Theme : Hybrids – Ruminations

These days the general understanding of hybrid is a vehicle with a dual power source. A Chevrolet Spark is one example. I’d rather work my way back to Pandas.

2003 Renault Kangoo Trekka 4x4: replicars.co.uk
2003 Renault Kangoo Trekka 4×4: replicars.co.uk

The current interpretation of hybrid overshadows other interpretations. There has in recent decades been a temptation for manufacturers to take a bit of one idea and a bit of another to make a third one. How the recipe is blended is where the interest lies. If you take a 4-wheel drive, off-road vehicle and make it more civilised you end up with a Range Rover. If you aren’t very good with adding the civilisation part you get a G-wagon or Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Subaru’s Outback of 1995 probably inspired the product planners in other firms. The 1997 Volvo XC70 combined the values of a Volvo estate with off-roading powers, yielding a car with a raised height and a lot of plastic panelling. Volvo had a bit more of a step to take in outbacking their car as they didn’t have a major talent at 4WD such as Subaru did. Renault, lacking an actual SUV/cross-over decided that the Scenic was a worthy candidate for getting four-wheel drive and extra exterior trim. The motoring press didn’t ‘get it’ as if they were being asked to consider a machine for shredding napkins or a device to freeze hairdryers. The Scenic 4×4 ran only for three years before Renault gave up.

2001 Renault Trekka 4x4 white smallWhile Renault had even more work to do with hybridising their Kangoo with four-wheel drive, their 2002 Kangoo Trekka is closer to the needs of people living in muddy places than Volvo’s car which is too nice to get muddy. And Subaru’s thirsty engines also are a mark against it. You can really imagine someone needing a Trekka with all its stowage, simple interior and hose-out flooring. I think it was popular in mountainous area of southern Europe where a combination of lower incomes, snow and steep hills create a real demand for a mix-and-match car like the Trekka. In a way it built on the idea of the 1983 Fiat Panda 4×4 but at a slightly more refined level. Is the Panda actually a hybrid? Or is the idea of off-road capability well suited to the Mk1 Panda’s intrinsic simplicity?

I seem to have worked backwards to 1983, haven’t I?

Author: richard herriott

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

2 thoughts on “Theme : Hybrids – Ruminations”

  1. What did Car say about the Renault Kangoo Trakka [sic] in 2001:
    “At last somebody has created a truly useful lifestyle vehicle. It has van space, enough kit to keep it interesting and 4×4 to handle more than you are likely to throw at it unless you own a Welsh mountain farm. It looks funny, rugged and like a van. And that will be the problem. In a world of style-obsessives, the only people who will buy the Trakka 4×4 will be people who actually need the space and ability at an affordable price, not those who want a car that says something about them.This is not stylish couture cardom, this is useful adaptation in a proper package.” They reckone that despite its low cost, just £11,000, few would buy it.

  2. I think someone from Car actually ran one for a while. As you say, like the Panda 4×4, it was primarily produced to sell in Alpine and Pyrenean regions and I’m surprised that Renault bothered doing the RHD version and selling it, or the Scenic 4×4 in the UK. It’s not a car you’d have bought for the cachet of a 4×4 badge. In the end Renault gave up and left the market to Fiat since, even for most Alpine dwellers, a set of winter tyres is sufficient for all but the worst conditions.

    On the other hand, the XC70 and Audi Allroad had a certain purposefulness that you could imagine appealing enough to someone living in the Home Counties that they’d convince themselves that it was essential for their annual week’s visit to Bourg-Saint-Maurice.

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