“Renault Revised!” was the headline in what might have been a period review of the R14 by veteran motor writer, Archie Vicar.
This article may have first appeared in Motoring & Driving, December 1979. The original photos were by Dooulgas Land-Windermere (sic) but due to fouling with the filing cabinet, stock photos have been used.
Ah, Renault, perpetually playing second fiddle to Ford, Peugeot, Opel and Austin in the dull-but-worthy stakes. Or second fiddle to Citroen and Alfa Romeo in the odd-but-strange stakes. Renault, somewhere in the middle of it all, with beret, Camembert and Gitanes ever at the ready but never sure whether it is a European firm or just a French one.
Example number one must surely be the Renault 14. If you want to consider it as French Escort, a Gallic “Golf” or a bleu-blanc-rouge Strada it seems to avoid direct comparison while all the while pointedly being Renault’s idea of what a middle-market mainstream medium-family hatch might be.
Quite apart from the lines of the car – more Hulot than Bardot – the Renault 14 has a welter of idiosyncratic features: the gearchange is like month’s old Brie, the nylon “Jersey” upholstery reminds me of the kind of tie worn by a French regional politician and the heating and ventilation is among the worst I have encountered apart from the Lotus Esprit (the worst car I have ever driven, to be fair).
And the price! £4,044 is what Renault ask for all of this. This being a TS with 1.4 litre engine, front-wheel drive and no-split rear seat back (unlike the Fiat Strada, the Talbot Sunbeam!). The engine is interesting enough: partly-developed with Peugeot, it seems Peugeot are reluctant to use it.
If you are interested, on the long tour from Dover to Dijon the R14 returned 35 mpg but then again, it was filled to the gunwales with photographic equipment and, eventually, cheese and wine. The photographer headed home early, his five snaps safely taken.
So, is there anything about the R14 to write home about? The straight-line stability is fine if you have to drive in a straight line. The unwanted engine is fairly light on its feet and the acceleration is not too bad, really. There is a nice high sill to stop the chattels falling out and the ashtray is decent for the class of car but nothing a Ford driver would take a second look at.
Steering’s alright – odd in a way. It’s sudden or by turns rubberised and then it gets into action and the car sniffs off in a new direction like a bloodhound scenting a steak and kidney pie. The body roll is as bad as the fine ride quality would lead you to suspect. I thought it coped well with the rough pavements of Dijon, even with just two people on board.
I really think the cloth is frightful though. My twill trousers seemed to cling to the fabric and it was very vulnerable to cigarette burns.
So, all told, yes, the Renault 14 is pretty much as it was when we first tested it and the new engine revisions don’t make it much worse or much better either.