You might well wonder why there are two Renault Twingo Gordinis in the car park - Dan certainly did when he arrived this morning. It's a funny story...
The white one arrived yesterday. Which was great. It was on schedule, surprisingly subtle in hue, and fitted neatly in front of the garage.
Then I looked at the spec sheet. The 1.2 TCe turbo petrol engine is a fine unit - but not when you're expecting the Renaultsport-tuned naturally aspirated 1.6. Clearly someone had made a bit of a cock up. And I think it might have been me.
The problem is that Renault now offers the Gordini trim level as a regular cooking version - the 1.2 TCe - as well as the top spec Renaultsport variant. I apparently hadn't been very specific when booking the car in, and the result was 33 fewer hp than anticipated.
So, anyway, I sent Renault a quick email explaining my mistake and asking if I could arrange to make a booking on the Renaultsport Gordini (confused yet?) in the not too distant. To my surprise Renault came back and said, sure - would you like us to swap them over tomorrow?
Of course, it also gave me the unexpected opportunity to compare the two cars - made all the more interesting since the Twingo platform underpins the Renault Wind roadster
. And in that car the 1.2 TCe is by far the superior package, despite the on-paper performance deficit.
It doesn't quite work out like that in the Twingo - but that's not to say the 1.2 puts up a poor show. Both cars have seemingly identical interiors - blue and black 'leather', trimmings, sporty seats - while the TCe's smaller wheels and less aggressive suspension make it more compliant and lighter at the helm. The 100hp turbo also chucks out its peppy (yes, I did just say 'peppy') 112lb ft of torque much lower in the rev range - with reduced grip levels and such determined eagerness, this Twingo does a fine impression of a tiny terrier scrabbling at a polished kitchen floor.
All of which makes it major fun - especially street fighting across roundabout populated dual carriageways. It's certainly got the immediate punch to surprise much more obviously endowed competing traffic. Big grins all round.
Compared to this, the 133hp Renaultsport feels ponderous initially. It only musters 118lb ft of torque and you have to rev the nuts off it to really make progress - believe me, it will take some courage before you actually manage to activate the change-up! light in the rev counter. It's a much leggier engine. The steering is heavier, the gearbox seems beefier, and boy is the ride much more abrupt. You won't spin the wheels so often, but nor does it comes across as Mr Urban Zippy. If you've driven the turbo first, it packs proper first strike victory potential.
Then, however, you chance upon a corner.
In my original first drive of the Twingo Renaultsport
, I suggested it had so much grip it could pull the eyeballs out of the side of your face - or some such. This remains absolutely true. It is a riotous evangelist for the neverlift doctrine - the speed you can carry into bends in this thing is difficult to comprehend unless you've experienced it. The potential for scaring the bejesus out of your passengers is immense to the power of 10, and the kind of tasty machinery you can leave for dead down a twisty road as a result would fill a very nice specialist performance car magazine to the brim.
Of course, the Renaultsport has bigger wheels, with wider, grippier tyres, and wonderfully adept chassis tuning. In Gordini guise it also costs a magnificent £14,710 minimum (without the truly astonishing £680 Cup suspension; the merely amazing - but more comfortable - regular Renaultsport settings are standard) - compared to £11,600 for the TCe equivalent. That's a significant chunk of change in the city car world.
It begs the question, of course: what would the 1.2 turbo be like with all the Renaultsport gubbins. Spectacular, I should think. But given the choice between what's actually available, the answer is obvious: buy the basic, non-Gordini Renaultsport Cup at £12,210 - which gets the greatest chassis as standard plus a crappy interior and less equipment for lower weight. Which equals slightly more real world performance.
And then go eat some posing Porsche owners at your local short-course track day.