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Renault Twingo

A ray of sunshine car design

Full of anthropological friendliness, without being silly or effete — from its toddler-like short and broad proportions, bright-eyed face, and strong pastel colours. Brilliantly habitable from a longer cabin and shorter body length than the Clio it was based on, and from a sliding rear seat and large glazing area. Along with its planted wheel-at-each-corner stance, this marriage of personable semantic and human-centred functional design made the Renault Twingo of 1992 arguably more a spiritual successor to the Mini than the New MINI that followed. Yet it was also very much its own car and somehow emphatically a Renault and French with its mono-space silhouette, canvas sunroof, and vibrant colour and material design (a clouds on a blue sky fabric design being the most quintessentially Twingo).

The original Twingo is also a car design special because of how several remarkable people made it happen: Patrick le Quement, then Design Director, who created space for the idea and put his neck on the line to champion it against marked opposition within the company; Jean-Pierre Ploue, now design director of PSA but then the Renault designer who penned its distinct form; and Renault President of the time, Raymond Levy (who has just passed away), who trusted his Design Director and green lit the project despite (clearly bad) market research that found a 50% rejection rate. And it is this 'instinctive design rather than extinctive marketing' — as le Quement wrote to Levy whilst pushing the design to realisation — that is the lesson that the Twingo might be most valuably remembered for, as well as for being such a human, ray of sunshine design.