I seem to be obsessed with blogging about Renaults, but I have to add this one. It is fantastic, and proof that the Renault studio are doing great work behind the scenes. This one may be timed to cheer them up, just as much as us after the recent Laguna and Megane. Not much to say about this except, check out the gallery!
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.”
Leaked photos of the new Renault Megane appeared this week. Now, first thing is- whatever happened to radical Renault design?! While this is a decently executed design, it is certainly a safe one when compared to the previous model Megane. Renault recenctly played safe on the new Laguna also. This product cycle of moving one generation forward, but going safe with the following generation and repeating that process is yet another industry practice that seems to have spread from BMW (and another Bangle idea perhaps?). The difference (and mistake?) here is, that this car has very little connection with the previous version. In fact, the only connecting element is the black plastic rubbing strip – which had style and purpose on Megane 2, but here is reduced to a tacked on ugly thing hanging off the bottom of the doors. It doesn’t look to serve any purpose in the car park, protecting doors from bashes. I liked the design of Megane 2, but some more conservative markets reacted to the rear end styling in particular. It seems Renault are avoiding those comments this time, using a very derivative rear end that reminds me of the Kia Cee’d, and Hyundai i30 front end. It is quite sporty though, just like current Mazda vehicles, and looks perhaps more like the Kia Pro-Cee’d. The Kia is somewhat similar to the BMW 1 series which currently inspires styling cues for the more dynamic C segment cars, a trend began by the Mk1 Ford Focus. The front wing line of this Megane is a slightly messy version on the new Mazda 3, and Mazda 6 form. The best feature of this design is the complex flow of upper surfaces from the front wheel arch, into the main shoulder (beltline) form. The concave bonnet is interesting and reminds of the previous gen car, but it doesn’t seem to completely gel with the rest of this design. The twisting front arch is also better executed on the Honda Civic. Overall this car seems slightly messy, and it’s quite sad to think that a Kia looks better.
You can check out more pics of the new Megane here.
OK people, first thing I’ve done for this blog is add some essay type pages that I’ve written or just talked about over the years. They describe some basic car design and styling principles that I had to think about while designing my own cars- or explaining to others how to model cars. There’s a permanent link at the top of this page, but go here to check them out! I’ll be adding to these design guides when I get time…