
    Heavy Understeer Oriented Nose – NO

    The only negative would be the potential early Porsche or Corvair like tail induced oversteer, but modern technology and computer control systems, combined with no swing axles, should make that a minor concern..

    • 0 avatar

      Back in the 50s and 60s Renault sold in Brazil the Dauphiné/Gordini. Its nickname was Rabo Quente that can be translated as Hot Ass/Tail exactly because of the characteristic you mention. Hopefully, this modern Renault won’t suffer this affliction.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        The Dauphine was available for a time in the US as well.

        • 0 avatar

          close friends of my parents’ had one in the mid or late ’50s. These friends were notoriously bad drivers, and one time Victor–with my father in the car–stalled out in the middle of a major intersection during rush hour (of course, in Seattle in the ’50s the meaning of that is different from today). Anyway, 3 cycles of the lights came and went. Finally, forgetting to put the car in neutral to start it, Victor discovered he could get the car out of the middle of the road on the starter motor.

          I really like the idea of this Twingo. If it’s fun to drive, it could go far.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      I think modern suspension design and electronics (plus far better tires than 50 years ago) can sufficiently neuter the tail-happy tendencies that many everyday drivers will never even notice that the engine is in the back.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey th009. True, however, physics cannot be cancelled. They still have to deal with the short wheelbase. Could lead to a choppy and hard ride. AFAIK, up until today, the Clio Williams being a good example, this sort of layout has only appealed to enthusiasts. That’s the main point I’m raising. Buyers of small cars are used to a certain level of comfort. Something like the Fieta provides, sporty when you feel like it, but quite comfortable for commuting or simply just cruising.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          Look at the profile view. For a footprint that size, the Twingo probably has one of the biggest wheelbases because the wheels are pushed to the corners instead of having the engine between the bumper and the front axles like most FWD, transverse drivetrain cars. The negatives of this layout will likely be tied to ability to work on the engine without dropping the whole H frame that the engine and transmission sit on. Then again, if it is easy to drop the H frame, this could be a dream to work on instead of trying to squeeze down into the engine bay to replace alternators, starters, AC compressors, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      You’re missing a very significant negative: not having the motor up front for addl crash protection and the likely location of the fuel tank up front. As a former owner of VW Beetles and microbus, I like having that metal mass up front and would not want the fuel tank in front of me.

      • 0 avatar
        nine11c2

        Ok, but not all crashes come from the front. We protect people today well from side impacts without placing an engine block between them and the side of the car. With a good amount of room up front you can design a nice crush zone.

        PS are you really sure it’s safer to have a 700lb engine in front of you when getting hit, and its ability to move around, is better than space with a week designed crumple zone?

      • 0 avatar
        Brian P

        The solid engine block does not contribute to crush zone. Not having the engine up front allows the whole space up front to be used as a crush zone, instead of whatever that space is minus the almost un-crushable engine.

        Modern unibodies that are properly designed are a FAR cry from the old air-cooled VWs, which were originally designed with no consideration whatsoever for collision protection!

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      I suspect the engine will be so light that it may not contribute too much to the drive wheels’ traction. It might be more effective to seat a couple of americans there.

      I agree that modern electronics have pretty much taken oversteer off the risk list. If MB can stabilize the Smart Car, they can stabilize anything.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Everything I’ve read so far suggests that North America will NOT get the Twingo, nor the smart forfour.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Doesn’t look “funky” to me… it looks like a Fiat 500. But doesn’t the rear engine compromise storage space? One of the great things about hatchbacks is the ability to load the back with odd shaped items.

    • 0 avatar

      Now that you said I can see the resemblance. Maybe that’s why I like it.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I betcha even if it doesn’t take up all the boot space, that it makes engine servicing a nightmare.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      The engine is tilted over at a steep angle. The trunk floor should be only slightly higher than normal. If the powertrain is installed in any way similar to the current smart (which is likely), routine service items are accessible, and for major repairs, you lower the subframe … 4 bolts securing it to the unibody. Keep in mind that even on front-drive cars, some repairs require dropping the powertrain or the subframe.

      I know that the Renault TCe90 engine (which appears to be what will be used here) uses a timing chain, not a belt, so at least that service item is not required.

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    +1 JMII. I can only see Fiat 500 when I look ay it and I also wonder where will the groceries go?

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Autobraz! You never drove a VW Brasilia? That’s where the groceries go :)

      • 0 avatar
        Autobraz

        Too young for that. I’ve been driven in many but back then did not have a care in the world for the groceries. They usually magically appeared as a dinner plate in front of me.

        • 0 avatar

          LOL! I only drove the Brasilia a couple of times, in the auto escola. Was an ole cheapo and the car was quite old. I will never forget the horridness!

          • 0 avatar

            Oi Marcello

            As you may say… Infelizmente I had one Brasilia, all the uncomfort of the Beetle an then some, like being really hot because of the access to the engine in the back, Also some weird aerodynamic effects if you drove it at more than 60 Mph, the front shaped like a boat made the front wheels lose some grip if encounter gusts.

            On the Renault, well signs of the End of the World… Renault RWD and BMW FWD!!! Repent and pray the end is near!!! LOL

            I would happily drive a RWD Renault if it had the driving characteristics of the Gordini, R8 TS or Dauphine, combined with high tech of nowdays.

            Grande abraço!

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      I wonder if, in order to preserve the crumple zone, there is no trunk in the front.

      The original Twingo had a lot of usable space for its size.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I like it, it’s cutesy and manages to maintain some of the fun of the original version. And I’m glad it’s RWD!

    But why rear-engined? Does that really provide any advantage in the cheap and cheerful class?

    • 0 avatar

      Bragging rights?

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Is it true rear engine like a Beetle/911 or is it midship RWD like an MR2 with a transverse mounted 3 or 4 cylinder in front of the axles? That rear overhang doesn’t look like it would support a Beetle/911 style RR setup.

      I’d say they didn’t do FR because that prop shaft running through the passenger area eats up precious space.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        The old smarts were technically midships, in that the drive axles were aft of the engine crankshaft, but the engine itself was tilted backwards at 45 degrees so the head ended up being a bit further back than the axles.

        • 0 avatar
          Brian P

          I’ve seen a picture of the version of the Renault TCe90 engine that this car will use, and it’s the same way. Transverse, crankshaft ahead of the axle centerline, cylinder block tilted backwards at a steep angle with the head (and turbocharger) behind the axle centerline.

    • 0 avatar
      Varezhka

      Packaging, mainly. It’s more space efficient to have an engine mounted transversely right by the drive wheel compared to allocating precious real estate to a longitudinally mounted engine and a drive shaft.

  • avatar
    Viquitor

    That’s the VW Up I was waiting for, had VW some balls to be true to its own concept.

    Light, compact, rwd… Sign me up.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Very interesting. With a modern tiny engine it should still have plenty of cargo space in the back. And with no engine in the front it should not need power steering. Electronic stability control will keep it from being unruly.

    A nice example of French lateral thinking!


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