We know that cost of the living has risen a tad since you could buy a now Golf GTI, but the thought of spending on a hot hatch makes us come overall thrifty and want to rip up the lawn and plant a load of carrots. The trouble is that all the big action seems to be happening at the end of the market. So the cheaper— and very cheerful—Renaultsport Twingo is a welcome riposte. At just $11,550, the hot Twingo is cheaper than either Suzuki’s raw but enthusiastic Swift sport or Citroen’s ancient C2 VTS, and it carries a bigger stick than either. On the Panda 100hp comes, cheaper, although it’s significantly slower. Like those cars, the Twingo is aimed at youngster looking for their foothold in the performance car market and it comes with a low (group 80 insurance rating. Rather than the turn the wick up on the Twingo GT’s blows 1.2, Renaultsport has dropped in a mildy breathed-on, naturally aspirated 1.6 that fizzes away happily to 700rpm, delivering 132bhp in the process. That’s not much less than the Mk2 Golf GT 16v but, with its 100kg kerbweight handicap, the Twingo is nowhere near as fast. The press pack says 0-62 mph takes 8.7 sec but even than felt generous in our low-mileage test car.
Its 118lb ft of the torque is sufficient for the lugging around town but not enough to carry it past traffic without a down change to the second of its five ratios; the Clio 197’s six-speed’ box won’t fit, nor will its engine. Let’s hope it follows the Renault template of loosening up dramatically with age because the chassis is brilliant. Not the electric steering, which is better than the usual glutinous Renault mess though no match for an old Fiesta, but the way the springs and dampers hold the body upright in the face of your best effort to pitch it into the incredible. Both the versions are amusing, but the Cup is subtly yet tangibly sharper to drive.