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Renault Espace
Renault Espace IV Facelift 20090801 front.JPG
Manufacturer Renault
Production 1984-present
Predecessor None
Successor None
Class Large MPV/minivan
Body style(s) 5-door MPV
Layout FF layout

The Renault Espace is a large MPV from French car-maker Renault. Generations 1-3 were sold under the Renault brand but manufactured by Matra. The current fourth generation model, which seats seven passengers, is an all-Renault product; the Renault Grand Espace is a long-wheelbase version with increased rear leg room and boot size.

The Espace is often credited as being the world's first MPV (a claim Renault themselves encourage).[1] However, the 1950 Volkswagen Type 2, also known as the Kombi, and the 1956 Fiat 600 Multipla, popularised the versatile multi-seater concept some 30 years prior to the Espace, and the concept had been tried several times before that, an early example being the 1935 Stout Scarab.

Espace I (1984-1991)

Espace I
Renault Espace 1 en France azure.jpg
Production 1984-1991
Assembly Romorantin, France

The Espace's design was originally conceived in the 1970s by the British designer, Fergus Pollock, (at around the same time as Giorgetto Giugiaro's 1978 Lancia Megagamma concept MPV), who was working for Chrysler UK (formerly the Rootes Group), at their design centre at Whitley, (now the Jaguar design centre) in Coventry.[2] Later Matra, who were affiliated with Simca, the then French subsidiary of Chrysler, were involved in partnership in the design, spearheaded by Greek designer Antonis Volanis.

The Espace was originally intended to be sold as a Talbot, and to be a replacement for the Matra Rancho leisure activity vehicle. Early prototypes used Simca parts, and hence featured a grille reminiscent of the Simca 1307 (Chrysler Alpine).

In 1978, six years before the Espace went into production, Chrysler UK and Simca were sold to the French company PSA Peugeot Citroën (PSA), and the Espace design was given to Matra.

PSA decided the Espace was too expensive and too risky a design to put into production, and Matra took their idea to Renault (PSA finally ventured into the minivan sector eleven years later with the Citroën Evasion/Peugeot 806).

In 1982, Pierre Heymann who was working on the comparative testing for automobiles at the French National Consumer Institute, made his design for an ideal car and proposed it to Renault.

The Matra concept became the Renault Espace. The design featured a fiberglass body mounted on a warm-galvanized steel chassis, using the same technique and assembly line at the factory as the Talbot Matra Murena. In fact, the introduction of the Espace required the relatively small factory to cease the production of the Murena, to make room for the Espace.

The Espace was launched by Renault in 1984. After a very slow start — a grand total of nine Espaces were sold in the first month after launch[3] — customers warmed to the benefits of the MPV concept and the Espace became very popular.

Espace I - Phase 2

Building upon its success, the Espace was revamped in 1988 with most of the Talbot/Simca content being replaced by equivalent Renault parts (the chassis and mechanical components of the car remained largely unchanged). The most obvious cosmetic exterior difference between the very first Espaces and the revamped post-1988 models were the changed headlights: the forward-slanting lights with orange indicator casing of the original Espace were replaced with backward-slanting lights with a clear indicator casing.

Espace II (1991-1997)

Espace II
Renault Espace 2
Production 1991-1997
Assembly Romorantin, France

A heavily revised Espace was launched in 1991, adopting the Renault family look to replace the Talbot-themed styling of the original. This was essentially a re-skin of the original car, with a new dashboard and other interior improvements. The chassis was essentially unchanged.

Espace F1

In 1995, Renault displayed a show car called the Espace F1 (created by Matra) to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Espace and Renault's involvement in Formula One racing. Though it resembled an Espace with substantial bodywork changes, the vehicle in fact had more in common with a Formula One car. The vehicle used a lightweight carbon fibre F1 -style chassis in combination a carbon-fibre reinforce Espace J63-series body (as opposed to fibreglass on the standard model. Powering the Espace F1 was an 800hp (upgraded from its original rating of 700hp), 3.5-litre, 40-valve Renault RS5 V10 engine as used in the 1993 Williams-Renault FW15C. As with an F1 car, the V10 engine is mid-engined (as opposed to the conventional front-engined layout) and the power was transmitted to the rear wheels via a 6-speed semi-automatic gearbox, also used in the FW15C. The engine and transmission allowed the Espace F1 to accelerate from 0–100 km/h (0–62 mph) in 2.8 seconds, 0–200 km/h (0–124 mph) in 6.9 seconds and carry on accelerating to a top speed of 312 km/h (194 mph). With the use of carbon-ceramic brakes, the Espace F1's deceleration was no less impressive that its acceleration - it could accelerate from 0–270 km/h (0–168 mph) and brake to a complete halt in under 600 metres (1,969 ft). This version of the Espace was featured in the driving simulator, Gran Turismo 2. Frank Williams was a noted passenger of the Espace F1, being chauffeured by David Coulthard.[4]

Espace III (1997-2003)

Espace III
Renault Espace III
Production 1997-2003
Assembly Romorantin, France

The third generation of the Espace arrived in 1997 while the long-wheelbase Grand Espace appeared the following year, its most notable feature being the radical futuristic interior (with a centrally-mounted digital speedometer). A number of third generation Espaces were used as bases for NGV and taxi conversions for the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and the Kuala Lumpur Sentral transportation hub in Malaysia, rebranded as Enviro 2000s.

