New Twingo! Celebrating the best rear-wheel drive Renaults

New Twingo! Celebrating the best rear-wheel drive Renaults

Renault has only gone and done it. The all-new Renault Twingo will indeed be rear-engined and rear-wheel drive. Suddenly, the 2014 Geneva Motor Show can’t come soon enough, as this will be the first chance we’ll get to set eyes on what promises to be one of the stars of the show.

Aside from the obvious highlights – which naturally centre on the Twingo’s rear-end – details are predictably rather thin on the ground right now. But we do understand that Renaultsport and Gordini variants won’t be too far behind the launch of the standard car. If you can call a rear-engined Twingo a ‘standard car’.

Rear-wheel drive Renaults - New Twingo

It’s the first time the Twingo has been offered as a five-door car, and we’re encouraged by the words of Laurens van den Acker, Renault’s head of industrial design, who said:

“New Renault Twingo was inspired not only by the original Twingo but also by the Renault 5.”

Naturally we’ll have to wait a while to see if the new Twingo can deliver on its undoubted potential. But in the meantime, we thought we’d take a literal look backwards to remember some of the best – and most PetrolBloggy – rear-wheel drive Renaults of all time.

Enjoy this sideways look back at some of PetrolBlog’s favourite rear-wheel drive Renaults.

Renault Dauphine

Rear-wheel drive Renaults - Dauphine

The “prettiest little four-seater in the world” – the Dauphine was a monumental success for Renault. The rear-engined, rear-wheel drive saloon car sold well over two million units in a production life extending from 1956 to 1967.

Export sales accounted for 43% of production, with the Dauphine built in Italy, Spain, Brazil and Africa. A real international – and very pretty – bright young thing.

Renault 8/10

Rear-wheel drive Renaults - 8 Gordini

The Renault 8 carried on where the Dauphine finished off, albeit with a more angular, but no less striking design.

Its love of oversteer was boosted in 1964, when the wild and iconic 8 Gordini was born. Success in the likes of the Corsica and Monte Carlo rallies cemented its place in the history books.

Alpine A110

Rear-wheel drive Renaults - Alpine A110

The Alpine A110 may stem from a time when Alpine was still a fiercely independent firm, but across its 16-year life span from 1961 to 1977, some were actually badged as Renaults.

Underneath the achingly beautiful exterior was the altogether more angular Renault 8 Gordini. It went on to enjoy huge motorsport success and was the car credited as putting the Alpine name on the world map.

Alpine A310

Rear-wheel drive Renaults - Alpine A310

This is the kind of photo we could stare at all day. It has it all – four Cibie spotlights, Elf logos, huge wheels and that iconic front-end of the Alpine A310.

Originally powered by a 1.6-litre engine, the output was later boosted with the arrival of the 2.6-litre Douvrin V6 unit. Power was increased to 150bhp. If the Alpine A110 was ‘very sixties’, the A310 was ‘simply seventies’.

Renault 5 Turbo

Rear-wheel drive Renaults - 5 Turbo

Surely one of the most iconic performance cars of the 1980s? The mid-engined 5 Turbo may have worn 5 badges, but it was anything but a standard Renault 5. The Gandini-designed body should provide enough evidence of that.

The engine was a modified version of the 1.4-litre lump found in the 5 Gordini, with a turbocharger increasing the output from 93bhp to 162bhp. Back in the day, that was an awful lot. Especially for a featherlight, rear-wheel drive Renault 5. Success on the world rally stage soon followed, only for the 5 Turbo to be cut down in its prime by the arrival of the four-wheel drive monsters.

Renault Alpine GTA

Rear-wheel drive Renaults - Alpine GTA

The replacement for the A310, the original GTA featured a 160bhp V6 engine. But it truly came of age with the arrival of the 200bhp GTA Turbo.

It was the French answer to the Porsche 944. We’d gladly take the one built in Dieppe, please.

Alpine A610

Rear-wheel drive Renaults - A610

The A610 arrived in 1991 and was the last hurrah for the Alpine badge. Although as we know, the name is set for a long-overdue comeback.

Power once again came from the 3.0-litre V6 engine, with output now upped to 250bhp.

