Saturday, 7 September 2013

You'll Never Guess What The New Renault Espace Looks Like

Renault Initiale Paris Concept teaser
It may surprise you to learn this, but the Renault Espace full-size MPV still exists. Widely credited with inventing the MPV genre, the current generation of the car has gone largely unchanged for the last 10 years. Yes there has been a facelift here and a technical update there, but it's essentially the same car that was released in 2003. Now it's time for them to ready its replacement, and pictures of the preview concept have leaked onto the internet.

Now, here's the current Espace:

They get older from left to right, in case that wasn't obvious...
Now the opposite is true

I bet you anything that if you were to look at the images thus far in this post and imagine what the eventual Espace Mk.V - or rather the Initiale Paris Concept that previews its design - might look like, it will not look like what you'll see in the following images (aside from the headlights)...

...because you see, it looks like this:

Renault Initiale Paris Concept
Was I right? Or were you expecting Renault to turn their long-serving MPV/Airport Taxi into a luxury crossover?

Well, I suppose you might have considered that possibility, had you already read of the Jaguar C-X17. Crossovers are in vogue at the moment, and as much as I think they're daft, a car company hoping to stay alive can't ignore this widespread fashion trend. So, what Renault - who desperately need to build cars that people will buy in large numbers at the moment - have decided to do is combine the virtues of their MPV with the virtues of an SUV-like crossover thing. The result is the Initiale Paris Concept. There is no official information yet, only leaked pics, but if it has all-wheel-drive (possible), locking diffs (improbable) and a panoramic sunroof (quite probable), then it is a true Multi-Purpose Vehicle.

What they've done is taken a car that is so blatantly un-sporty and un-lustworthy and made it sleeker, but done so by raising the ride height rather than lowering the roof and taking away some of the practicality of it. This way the vertical proportions are shrunken slightly to make it look sportier, but mothers can still insert their children without really bending down, and fathers can look tough leaning against something big with black cladding and big wheels. That's probably the idea, anyway. What's more, this highly-finished car with lots of chrome and whatnot is meant to preview themes for Renault's new luxo line, called Initiale Paris. Initially (ahem), this will be the top trim level on particular models, much like Ford Europe is about to do by bringing back the Vignale name. Initiale Paris will take inspiration from "French luxury goods expertise" and the first production car to get this upmarket trim will actually be the Clio. If it's successful enough then it could grow into a new sub-brand, probably like Citroën's DS models but potentially into a whole brand of its own like Lexus or Infiniti is to Toyota or Nissan.

There were plans to make a flagship saloon based on the Mercedes E-Class (after the Renault-Nissan Alliance made a deal with Daimler-Benz) to launch the brand, but they realised it wasn't going to work, so this more gradual approach was chosen instead. Still, the concept cars are evidently not going to hold back in the same way. This car adds to Renault's history of bonkers people carriers, like the love-or-hate Vel Satis 5-seater or the charmingly odd Avantime 3-door luxury GT MPV coupé thing. You know, those cars that made it about two years before being axed and forgotten...

But maybe an SUMPV will be more beneficial an experiment for Renault. You can't deny their logic that a more upmarket crossover is a good idea, and having seven seats might add a USP against many cars of this genre. The production version will probably appear within the next 12 months. Renault will be hoping this fad is still alive then...

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