You should cherish famous names from history. That is why Renault kept the name Renault Espace, although the latest generation has much more in common with the Austral than with the retired model.
A car brand builds a reputation based on icons from the past. That’s what the traditional brands cling to – sometimes a little desperately – in the electric age. More and more Chinese car brands are knocking on the European gate. They are good, they are getting better, and there are many of them.
Europe can do little more than respond to sentiment: it was a good time when Renault, Volkswagen and Fiat still ruled the roads. The electric motor has become a great leveller. All car brands have to start over in the plug era. Cynically put, the EV is tearing the reputation of brands like Renault to shreds.
Compare your car insurance
Compare your car insurance now and receive a 20% discount on all car insurance policies via UnitedConsumers! This way you save up to € 175.00 per year.
European brands are using their past to increase their chances of survival. From the famous Renault 4 and 5, modern electric versions will be launched, responding to nostalgia for an era when designers felt less pressure from accountants. With its new SUV, Renault chooses to keep the name Espace, although its design and concept break with the five previous generations.
Espace: chairs that you can turn around
Back to 1984, when China played a minimal economic role. Then the first Espace appeared; a spacious, high car for seven people, with seats that you could turn around, fold into a table or remove from the car. The Espace was built by Matra and should have been the successor to the Talbot-Matra Rancho, but the ailing PSA did not dare to take the innovative model into production. Renault took the bait and, as the cliché goes, the rest is history.
The Espace was a great success for many years and in the early 1990s almost every competitor copied its concept. Four generations of Espace followed, but in recent years the shine had disappeared. The MPV died out and gave way to the SUV – the Espace remained as an old Nokia among Apple’s VR glasses. Now that the sixth generation is in the starting blocks, things are about to change.
20 cm langere Renault Austral
The Espace is now more of an extended Austral than a well thought-out space wonder, with the same chassis and powertrain. It is more than 20 centimeters longer than the Renault Austral and at the same time 14 centimeters smaller than the old Espace. As an extra temptation, the longer wheelbase Espace comes with seven seats at no extra cost. You can choose whether or not you want a third rear seat, the price remains the same. Competitors include the Nissan X-Trail, Kia Sorento in Peugeot 5008.
We already know the 200 hp hybrid powertrain from the Austral and it was not invented with the French blow. It consists of a 131 hp three-cylinder, a 68 hp primary electric motor that drives the wheels, a 25 hp secondary electric motor that acts as a starter generator and a six-speed automatic transmission. Sounds complicated and that is also the case in practice, because the cooperation between all participants is not always good. The petrol engine sometimes jumps in too late when it has to take over from the primary electric motor, so that nothing happens when you press the accelerator.
A curious sensation, which also reared its head with the Austral. It was so bad there that Renault adjusted the engine management software in the meantime. Although the Espace also benefits from this, in our opinion it can still be updated.
Nice travel car
Furthermore, the Espace is a fine travel car. It’s quiet, except for some wind noise around the front doors at high speed. The chassis is comfortable and with the optional four-wheel steering, the handling is surprisingly dynamic. Because the rear wheels countersteer a little at low speed, the turning circle is also just as short as that of a Clio. The handling is somewhat like an electric car. You can determine the degree of recovery of the braking energy yourself via paddles on the steering wheel. This means that on some routes you hardly have to use the – incidentally somewhat numb – brake pedal. And that in turn has a favorable effect on consumption, which you can keep slightly above 1 in 20 with a little good will. The official consumption is 4.7 l / 100 km (1 in 21.3).
7-seater Espace for nothing
Behind the wheel, you imagine yourself in an Austral. We see an almost identical dashboard, with the same screens with beautiful high resolution. We also know the navigation system with Google integration. But we also miss something, an ‘Espace touch’. Where are the swivel chairs and folding tables from previous generations? Where is that almost infinite space? As an adult, you can only reach the third row of seats in the new Espace if you have completed the Ballet Academy in The Hague. You do have a lot of space on the sliding second row of seats.
3000 euros more expensive than Austral
In 1984, the Renault Espace cost about 40,000 guilders (18,000 euros). Even in euros you pay more for the latest Espace; when it is in the showroom this fall, the Renault seller wants at least 46,830 euros for it. This makes it exactly 3000 euros more expensive than an Austral with the same engine. In the Netherlands, Renault expects the most from the Esprit Alpine version, which is another 3,000 euros more expensive than the entry-level Espace and has external details from motorsport, such as a checkered grille. In addition, the Esprit Alpine has four-wheel steering.
A test of a new car in your inbox every week? Then our newsletter is for you!
Renault Espace conclusion
As a child I experienced the heyday of the first Espace. The chair magic, the huge windows, the curious design; I thought it was a fascinating car. The new Espace is actually only associated with its name to the almost 40-year-old model. It’s a comfortable and economical seven-seater, but little different from an Austral with more space.