Renault is not historically an avant guarde maker of machines. While Citroen took care of the godess’ Renault would go about the everyday making hatchbacks for the everyman and woman. Indeed, their only standout innovative product(1) was the 1984 Espace.
Although the Espace wasn’t an especially new idea(2) Renault held onto this success so tightly that in 2001 they attempted to replace the unloved Safrane with two cars, one of which was effectively an Espace coupe, the Avantime.
Thierry Metroz, design project manager, said ‘we wanted someone walking around the car to be continually astonished'(3). Although looking a little loose next to the 1999 ‘Coupespace’ concept, the Avantime retains its form simply by being unique.
The car features, contrary to much of the current generation, a large glass house. With no B pillars, both front and back windows could be retracted for a ‘grand air’ mode. The upper frame is exposed aluminium giving, perhaps, the world’s only justified two-tone colour scheme.
The Avantime was effectively built, designed and engineered by Matra, the original makers of the Espace, their reasoning being that those who had been transported as children around in the Renault badged MPV would remain loyal to the concept. They weren’t, although putting one foot in front of the other in almost any European population centre will reveal that they did buy into the conceptually similar ‘crossover’.
Personally, I will never forget that as I would arrive to junior school I would always see a friend being delivered by the then new generation one Espace V6. It really did look like a shuttle that could achieve warp speeds. I still want one now.
I think it is reasonable to state that almost everything on the road has become distinctly Germanic. Renaults own range (Renault Sport excepted(4)) has become largely derivative of this model. Perhaps seeking to distinguish themselves they have recently signed a production and development deal with Caterham. Renault Sport will continue to define their romanticism as a product, but we probably won’t see anything like the Avantime again.
Howmanyleft.co.uk shows that their are only 299 registered to British roads. I would suggest you go and find one.
Advert reproduced below:
Renault Avantime 2.0 16V TURBO DYNAMIQUE 3DR 2002
Blue, Standard Features – ABS, Alloy wheels, Central locking, Electric sunroof, Front armrest, Headlight washers, Folding rear seats, Immobiliser, Passenger airbag, Rear armrest, Side airbags, Radio/CD, Rear headrests, Traction control, Audio remote control, Body coloured bumpers, Drivers airbag, Electric door mirrors, Front electric windows, Front head restraints, Heated door mirrors, Height adjustable drivers seat, PAS, Rear wiper, Remote central locking, Trip computer, Alarm, Electrically adjustable drivers seat, Front fog lights, Isofix child seat anchor points, Rear electric windows, £2,995
1. Although it was marketed and sold by Renault, the Espace was designed and engineered by Matra. For the sake of market dominant logic I will place the design and engineering-set within the end-consumer-standpoint-set.
2. The Espace was preceded by Guigiaro’s 1978 concept, the Lancia Megagamma, and to a certain extent the 1956 Fiat 600 Multipla.
3. Hutton, R, (2002) Renault Avantime [online] Available from: http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/renault-avantime-mini-test-road-test [Accessed 15/08/13]
4. There is a sub-argument that states the hot-hatch (largely what Renault do best these days) concept was first populated by the French with the Renault 5 Gordini. This maybe true, but the one we all remember, the one that perfected the recipe, was the Golf GTI.