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Sabine Marcelis: Driving Design for the Future.

Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis radically reshapes the 30-year-old Renault Twingo as an electric concept car.

Renault Twingo designed by Sabine Marcelis is a small white 2-door concept car

The reimagined Twingo is stripped of color and its exterior to reveal the essential elements that define its design.

portrait of product designer Sabine Marcelis

For Sabine Marcelis—whose portfolio of functional and decorative object designs encompasses everything from donut-shaped poufs to swiveling stone chairs—the invitation to redesign the iconic Renault Twingo car was a welcome challenge. The designer and her Amsterdam-based team were compelled by the opportunities and restrictions that characterize such a complex project. 

“The collaboration with Renault began with an invitation to rethink Twingo as part of its 30th-anniversary celebrations,” Marcelis says. “It was a fantastic opportunity, and a new field of exploration for me because I had never designed a car before. Working on such an iconic and popular car was a real challenge, especially given the scale of the project. It was an opportunity to create something truly innovative and memorable.”

Marcelis’ work—a mix of product, installation, and spatial design—is characterized by simple, pure forms and her tendency to highlight the properties unique to specific materials. These qualities, along with her signature pastel color palette, shaped her vision of a Twingo for the modern age.  

“Working on such an iconic and popular car was a real challenge, especially given the scale of the project. It was an opportunity to create something truly innovative and memorable.”  —SABINE MARCELIS, Studio Sabine Marcelis

red and orange interior of concept car designed by sabine marcelis

With its rich palette of warm red tones, the interior is both cozy and spacious. Exploring the idea of mono-materiality, Marcelis combined typically separate elements, like the sunshade with the rearview mirror. The transparent, molded-resin disk steering wheel is a result of Sabine Marcelis’ exploration of light’s interaction with various materials.

To honor the original, a cult city car launched in 1993 when Patrick Le Quément was Renault’s legendary head of design, Marcelis stripped back the vehicle to the essential elements that defined its design: the wedge-shaped silhouette, “frog eye” headlights, and interior details including illuminated vents and buttons. Playing with light and materiality—including resin and Plexiglas, which allowed her to experiment with varied translucencies—she elevated the design from casual commuter to chic concept car. 

Marcelis also embraced the idea of mono-materiality, or reducing typically separate components into singular elements. For example, the sunshade and rearview mirror are combined to simplify and streamline the driver’s view through the windshield. The front seats are merged into a single bench. The vehicle’s body and windows also form a seamless piece interrupted only by a transition in opacity. “One of my favorite features is the key, which we designed in a translucent torus shape, a signature form I often work with,” Marcelis says.

A white chassis and wheels offer a stark contrast to the red interior. Marcelis had a strong inclination to keep the exterior devoid of color, which allows the body materials’ characteristics to take center stage. The interior’s rich palette of saturated finish colors, ranging from burgundy to raspberry, nods to the original Twingo red. A peach-colored resin disk steering wheel and purple topstitching on the red leather seats enhance the interior experience.

Exceptionally spacious given its compact footprint—a four-door option wasn’t introduced until the vehicle’s third generation, in 2014—the Twingo offered many features for Marcelis to explore. Her new lines and silhouette remain true to the original while maximizing the sense of space. 

Although the car is not road-legal, it is a fully functioning vehicle that has been tested extensively by Renault. The design, which debuted at Centre Pompidou in Paris, is a testament to the brand’s commitment to electrify all its European models by 2030.

As published in GRAY magazine No. 69.; Images courtesy Renault.


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