The first Twingo has been with us for over thirty years. During that time, it was forgotten what a revolutionary city car it was. The currently presented concept for 2026 reminded us of this. And inheritance is the fall
As part of its electric vehicle offensive, Renault is dusting off the thirty-year-old Twingo. Although it went through three generations, and the last one you could also buy as an electric car in the final years, even the current concept confirms that only the first generation has the potential to become an ageless classic.
Ageless mainly because its design works great even after more than thirty years, and even in connection with electromobility. Jean-Pierre Ploué, the exterior designer, and Gérard Gauvbry, the creator of the minimalist interior, certainly did not expect that. In fact, the entire story of the first Twingo is being repeated today.
Its prenatal period dates back to the 1980s, when Renault needed a replacement for the outdated R4. The project was called “Véhicule Bas de Gamme” (Car of a small class), within which several concepts were created in the first half of the eighties. Probably the most famous is the strictly angular W60 by Marcello Gandini from 1986. But even at that time it was difficult to design an attractive and affordable one that would not compete with the Clia. The development went on ice for a while, but then the covers moved when the newly joined Patrick Le Quément was to bring the city car into reality.
The name Twingo was invented by Manfred Gotta and arose from his message of being two cars in one – a compact and a minivan at the same time. Let’s not forget that thinking was greatly influenced by the success of the large-scale Espac. Moreover, Jean-Pierre Ploué and Gérard Gauvbry demonstrated an extremely timeless approach, even if Le Quément had the last word. For example, he confirmed that the Twingo had a larger wheel track compared to the Clio (1362/1336 mm compared to 1416/1374 mm in the Twingo). This achieved minimal overhangs and maximum interior capacity. The final form was ready in 1988, but Le Quément had doubts about it. He asked for an open mind and a willingness to go in a new direction before management approved.
The Twingo finally got green… and also yellow, red and blue. The colors were also carried over to the interior, which was a pleasant novelty. The premiere on October 5, 1992 at the Paris Motor Show was unprecedentedly colorful. People were absolutely blown away by the playful and futuristic design. Until then, cars were mainly angular, while the Renault Twingo boasted curves.
Another fresh wave of modernity was brought by a look inside. Thanks to the wheels stuffed as much as possible in the corners and the abundant glazing, the Twingo had an airy and spacious impression. The back bench even moved. This is still extraordinary in this segment today. The dashboard had a wonderfully minimalist concept thanks to digitization. No wonder the Twingo got 2,240 signed reservations in no time.
It can be said that it laid the foundations for the concept of a practical city car, not only with technical parameters, but also with a catchy appearance. Interestingly, although it was supposed to play the role of the Clio’s smaller brother, the price of both models was similar. The 1994 model year catalog listed the price of the cheapest three-door Clio with a 1.2 liter engine at DM 15,500, while the Twingo started at DM 16,000. But the other Clio versions were of course more expensive, because you already paid DM 16,250 for the five-door. In general, the Twingo was cheap to buy as it shared many components with other models. This also made servicing easier.
At first, the Twingo was offered in a single equipment with a wide range of extras, where the following year saw the introduction of novelties such as remote-controlled central locking or electric windows, and shortly after that you could also have a manual gearbox with an automated clutch (Twingo Matic). In 1994, the range of drives was expanded by a four-cylinder 12-liter from the Clio and a three-speed automatic. With the year 1997, it was time for the first facelift. This brought design changes, but also increased torsional rigidity of the body. The second modernization came in 2000 and the last three years later. It was continuous improvements, modifications to the appearance and the addition of new engines together with transmissions that ensured the car’s stable attractiveness.
The first generation Twingo was produced in France between 1992 and 2007. Simultaneously, new cars rolled off the production lines in neighboring Spain (1994 to 2003). After the end of European production, the Twingo continued in Colombia until 2013, when the second generation was already in Europe.
It’s solid Déjà vu isn’t it? Renault is again looking for a cheap electric car for the city. In the same way, the Twingo must fit in under the Renault 5 and crossover R4 in 2026, impress with its lovely expression and cleverly designed interior. We don’t know his form yet, but if they used the original style again, he would fit in perfectly.