French automaker Renault will unveil its brand new Twingo minicar at this year's Geneva Motor Show in March. That may not seem like exciting news, but the new Twingo actually marks a radical departure for cars in the segment, as it utilizes a rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive layout.

It's the first time Renault has used such a setup since the 1970s, and the first time anyone has used such a layout in a small car for quite some time--aside from Mercedes sub-brand Smart. That's no coincidence, as Smart and Renault have worked together on developing the new car--the Twingo shares its underpinnings with the next-generation Smart Fortwo and Forfour.

It should give the Twingo some unique attributes both inside and out. While basic cars may not be set up for sporty cornering, the layout bodes well for future Renaultsport versions of the car--and if sufficiently powerful, could steer on the throttle like no small, cheap car in decades. Renault also promises a tight turning circle for the car, facilitated by the lack of engine up front--and its wheel-at-each-corner stance will also be beneficial for interior room. Unfortunately, we won't get to see the interior itself until March 4, when the car makes its Geneva debut.

Styling is influenced by the recent Renault Twin'Run and Twin'Z concept cars, an amalgam of current Renault styling trends and a hint of the old Renault 5--sold briefly in the U.S. as the Renault Le Car. That inspiration can be seen in the car's upright profile, while the LED daytime running lights echo the auxiliary lights found on the front of the outgoing Twingo model. Power comes from a small three-cylinder gasoline engine, turbocharged as per Renault's 'TCe' badging on the tailgate. The main draw for most buyers will be fuel efficiency, but the little turbocharged unit could also make the Twingo good fun to drive. Buyers will get the option of manual or dual-clutch automatic transmissions.

Smart hasn't yet announced when its own take on the car is to be unveiled, but mechanically it's likely to share the majority of the Twingo's components, mainly differentiated by Smart's own unique styling.


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