1994 twingo

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My wife’s new Citroen will be arriving at the end of this month, so my Twingo’s days are numbered… sadly it may get crushed. I had to try buying a Twingo once I found a cheap one, well- relatively cheap as cars are really expensive here. They were never officially sold in the UK of course, as Renault failed to bother making a RHD version for us Brits. Apparently it would’ve cost them £4million to convert it, and their sales predictions wouldn’t have re-couped that money. The Twingo launched in 1993- and was the first sub-b sector car, a city car, below the existing Fiesta/Corsa class (b-sector). Ford of course took advantage of Twingo not being sold in the UK, and launched their own sub-b car, the Ka. Now look at how successful the Ka was, maybe Renault really missed a trick there! Twingo was conceived to be a cute lovable entity- more than just a car. It was also very thoroughly thought through, as a piece of product design. The one box shape created a kind of mini MPV, and this theme continued in the modular style interior, with features such as the sliding rear seat bench, with separately adjusting backrests. It had a number of “1sts” such as the central digital speedo (just like a Yaris), moveable rear seats, that cute radio ariel on the mirror, those asymmetrical vents on the bonnet (before the Peugeot 206!). To complete its image as more a product than a car, it was only available in one specification. I always remember the Twingo, as part of my interview to be accepted at Coventry University. I had to name who designed it (Patrick Le Quement), and what it was- from pictures with the badges and names taped over. This was “the test” of true car design knowledge (in the UK at least), and of course I knew all these answers thanks to Car Magazine! After owning a Twingo I’ve been very impressed with the design detailing- such as the levers for tipping forward the front seats, that are duplicated as large levers for the rear passengers to use themselves. A tiny detail, that is nearly always absent on other 2-door cars. Why? It is so easy to include! The rear seat sliding back provides near limo room in the rear, and I’ve found myself even moving it while driving! We have the rear seat forward, to give our dog Lily maximum space, but when I pick up passengers I just reach behind me and push the seat bench back. I have also noticed that the wing mirrors are different sizes. The passenger side is smaller- presumably to save a tiny amount of width (it is a city car!) with maybe a small aerodynamic gain also. The car was also only ever made in LHD, so the mirrors could be asymmetrical. Anyway, I guess overall I’ve really fallen for the Twingo. I originally bought it as it was a very cheap run-around, and I was curious, but now I struggle to think of any small car that is better designed- even now. It has turned out to be possibly the best designed car I’ve ever owned- only my MR2 Mk1 comes close, and that was nowhere near as cute. There is also a funny connection to our next car- the Citroen C3 was designed under Jean-Pierre Ploue, who was also part of the Twingo design team when working for Renault. Patrick Le Quement himself explained to then Renault design boss Raymond Levy, that Twingo should be a car “you would not leave in a winter street, but take upstairs to bed with you” and this he achieved. Despite there being a new Twingo, the old model is actually still in production, in Columbia. Regarding the new Twingo, I’ll let Le Quement explain the design of that one:

“The first car was looked upon as a bit of an iconic design, but in all the years it was built, it never made any money. As the head of design, I am not sure I can count that as a success. We failed to attract the young buyers we were targeting. This is why the new Twingo is different. The average age of buyer is already going in the right direction.”

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3 thoughts on “1994 twingo”

  1. Aside from the lack of right hand drive, the car comes across as something you would see pottering around Paris, Rome or out tootling along some provincial European countryside lane. I can’t quite see it battling around the one way system in Guildford or queuing on the M25.

    I wonder if this apparent “culture clash” is another factor in why Renault were reluctant to do a UK version?

  2. well, the exact concept (with a little funking up) was sold by Ford as the Ka, and also by Fiat as the old box Fiat 500. Remember those? They sold like crazy in the UK, so I really think Renault just missed out. The Ka for example was just a Fiesta (underneath) with a shorter rear end, and 2 big grey bumpers for bashing around town- exactly like the Twingo. It even used ancient but reliable parts underneath, just like the Twingo. It was a copy- but perhaps a much better car in terms of market appeal?

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