AS A GENERAL rule of thumb, your first car is a bit rubbish.
After all, it has to deal with all the scrapes an eager teenager who has just passed their test gets into when they venture out onto South Wales’s country lanes. This was why my first car was a five-year-old Ford KA.
With no power steering and a gearbox on its last legs, three-point turns became 24-point turns and hill-starts were an absolute nightmare.
Perhaps it was a sensible choice. Splashing out on a new car when you suspect the family’s fledgling driver may write it off after a particularly mad dash to the supermarket seems like the least sensible option. But perhaps it could work out better if you went for a model which suited both the L-platers and the more seasoned driver.
Enter the Twingo, a car which fills the pocket-sized runaround market in Renault’s showroom. You can just picture it popping into awkward parallel parks with ease, especially when compared with the hulking Scenic and even the smaller Clio models.
I test drove the New Twingo Expression, which comes equipped with a 1.2 litre 16 valve engine, three doors and a sizeable boot. In fact, I’m reliably told you can even fit Ross Kemp in it.
It packs adequate power for its size, and while 75bhp is just about enough, it will leave you hungry for more. The again, a beginner doesn’t really need much more in their first car.
At £10,350, it could prove to be too sizeable an investment for a new driver. Yet, the most attractive thing about the Twingo is how versatile and city-friendly a vehicle it is, making it an excellent choice for a Cardiff commuter.
When I arrived at the Renault showroom on Penarth Road to test drive the Twingo, the chatty receptionist told me how she’d eventually ended up selling on her Peugeot convertible as soon as her daughter went off to university and left her Twingo at home. This is the kind of car you’ll want to drive around the city: it’s lightweight, compact and very comfortable to drive.
Inside, Renault have clearly embraced the digital era, as have most cars on the market. Taking a leaf out of the Mini’s book, the dashboard includes a digital speedometer which could prove useful for keeping any speed-demons in check, as well as the classic radio and CD-player combination.
Behind the wheel, I was struck by how responsive the steering was, but this is hardly surprising considering just how light the Twingo is. Perhaps I was thinking too much about my stubborn little KA, but nothing was a hassle while I was driving the car. The brakes responded to the slightest of touches and I can’t imagine trying a hill-start with the acceleration on Renault’s pint-sized vehicle.
All in all, it’s everything you need in a beginner’s city car, but not much more. Car enthusiasts with their hearts set on a Twingo might prefer the souped-up Renaultsport version, but it comes at greater expense: £14,995. Overall, the new Twingo may be a better starter car than my old KA was, but you might prefer to keep yours rather than risk dings on this one!