Bruce Fraser

Bruce Fraser

The French have always been renowned for doing things differently.

A glass of wine is socially acceptable with your scrambled eggs and croissant at breakfast, and not too many politicians around the world manage to dump their wives for a Playboy centrefold beauty and then go on to become president.

Now when a car maker launches a new vehicle he normally invites the media to test their offering on some picturesque route.

Not French giant Renault.

No, they decide to unveil the Twingo (all 1200cc of it!) at the Gerotek test facilities just outside Tshwane.

For those who don't know, Gerotek consists of a number of racetracks where vehicles can be tested (in other words hammered!) in a controlled environment.

The Twingo is a funky little vehicle. First launched internationally in 2003 it has sold a staggering 2,3million units worldwide - and after a brief stint behind the wheel I can see why.

The interior is full-on retro with the rev counter housed individually above the centre console. Seating is also out of the ordinary. The back seats are actually two individual seats that can be easily lowered if you need some extra boot space.

Power-wise the 1,2-litre engine is good for, they claim, a top speed of 170kmh - more than enough to keep the speeding fines coming in.

Air conditioning, power steering, electric windows, ABS brakes and air bags front and side round off this snazzy little runabout.

The Twingo is aimed at the young, or young at heart. With its three-year-45000km service plan it is sure to do well.

The standard version will set you back R124500 and a slightly "blinged" model goes for R133500.

First up, though, at last Wednesday's Renault launch was the Logan.

This four-door sedan is sure to grab a slice of the small-medium car market due to two strong points - its price and comprehensive list of features.

Built by Mahindra in India, the Logan comes in at a very competitive R99500.

Renault have taken note of this with the Logan.

Sold in 59 countries around the world, the Logan will only be available in one derivative in South Africa - a 1,6-litre petrol version.

The Logan is definitely more functional than funky.

In fact, its design borders on boring - but then some people like boring.

The interior creature comforts of the Logan are pretty much the same as the Twingo's, only in a more spacious environment.

It handles well and its brakes are particularly responsive in hard driving.

Renault have had a rough time these last couple of years in South Africa. It's a combination of factors - from shoddy after-service to customer dissatisfaction with certain cars.

But with the launch of the Twingo and Logan they might just go a long way to restoring confidence and pride in a brand that dominates many car markets around the world.