A Photo for Sunday: Renault Vel Satis

About 15 years later, Renault’s rather imaginative Vel Satis is someone’s cheap old car. The lighting conditions and the car’s flat dark blue did not lend themselves to great photography.


Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

9 thoughts on “A Photo for Sunday: Renault Vel Satis”

  1. So, the question, Richard, is … did this snap give you cause to cast a critical eye (OK – so it did not need to be THAT critical, given the glaring nature of the offence) to the new Espace when you spotted it?

    The Vel Satis was prefaced by a very lovely concept of the same name, and so was immediately damned to disappoint everyone by looking nothing like that when it finally came to production. If you could get beyond that, it had quite a nice interior, distinctive exterior design, and was certainly something for those not wanting to be following the (largely German) crowd. I felt the looks were less successful and certainly less interesting than the Avantime of a similar era. Of course it bombed, certainly outside of France, but that does not (in my book,anyway) mean that it does not deserve remembering and appreciating every now and again.

    It is always sad, though, to see such cars looking so unloved, as this one does. It’s even more sad to learn that Renault itself seems unable to learn from its own history.

  2. I still like most of it, in parts. If only they had got the overall shape right to make it a proper ‘monocorps’, it would still have been divise, but for better reasons.

  3. I like some parts of it, but not the sum. Its stance is wrong, like a body forced upon a chassis that it wasn’t intended for in the first place. But some of the detailing is top-notch Le Quément, and that cabin must be a revelation in comparison with most modern claustrophobic environments. I remember the open-pored wood veneer with small rectangular inlays with particular fondness. That had a whiff of Andrée Putman to it, which is one the nicer associations I can think of.

    1. Spot on. The wrong stance to me is caused by the bonnet being too long, making the side view awkward. But some of the detailing is excellent inside and out.

  4. Overall I have a lot of time for this car. The interior is first class with brilliant details like the wood inlays, the sculptural dash which is expressive without being excessive. It has wonderful seats too. Seldom are car seats anything other than virtually interchangeable. These ones are unique and uniquely Vel Satis. I really have no beef with the external appearance as it seems driven by a good package. Further to our conversation elsewhere, the C-pillar leans back and is adjoined by a proper and properly costly wraparound screen. This is on my list of future cars as a suitably wierd alternative to my XM should the XM become an unwinnable war.

  5. I was never really able to like the Vel Satis, although I tried. Its stepping outside of the norm, the packaging, roominess and hatchback appealed very much to me. And even more so the interior, which I’d prefer over the C6’s half-hearted attempt, where good seats, a wonderfully calm dashboard design and beautiful door pockets are pulled down by a bland Peugeot 407 centre console, cheap C3 stalks and that steering wheel cover moulding which always looks as if it had escaped quality control (and why no fixed steering wheel hub?). But I agree with Kris and Laurent, the stance and proportions are wrong. Why haven’t they made it a monovolume? Renault was good at that before the Espace had to go cross-over.

    I actually considered a Vel Satis (sometimes also an Avantime) at several points of my automotive career, but there never seemed to be enough to make me step outside my Citroën habits. One point might be that one fellow Citroëniste who drove an Avantime was very unsatisfied with the ride. I’ve never tried one of the two Renaults, but I fear I might see the same sort of disappointment, as the ride quality is really one of my crucial points when choosing a vehicle.

    1. Simon. I too have considered both the Renaults and dismissed them for the same reason. I can’t pretend I insist on ride quality in all cars (otherwise i wouldn’t have an Audi S6) but in cars like the Vel Satis and Avantime it would be an essential part of their character. Whether true or not, I still wish to believe that it is Renault’s mediocre chassis engineering that did for both cars, not M. Le Quement’s styling as the Patrick Pelata camp made out.

      And, Laurent, we really do feel your pain,

  6. Sean, interesting that many Citroën lovers (judging from your avatar, I assume you are one) are also interested in the larger Renaults.

    Seeing how little people care for ride quality and how much for brand image (and how many executive cars are bought by prudent fleet managers anyway), I can assure you that it’s neither the styling nor the chassis that has killed the cars.

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