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There are countless Car of the Year awards handed out each year, and naturally, Europe has its own way of doing things. Every year, a panel of jurists representing seven publications in seven different languages and seven different countries get together to name their joint Car of the Year. The panel released a list of 32 candidates back in July, and it has now whittled that list down to seven nominees.

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With a rear-engine, rear-drive setup, the Renault Twingo (like its Smart cousin) has the opportunity to be a real firecracker. Unfortunately, even in turbocharged guise, its tiny three-cylinder engine has other ideas. But when we spoke to Renault's engineers at the Twingo's launch in France a couple of months ago, we were told a strategy was being worked out for a performance model. And that appears to be what we're looking at right here.

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The Rear-Engined Hatchback, However Improbable

In cars, as in all things, there exists a huge chasm between what is possible and what is probable. It may be possible, for example, that within a few years, we'll be zipping around town in hydrogen-powered, autonomous flying cars. But the likelihood is that we'll all be driving four-wheeled vehicles with internal combustion engines and our hands at ten and two for the foreseeable future – just as we have for generations. The same goes for the layout of those cars we drive.

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Renault has a problem. Last year, Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn said the two companies would not meet their collective goal of selling 1.5 million EVs a year by 2016. While sales of the Nissan Leaf have been strong – 115,000 globally so far - Renault sold less than 20,000 its EVs like the Zoe, the Fluence ZE and the Twizy last year.

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Small cars are becoming big business, especially for European automakers that are amping up the style. But is each new Euro city car's style unique?

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In many ways, the new Renault Twingo is a very old-school car. While its look and mechanicals are entirely modern, moving the engine to the back with rear-wheel drive harkens back to small, European cars of the '60s. The little Frenchman has a platform co-developed with Daimler and shares its underpinnings with the next-generation Smart. However, It also brings back some of the quirkiness to French cars that has been dwindling recently. Case in point: The way Renault created the hood opening.

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At this point, we thought the formula for small, inexpensive hatchbacks was pretty much dialed in: transverse engine, front-wheel drive. Then along comes Renault with its cheeky new Twingo, just to throw a curveball into the mix. Sporting a rear-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive, the Twingo is something of a (very) poor man's Porsche 911, and it's got us excited.

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There was a time when the smallest, nimblest hatchbacks (like the original VW Beetle and Fiat Cinquecento) put their engines in the back. But those days are long behind us... right? Well nobody seems to have told Renault, which has a proud history of putting its engines behind the seats with vehicles like the Renault 5 Turbo and Clio RS V6. Those were decidedly performance-oriented hot hatches, but now Renault is taking the formula to the masses with the introduction of the new Twingo.

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Renault's diminutive city car, the Twingo, is set for a debut in a few weeks at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show. So naturally, the little hatchback has leaked out early. Carscoops came up with the original batch of images before Renault posted the official family photo you see above.

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Caterham will be radically expanding beyond its core market of track-day specials with a new Renault-based CUV and city car. Following our initial reports back in November, the new models, which we can only hope are as ridiculously sporty as Caterham's other offerings, have been confirmed by Chairman Tony Fernandes to news agency Reuters.

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Still in the testing phases of the next-generation Smart Fortwo and the new Forfour model, Smart could also be planning a new crossover to reach into a more mainstream vehicle segment. According to Auto Express, soon after the redesigned Fortwo arrives in 2014, the Smart lineup will grow to include the other two models by 2015.

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The Renault Twingo wouldn't be one of the first vehicles that comes to mind when you think of luxury. In fact, just the opposite: it's one of Europe's most affordable little hatchbacks. But a new special edition aims to upset that particular apple cart through a collaboration with French jeweler Mauboussin.

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Art cars are becoming de rigeur once again, but while most automakers getting in on the action contract painters of some sort or another to spruce up their products, Renault has gone in a slightly different direction for its latest project.

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There's now word that the Daimler AG and Renault-Nissan tie-up, a collaborative deal that was made official back in April of 2010, is set to expand to include a compact Infiniti model that will feature a platform developed by Mercedes-Benz as well as a pair of electric vehicles. These are all slated to launch in 2014.

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If you're looking at the above image and think "Nissan", well you're not far off. Though it may look like a new stablemate for the Juke, this is actually the latest Twingo, built by Renault (Nissan's industrial ally) atop the same platform as the previous-generation Micra.

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Click above to watch the video after the jump

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Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and Daimler AG chairman Dieter Zetsche sign the agreement

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