It’s funny, seeing the four Alpines lined up in one place, it becomes apparent just how neatly they fall into their respective decades. Given the choice, we’d probably take the GTA. But hey, we do have one foot lodged in the 1980s.

Renault Espace F1

Rear-wheel drive Renaults - Espace F1

Twenty years ago, Matra and Renault teamed up to celebrate 10 years of the Espace. And wow, did they celebrate in style. This is the mad, the bonkers, the brilliant Espace F1, complete with the RS4 F1 engine, full F1 rear suspension and a carbon-fibre body. Total power of 800bhp meant that the 0-60 time was completed in less than three seconds.

Dear Renault – it’s now THIRTY years since the birth of the MK1 Renault Espace. Tell us what you’re doing this year. Yours expectantly. The world.

Renault Sport Spider

Rear-wheel drive Renaults - Sport Spider

It’s funny how the Renault Sport Spider tends to get forgotten these days, but then there are under 50 currently enjoying active service in Britain. It arrived at the 1995 Geneva Motor Show and went on sale a year later.

It was famously the Elise rival without a windscreen, although all UK cars were – perhaps sensibly – delivered with the screen in place. Its 2-litre engine developed 148bhp, which from a car weighing 930kg was plenty. It’s biggest enemy was the cheaper, more desirable and perhaps better, Lotus Elise. But right now, if we had the cash, we’d opt for the Renault.

Renault Clio V6

Rear-wheel drive Renaults - Clio V6

It pleases us and amazes us in equal measure that Renault built the Clio V6. We fully expect to wake up one day and realise it was all just a very nice dream. The original 230bhp MK1 version developed a reputation for being wild – not only on the limit – but with even the faintest input on the throttle. Wet weather driving required careful concentration and balls of steel.

The MK2 – or V6 255 – was an altogether different proposition. Thanks to a longer wheelbase, a wider front track and general upgrades designed to increase the Clio’s rigidity, its true supercar-taming potential was realised. A proper legend.

Renault Twizy F1

Rear-wheel drive Renaults - Twizy F1

This is the Renault Twizy F1.

PetrolBlog has driven it. It’s as mad as it looks. And that’s a good thing. Although we’re still picking stones out of our teeth. Read our garbled words on PistonHeads.

Renault Twin’Run

Rear-wheel drive Renaults - Twin'Run Concept

This was the car that gave us so much hope for the new Twingo. The mid-engined, rear-wheel drive concept car used the 320hp V6 engine from the Mégane Trophy and paid homage to the Renault 5 Turbo.

A six-speed sequential gearbox, a limited slip diff and a twin clutch meant that it probably drove as good as it looked. And boy, does it look good. We simply adore those four flat LED headlights. The Twin’Run looks set for an instant nighttime rally charge.

So the new Renault Twingo can look back – not only to its rear engine – but a back catalogue of some truly great rear-wheel drive heroes. Let’s just hope this heritage doesn’t prove to be too much weight for this potential pint-sized hero to carry.

These are good times for the French companies, with Peugeot, Renault and Citroën delivering some genuinely exciting new products. Vive la France!


Written by Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

The chief waffler and person responsible for getting PetrolBlog off the ground in February 2010. Has a deep fascination of cars from the '80s and '90s, especially if they originate from France. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

6 Comments

  1. Mygoodness

    At first I thought “what about the boot?” but then I realized the people who buy this sort of car (FIAT 500, Mini, Audi A1, Citröen DS3, Opel/Vauxhall Adam, etc.) are not necessarily interested in practicality or luggage space. If the idea is “fun”, Renault may have a winner here!

    Just one minor niggle: The shape seems to look a lot like the FIAT 500…

    1. Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Yes – the side profile has more than a hint of the 500. Eager to check it out in the metal next month.

      Would suspect that a lot of enthusiasts will be looking at this as a potential weekend / trips to the station / pint of milk car. As you say, practicality may not be its biggest strength, but then there’s a Clio for that!

      Can’t wait to see this car.

  2. Darren Leslie

    I’ve been thinking about why they’ve gone the rear engined route, and it could be down to pedestrian safety regs. Without a big lump of metal under the bonnet, it makes life a lot easier to pass the tests. If that’s the case, perhaps we’ll be seeing alot more rear engined goodness……

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