This pleasantly painted Twingo caught my eye in Flensburg.
I had a longer look at the interior which had very playful use of colour. The door handles and window winders were highlighted in yellow. Buttons on the dashboard used the same plastic. The doors had body-coloured paint visible with the door cards inset and made of robust plastic. They made the most of economy, it seems. The design is very contemporary for 1993, the year of the launch. This kind of modernism is in short supply today.
In contrast the replacement car went for a much less distinctive style and is eminently forgettable, as disappointing as the Mk2 Ford Ka. I won’t bother to show images. For the Mk3 Twingo Renault returned to a more strongly styled character. However, instead of something contemporary and innovative they decided to apply a classic product design form language.
The current car is certainly quite a decent bit of work. Yet at the same time it’s quite conventional and not quite as well-organised or disciplined as the 1993 car. Note the rather forced placement of the HVAC controls – I think they should be grouped in the same frame as the IP – and Renault decided not to do much with colour coding. It lacks, in short, the playfulness of the
original. That in part might be a response to the kind of knee-jerk criticism that such design engenders: “Fisher Price” the journos tend to say when confronted by anything less than Benz-serious (old Benz, I probably mean).
The above photo shows another colour for the moving parts- which means a second set of moulds and that means expense. The current car is more expensive – more parts but cheaper in a way too.
The Twingo was the outcome of two strands of research at Renault. One emerged from participation in the 1981-1984 Mono-Box Eco project, carried out with sponsorship by the French government. Citroen and Peugeot also took part. The products of this are not very well documented. The other strand is related to Renault’s wish to have a new Renault 4.
The Twingo is thus a simple, spartan car that is a three-door rather than five-door vehicle and also a bit smaller. That makes it more of a spiritual successor than an actual one. The Kangoo is closer to the 4 in size and utility. Interestingly, neither Renault nor Peugeot attempted a similarly imaginative vehicle as a production car which makes one think that the French government did not get such value for money.
In general, industrial design is in a classic phase. The Twing of 1993 and the Ford Ka too show an alternative, which is strongly modern while also having a considerable rigour. The current Twingo is certainly plusher and more complex, doing so with less of the formal seriousness the playful Mk1 demonstrates. If designers wish to indicate something like seriousness they are usually reaching for the Jonathan Ives/Dieter Rams book of style and even then, not doing much more than slapping a few radii on some geometric details (see: Cactus, Citroen). Strip out the white plastic parts on the new Twingo and what is left is rather bland.