Looking Back At France's Most Iconic Small Car

In the vibrant tapestry of European automotive history, there are certain models that stand out as iconic representatives of their eras. The first-generation Renault Twingo, a small and quirky compact car, is one such gem that evokes a sense of nostalgia and admiration. Launched in the first half of the 1990s, this innovative vehicle offered a fresh perspective on urban mobility and, in many ways, defied convention. As we journey back in time to explore why the Renault Twingo holds a special place in the hearts of car enthusiasts, we’ll delve into the details that make it an unforgettable part of European automotive heritage.

Welcome to Timeless European Treasures, our weekly look back at cars from the European market that defined a motoring generation.

Why do we love it?

The first-generation Renault Twingo endures in our memories for several reasons. Its distinctive design, characterized by its playful, almost toy-like appearance, made it instantly recognizable on the streets. The unconventional interior layout, with a sliding rear seat and a dashboard-mounted instrument cluster, showcased Renault’s commitment to innovation and rethinking traditional automotive norms.

Moreover, the Twingo’s impact on the urban mobility landscape cannot be understated. It set a precedent for the city car concept, emphasizing compactness, maneuverability, and practicality for crowded urban environments. Its success paved the way for similar models from other manufacturers, influencing the design and philosophy of future small cars.

Gallery: Renault Twingo (1993-2007)

When was the car launched?

The Renault Twingo made its debut in March 1993, ushering in a new era of urban transportation for the French company. It arrived as a breath of fresh air, perfectly timed to cater to the evolving needs of city dwellers who sought a practical, compact, and fun-to-drive vehicle. It was regarded as a replacement for both the Renault 4 and Renault 5, although the latter was indirectly succeeded by the larger Clio. Sales of the Twingo started in April 1993 with only one trim level available and just four exterior colors. 

Where did it sit in the brand’s lineup?

Renault positioned the Twingo as a compact city car, aimed at the entry-level segment of the market. It was a departure from Renault’s typical lineup at the time, which included more conventional sedans and hatchbacks. The Twingo was designed to offer an affordable, no-frills alternative for urban drivers who craved practicality and style. It was also the most affordable new Renault money could buy at the time with a starting price of 55,000 French Francs in 1993 or around $8,865 today.

What engines did it have?

The Twingo’s powertrain options were modest but suited its urban-oriented purpose perfectly. In its early years, the first-generation Twingo came with a range of small-displacement engines, including 1.2-liter and 1.0-liter units. These engines provided adequate power for city driving while delivering impressive fuel efficiency and durability. Most of the cars sold in Europe had a five-speed manual transmission, while the five-speed automated manual and the three-speed automatic were far less popular options.

Did it sell well?

The original Renault Twingo quickly gained popularity across Europe. It proved to be a commercial success for the automaker with about 2.4 million deliveries between 1993 and 2007. About half of those cars were delivered to customers in France with Germany and Italy accounting for most of the other sales.

The first-gen Twingo was not a big car in terms of its dimensions but it was a big success for the French automaker. It was followed by a second-gen model in 2007 and seven years later, the final Twingo was launched. It had a rear mid-engine layout and rear-wheel drive – maybe we can meet in 20 years here and discuss that car, too? I’d love to.

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