Despite being over 30 years old, I have recently experienced a car that I fear I am already too old to fully appreciate.
My story begins on a Thursday morning at my home on the south coast of England. I had just spent a week with Renault’s new Mégane, a fitting competitor to Ford’s Focus and a step forward in terms of Renault’s engineering from the previous model.
The old Mégane’s backside has been shaken for the last time, so the design is not as ‘edgy’ as before, and that look is reflected inside with controls laid out sensibly.
The new car is very comfortable too, with plenty of padding in the seats to make long journeys that little bit more bearable.
Powered by a version of Renault’s faithful 1.9-litre diesel with 130bhp, this Mégane was refined, capable and economical. Despite a large proportion of time spent driving through towns, the car averaged 49mpg.
Winds of change
My final journey in the Mégane was a straightforward trip up to Banbury, made easier by my trusty automotive companion. On reaching the midlands, the Mégane was swapped for an altogether different driving prospect.
The replacement was a Renaultsport Twingo 133, complete with low profile tyres, racing seats, large central chrome exhaust. And if that doesn’t sound sporty enough, this particular car was fitted with the Cup chassis, which means 17in wheels, 4mm lower ride height and a much stiffer suspension for that all-important racecar-like feel.
Power comes from a revvy 1.6-litre engine – one item that thankfully remained untouched from the standard car. The first challenge that lay ahead was more than 160 motorway miles.
In contrast to the serene Mégane, the Twingo bounced down the M40, M25 and M23. When the car had settled on some smooth tarmac, the noise of the engine in the cabin was enough to make me pull over into a quiet spot before returning home, just so I could step out the car and recover. But after that initial journey, my impression of the Twingo started to change.
Avoiding motorways, something that the majority of Twingo Renaultsports will do, I realised that there is a gap in the market for the car. Putting myself in the mindset of the target audience for this car (25 to 35 year olds) and heading to some nearby country roads, the Twingo had the opportunity to display its qualities. And these qualities include entertaining handling, great performance from the (as the name would suggest) 133bhp engine, interactive steering. In short, it gives you the opportunity to have fun at sensible speeds.
Sporty, but so much more
More time spent with the Twingo allowed me the opportunity to discover some of more practical advantages. One example is the sliding rear seats that give passengers in the back a lot more room – something not normally possible in a 3-door hot hatch! Boot space is impressive with the seats set forward – a total of 959 liters worth of storage is available.
Being aimed at a young audience, the Twingo has the option of a multi-functional TunePoint system that allows music to be played via USB sticks as well as iPods and other MP3 players. A stainless steel gear knob probably wasn’t the best addition to the car, especially in the cold snap that left the Twingo sat in a few inches of snow!
Verdict: Twingo or Mégane
No-one would ever have to choose between the two, because they are completely different vehicles aimed at two polar markets. What the two cars do have in common, however, is the fact that they are both capable and impressive new Renault models. The Mégane will make Ford Focus owners take notice, while those looking for entertainment on the road, and great value for money, could do a lot worse than to sample the Twingo.
- Model tested: Renaultsport 133 Cup
- Engine size: 1,598cc
- CO2 emissions: 165g/km
- Price (as tested): £11,308
- For: Good price, entertainment factor
- Against: Motorway performance
- Alternatives: Nissan Micra 160R, Mitsubishi Colt Ralliart, Fiat 500, Citroën C1 VTR
- Model tested: 1.9-litre dCi 130bhp
- Engine size: 1,870cc
- CO2 emissions: 134g/km
- Price (as tested): £18,398
- For: Comfort, engineering, sensible cabin layout
- Against: Level of quality, vague steering
- Alternatives: Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Citroën C4, Peugeot 308, Volkswagen Golf