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 monovolume, 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.
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 Citroen said something like this about the C6.
In a nice symmetry, the new Espace is “inspired” by the Initiale show car revealed last year.