Seekers of cut-price motoring thrills will usually harp on about the "good ol' days" when the car market was flooded with feisty hot hatches that didn't cost the earth and could easily fit in a supermarket parking space.
Despite the current trend that has seen many "small cars" become bloated and plenty of hot hatches costing more than a rear-wheel-drive sports car, there remains a chosen few that don't cost the earth yet provide untold amounts of wheel-spinning joy.
> Step forward the Suzuki Swift Sport and the Twingo Renaultsport ...
What are they?
They are a pair of mighty minis that pack 1.6-litre, naturally aspirated engines that are designed to put a smile on the face of commuters up and down the country. Both cost just shy of £14,000 and both boast the kind of handling prowess that wouldn't look out of place at your local karting center. Granted, the Twingo RS is the more "hardcore" of the two with its chunky bodykit and figure-hugging bucket seats but what the Swift Sport lacks in sporty appearance it more than makes up for in the practicality stakes.
What's under the bonnet?
What's the spec like?
It is clear the Twingo RS is gunning for the stripped-out racer approach to its interior design because there really isn't much to write home about. It features a small CD/radio unit that surprisingly offers both Bluetooth and USB connectivity but accessing these functions can be fiddly, especially when on the move. The air conditioning and heater system is delightfully retro, with large white dials operating most functions. A majority of the options on the list surround styling but the Cup chassis is a must for those wanting to really chuck the Twingo around.
The Swift is slightly more refined, with its interior looking more like a normal family car rather than a track day warrior. Keyless entry comes as standard, as does an ISOFIX child restraint system plus there is all the entertainment gubbins one needs. Both cars lack a sat-nav, which is forgivable in the Twingo, but the Swift could do with one as an optional extra at least.
We racked our brains here at AOL Cars but could only really come up with the Fiat Abarth 500 as a solid rival. The iconic Italian city slicker starts at around the same price point but spoils the owner with lashings of style, fiery performance and a dash of badge snobbery. Expect to handover a lot more when the options list is raided.
What are they like to drive?
As much as the Suzuki Swift is the adept all-rounder, the sensible option and the choice of any sane person, there is something to be said for the Twingo's old-school charm. The chassis definitely errs on the harsh side but when it comes to a high-speed country lane hoon, the Suzuki finds it difficult to keep up. The Swift Sport's added weight and less track-focussed set-up mean it rides beautifully on longer journeys but doesn't quite offer the Twingo's level of driver engagement. That said, the Swift Sport wouldn't fail to impress when the need for some enthusiastic driving takes hold and it settles into the role of everyday runaround with real aplomb but proper performance junkies will be drawn towards the sporty Renault's overall racier package.
The AOL Cars verdict
This was a particularly tough test, as both cars possess a certain charm. Regardless, the Renault just edges it due to the fact it busts the myth that really small, fun and affordable hot hatches no longer exist. Renault's RS department has done a stellar job with the Cup chassis and the plucky little engine revs to unbelievable levels, just don't expect to be completely comfortable on the morning commute.
Twingo Renaultsport 133
Price: £13,770 Engine: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder petrol
Max speed: 125mph
0-62mph: 8.7 secs
MPG: 43.5mpg (combined)
Emissions: 150g/km CO2
Suzuki Swift Sport
Engine: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder petrol
Max speed: 121mph
0-62mph: 8.7 secs
MPG: 44.1mpg (combined)
Emissions: 147g/km CO2