My French Crush: First Generation Renault Twingo

Let's be honest, we have all at one stage or another had this little crush on somebody we really, really shouldn't. We're only human after all, right? Sometimes we unexpectedly end up lusting after something we shouldn't. Well, this is exactly what happened to me in Paris with the Mk.1 Renault Twingo.

Not particularly pretty, devoid of performance, and (I'm told) woefully unreliable, the first generation Renault Twingo is a car I have been attracted to since I first explored France. You might say it was an unconventional example of the holiday romance.


There can be no doubt that the French have a certain way with us Brits. We're really rather defenceless when it comes to putting up a resistance against their most dangerous weapon – charm. The first generation Renault Twingo is positively bursting with the stuff, and when you combine that with a Parisian backdrop and French culture, it's not surprising I couldn't help but go a bit gooey over it.

The interior of a Renault Twingo is a garish array of bizarre seat upholstery and loud coloured dash and control trim plastics, but the centrally mounted electronic instrument panel is very cool, despite being a weird design decision. Strangely, only a single strip of warning lights is located behind the steering wheel, and what does that tell you about French build quality in the early 1990's?


It's quite possible that charm is the sole redeeming feature of the first generation Renault Twingo. As I haven't driven one yet I honestly can't tell you how it drives. But, I can tell you that my friends in Paris certainly tell some interesting tales about their experiences in a Twingo, and none of them are particularly flattering on the car. One thing is for certain though, the Twingo is the perfect car for Paris and perhaps that is why the city is chock-full of them.

Driving through Paris is like pushing a trolley through a packed shopping centre. Everybody is doing their very best to not bump into each other, but we all know how that story always ends. The Renault Twingo is perfect because it's small, inexpensive to buy and maintain, and easy to repair should the worst happen – and it usually does. If (rather than when) it gets damaged, it's no big deal. Like the stray cats of the city, nearly all Parisian Twingo's come with battle scars, and it's a challenge to find one that does not have some sort of bodywork damage.


If it's not pretty, terrible to own, and not much fun to drive, why do I like it? The truth is, I really don't know. There is an honest and peculiar charm to this car which is very hard to define. It may well be flawed but it's incredibly cute and actually rather tough, still surviving in the hands of numerous owners. Perhaps I love it purely because of the fact it is so utterly French, and I'm just another British national charmed by our friends across the channel – seduced by the quirky French and absolutely unashamed.

By Jonny Edge @ Road Magazine

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