The third-generation Espace was the last to be built by Matra; following an end to production for Renault, Matra and MG Rover negotiated over a possible deal for the latter to build and market Espaces but this never came to fruition.[5]

Espace IV (2003-2011)

Espace IV
Renault Espace IV Phase II 2.0 dCi.JPG
Manufacturer Renault and Yulon
Production F: 2003-2011
TW: 2003-2008
Assembly Sandouville, France
Miaoli, Republic of China
Layout FF

The fourth-generation Espace arrived in 2003 and was the first entirely Renault-developed and produced model. The Espace is 90% recyclable and contains numerous weight-reducing materials, thus cutting fuel consumption. The aluminium doors and bonnet are some 20 kg lighter than steel equivalents.

Its styling was reflective of a new design direction at Renault, symbolised by the radical Vel Satis and Avantime models, marking a major departure from the previous model, which also saw the range moved upmarket.

The fourth-generation Espace came third from the bottom in the Top Gear Satisfaction Survey 2005.


The Espace IV passed the Euro NCAP car safety tests with following ratings:[6]

Adult Occupant: 5/5 stars
Pedestrian: 2/4 stars

The 2003 Espace featured in British motoring TV show Fifth Gear where it was crashed into a 1990s Land Rover Discovery at 64 km/h (40 mph). The passenger compartment in the Espace was kept fairly intact, but the dummy in the Discovery was smashed between the seats and the dashboard, leaving no survival possibilities.


The Renault Espace IV has received very good reviews from motoring journalists and is often cited as one of the best vehicles in the large MPV class.

  • The AA 8/10 stars[7]
    'The [Espace] is the MPV to beat all MPVs; it's spacious, luxurious and drives well for a car this size. And there's no question of it being mistaken for anything else on the road.'
  • Autocar 3.5/5 stars[8]
    'The interior is well executed, but even the Grand Espace isn't that spacious with seven on board. Build quality is impressive, as are the diesels, but avoid petrol power.'
  • Auto Express 3/5 stars[9]
    'The restyle hasn't dented the visual appeal of the Espace. Yet although the interior is more practical, it's simply not as versatile as the cabins of rivals such as the new Ford Galaxy, or upmarket competitors like Land Rover's Discovery.'
  • Car4/5 stars[10]
    For: Gigantic
    Against: A bit unwieldy
  • Parker's 4/5 stars[11]
    Pros: Masses of cabin room, superb long distance cruiser, strong dCi engines
    Cons: Can be expensive to buy, seats don't fold flat, sheer size makes it tricky to manoeuvre
  • Top Gear 6.5/10 stars[12]
    'The last word in MPVs, the Renault Espace is simply vast, but manages to be stylish and unconventional at the same time. Available in regulation and Behemoth 'Grand' guises, either is the ultimate solution for those with a distrust of birth control.'
  • What Car? 3/5 stars[13]
    'Decent space for people, if not their luggage. The Espace offers a refined drive and some refined engines, but some rivals are cheaper and more versatile.'

Espace V (2011-)

Espace V
Manufacturer Renault
Production 2011-

The Espace V is estimated to arrive in 2011. It is likely to again be closely related to the Renault Laguna sharing chassis, engines, transmissions and electricals and will be presented at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show.


  1. Renault Press release on the model's 20th anniversary[dead link]
  2. Lewin, Tony (2003). How to Design Cars Like a Pro: A Complete Guide to Car Design from the Top Professionals. Motorbooks International. ISBN 0-7603-1641-4. 
  3. Top Gear - Historic People Carrier Racing - official Top Gear YouTube channel provided legally by BBC
  4. "The Williams Database - Matra-Williams-Renault Espace F1". Retrieved on 2010-12-02.
  5. "Austin Rover Online". Retrieved on 2010-12-02.
  6. "Renault Espace | Euro NCAP - For safer cars crash test safety rating". Euro NCAP. Retrieved on 2010-12-02.
  7. "Car Reviews: Renault Grand Espace 2.0 dCi Privilege". The AA. Retrieved on 2010-12-02.
  8. "Renault Grand Espace 3.0 V6 dCi Privilège Auto". Retrieved on 2010-12-02.
  9. "Renault Grand Espace | First Drives | Car Reviews". Auto Express (2006-04-12). Retrieved on 2010-12-02.
  10. "Renault Grand Espace - 2.0 dCi Dynamique (150bhp) 5d Auto - Car Data". Retrieved on 2010-12-02.
  11. "New Renault Grand Espace Car Review - Parker's". Retrieved on 2010-12-02.
  12. "Renault Espace/Grand Espace expert car review verdict - BBC Top Gear". Retrieved on 2010-12-02.
  13. "Renault Espace MPV - Summary - New Car Review - What Car?". Retrieved on 2010-12-02.


External links

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