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Next Twingo RS under a cloud

Pocket rocket: The Renault Twingo RS has not caught on in Europe, where sales are lower than projected.

Renault’s baby hot hatch may have no future beyond the existing Twingo RS133

Renault logo16 Apr 2012

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in PARIS

THE Renaultsport version of the Twingo city car is under a cloud as a result of disappointing sales in Europe.

However, the regular Twingo range may have a future Down Under when the next-generation version is launched in 2014, possibly reviving Renault’s iconic R5 nameplate.

The innovative sub-B-segment car helped to reinvigorate Renault in Europe during the 1990s, but has never been sold in Australia.

Renault Sport Technologies international zone manager Jean Calcat said the Twingo RS133 had failed to hit its target market, partly as a result of the 147kW Clio RS200 and 184kW Megane RS250 raising expectations of the Renault performance sub-brand.

With a comparatively meagre 98kW of power and 160Nm of torque from a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, it is well short of the conceptually similar Fiat 500 Abarth Esseesse, which produces 118kW and 230Nm from just 1.4 litres.

Furthermore, Renault’s research has shown that younger customers cannot afford the €16,900 (A$21,311) price in Europe, while those who can are more inclined to buy a used Clio RS.

35 center imageWith the next-generation Twingo being co-developed with Daimler alongside the third-generation Smart ForTwo and a resurrected long-wheelbase ForFour– making it rear-engined and rear-wheel-drive – Renault may put an RS version on hold indefinitely.

“To be honest, the decision has not been made,” said Mr Calcat.

“We are finding that we are having some trouble with the (existing) Twingo RS. The reason is difficult. For me the car is an excellent little GTi like the Peugeot 205 GTI and the very first Golf GTI were.

“The (Twingo RS) is a joy to handle. The car is cheap and it is a pure RS – a 1.6-litre with 133bhp.

“We should be selling bucket-loads of the car, but still we don’t. And the reason we don’t is that it is still too expensive for kids who have no money at all, and the other people think it is not a true RS, which is unfair to us because it is a true RS. But the people say no, they prefer to buy as second-hand Clio RS.

“Now the young people, if they want a hot hatch, anything under 200 horsepower (150kW) is not a hot hatch, which is a shame really because it shouldn’t work like that.

“We are victims of our own success. We’ve been pushing so much – as have been our competitors – the envelope that now, for them, 133bhp is not enough power.

“As far as I know, the decision has not been taken as yet to replace the current Twingo RS.”

Mr Calcat concedes that the current Twingo lost the design and charm of the original – the 1993 to 2006 model that pioneered the modern sub-B segment in Europe – which has not helped hot hatch buyers warm to the RS.

Even a new nose introduced in July last year – called the Phase II – did little to placate the critics.

“We were also a victim of the styling of Twingo 1, which was brilliant,” said Mr Calcat.

“The Phase Two is much better than the Phase One but, yes, fair enough, it is a good face on an average-looking car.”

Mr Calcat agrees with Renault Australia’s decision to overlook the current Twingo RS – though he did reveal one could be cobbled up quickly if need be.

“I don’t think there is a market for the Twingo in Australia – it is too small.

“If Renault Australia tells me they want Twingo RS, I would be very happy, but … it doesn’t make any sense.”

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