Renault have decided to abandon yet another category of car. This time they have given up on space-focused people movers.
The Renault Espace was a trend setter and for two decades ruled the roost in the MPV class. The original version is now three decades old and still has a tidy, neat appearance of purest industrial design. This sat well with Renault’s custom of quite rational cars. The last generation did not get out of the show room fast enough. It was luxurious, large, complex and not really the kind of car you really wanted babies to be sick in.
Absent a convincing big car, Renault have decided to re-imagine the Espace as a rakish, large and unusual looking mono volume, one where space requirements yield to what they consider to be sporty styling. The production car has been revealed at this year’s Paris motor show. I have a theory that Renault was rather unhappy its excellent and very stylish Avantime of 2001 was badly received. Thus, the new Espace to which the Avantime was related (if only because Matra made it as they did the Espace Mk1 and Mk2) has a subtle resemblance to the ill-starred two door MPV coupe of 2001.
As you can see, the 2001 still looks striking, modern and uncluttered yet still with a marked character of its own. The 2015 car is by comparison, encrusted with decorative articulations though I do approve of the front graphics.
Renault don’t plan to sell the Espace in the UK since British buyers have adopted a strident dislike of anything large and non-German unless its a Scania lorry or Rolls-Royce. If you compare the 2001 Avantime and the new Espace you can see echoes of the former in the latter: the window line, proportions and stance. The window frames are the weakest element, recalling the very busy frames of the Citroen Picasso.
Personally, I would argue the 2001 car is the more appealing of the two. It was futuristic and still so while the Espace, like the new Safrane, seems very much a sideways move.
Carlos Ghosn is reported as saying “The new Espace is competing in a small segment, so we will start from a low level with sales and go up“, he said. “We’ll make sure we do well in mainland Europe before going elsewhere, we want a positive response first. We’re being more progressive in strategy, setting low goals and hopefully having high achievements – it was the reverse before.” I can’t help thinking that Citroën said something like this about the C6.
In a nice symmetry, the new Espace is inspired by the Initiale show car revealed last year.
13 thoughts on “More Renault: 2015 Renault Espace”
Actually both Scania and Rolls-Royce are German-owned nowadays. I would change those names to Jaguar and Land-Rover. Or Jeep.
Regarding the Avantime, its styling is still looking very fresh more almost 15 years on isn’t it?
I still feel it represents a huge missed opportunity on the part of Renault (but I’ll try to write a bit more on that point at the weekend).
It’s actually one of the few ‘special’ cars I would consider buying right now, before it’s too late.
You´d be right that this is one of the few special cars of recent years. They made fewer than 9000 units. If you can deal with the doors´propensity to sag, this car really would be a privilege to own. It´s sister, the Vel Satis appeals to me as a replacement for my XM though I generally have a bias against Renaults as I feel they don´t have lasting integrity (this is hilarious in the light of the car I actually do run!). I´d be happier with an R25 as I feel its maintainable. An Vel Satis is on the wrong side of the future-proof/life-limited divide. I feel I could buy one and find it impossible to fix within three of four years. Now why don´t I feel the same way about the Avantime? Because the style/longevity trade-off seems much, much better.
As an early adopter of a Mark 1 Espace, I have a proprietary feeling about the model. When Car Magazine (not usually that hot on commenting on aesthetics) spoke of the coming Mark 5, it mentioned the dull looks of the Mark 4 counting against it. I disagree and found the styling fine, combining style with the practicality that has always been the Espace’s strong point. See Renault, the clue is in the name. This Mark 5 looks like yet another case of customer convenience being sacrificed for (supposedly) funky looks. The problem with every new Renault design is that I can’t help thinking of Mr van den Acker’s well known collection of sports shoes. Possibly the Imelda Marcos of automobile design could drop in to Church’s some time.
