Should Renault Revive the R5 Turbo?

I'm probably alone on this one, but I don't believe that hotly anticipated rear-engined Renault city car, built together with smart's new fortwo and forfour, is the new Twingo. That's what everybody says, but it doesn't make sense to me.
Call me crazy, but I know every Renault made in the past 10 years, and those crazy concepts (Twin-Run and Twin-Z) are nothing like a Twingo. The Twingo has cheap-ish door handles made from sticks of plastic, the engine in the front and is built to be the cheapest models in the Renault range. The Twin-Run concept has flared wheel arches, a body kit, no door handles and a racing engine in the back. It also has a "5" written on the door.

This is why I think the Twin-Run Concept from Geneva, essentially identical to the smart fortwo, is actually the Renault 5 or R5. I even have a few friends in the French car scene who say they've heard the 5-door model will be called the 5 Maxi.

Unfortunately, there's no proof of this yet, except for a small slither of a press release which states the Twin-Run "celebrates automotive passion by paying homage to the legendary R5 Turbo and Clio V6."

The R5 was made between 1972 and 1985, and at 3,521mm in length is basically the granddaddy of the Twingo, meaning the transition from one model to the other is simple.

If my crazy theory is true, we could be looking at another R5 Turbo within a year, maybe two, which is hugely exciting. I used to be a fan of the Renault brand's latest cars until I drove the Clio 4. The formula on that car is all wrong, a posh tin can that looks awesome in pictures but feels just as flimsy as a piece of cardboard.

That's because the Clio has to be built to a budget to compete with things like the Skoda Fabia and Opel Astra. But if Renault revives an old name from its past, it can play the retro premium game with MINI and the Fiat 500. The formula changes. You can charge people for air vent surrounds, colored seats and even for orange paint. You can sell them an expensive special edition and tell them it's just like in the 1980s when Def Leppard, Poison and Guns N' Roses were cool.

So what about the performance model, the revival of the R5 Turbo? I think it's essential, since it's one of only two Renault hatchbacks with the engine in the back, along with the Clio V6.

What would they use for such a car? Well, how about that Energy TCe 130 used in the Megane? It's the same 1.2-liter turbo used in the Twingo TCe 100, but it has an impressive (for the size) 130 hp at 5,000rpm and peak torque of 205Nm. The Clio GT has a 120 hp version of the engine and takes 9.4 seconds to reach 100 km/h. Presumably, the rear-drive R5 Turbo will be a little faster, pushing mid-8-second times.

Leaving the pure numbers aside, the French car company would benefit hugely from such a car. Think about it – Fiat 500 Abarths are paraded proudly around the streets of Monaco, Los Angeles and Paris while the Twingo RS is a shameful car to be seen in, but drives really well.

The real magic with this car needs to take place inside though. I'd be as bold as to say the switches and buttons inside most Renaults are not as good as a Hyundai or Opel. The indicators stalks are awful to use and flimsy, all the plastics are scratchy and so on, and so forth. Equipment needs to be generous as well, with things like parking sensors, navigation and a good sound system pretty much expected. So yeah, I want the R5 Turbo to be built, but I want it as a posh model, not a budget rocket – we have enough of those.

Twingo replacement of R5 – either way, by putting the engine in the wrong place, Renault is changing one of its core segments. A lot is riding on the success of this car, not just the sales numbers, but also our respect for them as a company.
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
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Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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