Renault Twingo
Image via Wikipedia

It’s silly, of course, to judge a car by its name. But perhaps not quite as silly as the name Twingo, which is supposedly a combination of Twist, Swing and Tango. Though fine for confectionery – “I’ll have a Twingo, please, two Mars bars and some liquorice allsorts” – it’s not a word many of us would feel comfortable placing at the end of the sentence “I drive a … ”

In aid of a little brand research, I spent a week telling people I met that “I came in a Twingo”. Suffice to say the response was not encouraging. A couple pretended they hadn’t heard me, a few flashed me indulgent expressions, and one asked me if everything was OK at work.

All this focus on what is, after all, just a name may seem beside the point, but there is a culture and history to motor cars that we’d be ill-advised to ignore. There is the romance of the road, and then there are the contents of the tuck shop: and the two don’t really mix. Can anyone, for example, imagine Bruce Springsteen penning a lyric in which he takes his Twingo for a ride?

That said, there is more to the Twingo than just sounding like a sweet. For a start, it also looks like a sweet: a squashed wine gum, possibly, or a half-consumed lozenge. Chunky but compact, there is something suspiciously reduced about the car, as if it started out as a people carrier and then had the people bit cut off.

This odd sense of identity crisis is hardly allayed by the discrepant relationship between the large sloping windscreen, which suggests a safe, family-friendly experience, and low-slung sporty seats, which bespeak something rougher and more raunchy. I felt either that the screen needed to be six inches lower, or the seat six inches higher (and maybe both). As it was, I felt a bit like one of those underage joyriders, without quite driving into any trees or jewellery shops.

The Twingo is what’s known as a “hot hatch” – that’s marketing speak for a small car with big ideas. The big idea with the Twingo Sport is that it’s secretly a sports car. Hence it has its rev counter positioned on top of the dashboard behind the steering wheel, just like in a formula one cockpit. Not since Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav wore an alarm clock around his neck has a measuring instrument seemed more conspicuously out of place.

Arguably the sportiest thing about the Twingo is the clutch pedal. If you want to work on developing your left-leg muscles, then just spend a few hours in a Twingo changing gear and Arnold Schwarzenegger will be looking at your calf with drooling envy.

A lot of expense has been spared by not bothering overly about comfort or ease. It makes for a stripped-down, almost old-fashioned drive – in twisting, swinging and tango terms, it’s John Sergeant rather than Rachel Stevens – which is in keeping with the new temper of the times. It’s practical, too. The back seats fold down to make generous boot space for a car of this size./ppThe Twingo is not for everyone. But if you’re looking just to zip around town, well, suck it and see.

Renault Twingo Sport 133

Price £11,550
Top speed 125mph
Acceleration 0-62 in 8.7 seconds
Average consumption 40.4mpg
C02 emissions 165g/km
Eco rating 7/10
At the wheel Violet Beauregarde
Bound for Salsa class
In a word Sweet

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