The more I think about it, the more I realise Car has been wildly wrong on aesthetics. For instance, they always said how “neat” the Xantia was. It was mediocre and merely a re-hash of an Espero. They have been pretty uncritical of Mercedes. While noting the obvious horribility of the X3 they seem to have taken an irrational dislike to the BMW GT which is really just a slightly taller hatchback and not at all contentious. Ferrari and Maserati are swooned over. I expect most automotive designers think they are now tat. VW´s Golf is always called boring which is an utterly simplistic way to view it. Opel are always hated though their track record in industrial design is actually very good but never let facts get in the way of an opinion. And routinely Car make sweeping distinctions about car interiors that are not supported by the images accompanying them. It´s a matter of pin the tail on the donkey.There are four virtually indistinguishable interiors. One is always “dated”, another boring, another good and another very good. I´d say that these days it´s seldom obvious based on forms which interior is the newest. By and large, Car´s writers don´t really know what they are talking about when it comes to design. To be fair, I don´t read Top Clarkson or any of the other journals but I expect they are equally off the mark in their judgments on style. Car design is complex and sometimes a good solution is restrained classicism; sometimes a lovely design might be utterly wrong for the brand. But for automotive writers, it seems anything less than long, low and alarming is “boring” as if everything can be styled like a two-seater supercar. These fellows don´t understand that design isn´t an art. You do it for other people and let your preferences take a back seat.
Interestingly, I looked at an Autocar test yesterday and it included the words “It is not the job of the Autocar road test to dwell for long on matters as subjective as appearance, but ….”. That seemed both honest and depressing. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then you could argue that steering feel and ride comfort are in the hands and bum of the same. I think you can analyse a design’s strengths or shortcomings without having to pontificate on whether it is actually attractive.
Design issues can be divided into the subjective and less subjective elements. The latter approach is to ask is the design internally consistent and professionally resolved. VW designs generally do well. Even when accepting a style is polarising you can distinguish between examples like Pontiac Aztek and SsangYong Rodius on one side, and vehicles like the Saab 900 (some hate it) and Renault Vel Satis or Avantime. Car seldom uses the kind of formulation cited above. Their bias is towards a certain type of car (more so than in the past) and that includes the appearances. For me, the kind of car they like seems always to look a certain way. Packaging usually suffers in the name of swoopiness and visual flashiness.
As in “Taut, purposeful flanks … etc”. Their descriptions often remind me of a soft-porn story. At least what I imagine a soft porn story reads like.
It may be utter folly, yet I refuse to give up on my efforts to explain the difference between finding a design subjectively or objectively bad to anyone who makes the mistake of calling, say, a Golf VI or a Sacco-era Mercedes “boring” in my presence. I’m aware that’s making me as popular as an Amish man at a fraternity bash, but I don’t care – I simply find the failure to make such a distinction irritating, and increasingly so the more car-savvy my counterpart claims to be. That most automotive publications are of the same mindset should actually be considered shocking, but is generally accepted.
There are different criteria for ‘good design’. I agree that Golf VI perfectly fills what I assume VW’s brief is and, since I think that a sensible hatchback should (generally) look like a sensible hatchback (unless it’s Focus 1) it gets my vote. The problem is in reverse. A certain correspondent on these pages trumpets his liking for the Nissan Juke. Though I’m sure he can come up with no aesthetic rules that can excuse its misformed shape, I would of course defend to the death (or nearabouts) his right to like the Juke and grudgingly admit that it’s a more entertaining mishapen blob than many others. Likewise I’d defend the 1999 Multipla to those ‘ugly’ shriekers by pointing out the many practical features its design offers, together with the obvious disadvantage of removing its quirky features in a facelift. The original Capri was a bulbous mess in my eyes (and I can think of few aesthetic rules to excuse it) but it makes many men of a certain age go misty eyed.
What’s the precise difference in acceptability between the design of the Juke and say, that of most Mercedes? And why is it I am happy with the Juke but irritated by the Ford Focus? The Juke is lucky to have no antecedents. I take it for what it is and find the conceit novel enough to compensate for the detail shortcomings. It’s distinctive and has a cheerfulness which disarms criticism. That’s not to say it trades on anthropomorphism. Most Mercedes offfer nothing original and also lack the seriousness found in every Golf and A4. Mercedes are simply carelessly shaped cars, displaying the same sense of entitlement that GM USA showed in the 80s but at a higher price. And Ford’s Focus (and all its current EU portfolio) is overwrought without having any character. The Focus is an invisible car despite its creases and swages. I’ve driven it and find it, in brief, to be a very decent car. But with more discipline or more flair it could have really stood out from its peers as Mk1 and Mk 2 did. The Juke has flair. I hope they don’t do another. Just as there never should have been a TT Mk2.
It’s an S-Max, isn’t it?
Yes and no – mostly no. This is more SUV than Espace, and owes less to the latter than the S-Max.