Renault Espace: from MPV to crossover

Renault Espace
ER Classics Desktop 2022

On Sunday morning I always get fresh German sandwiches at the gas station on the Apeldoorns Kanaal. When I got the loot, a man got out of a huge car. From the front I saw that it was a Renault. On the back was Espace… The thing was stretched and wide. And quite low. It was clear: People who speak in awe of Great Classic Americans have missed the boat. A new Renault Espace, that's a big thing! The original was smaller. But boxes had more character.

The Espace was born more than 35 years ago

The history of the Renault Espace actually starts in the States. That's where Chrysler was developing Voyager in the 70s (where have they gone?). Later the Espace's biggest competitor.

Fergus Pollock, a British designer who worked at Chrysler, became interested in the idea and talked to Matra about designing a seven-seater as well. That became the P16 and was later developed by Antoine Volanis into the Matra P18. With that design under its arm Matra went to Peugeot, with which it had already done business in the 70s. Peugeot rejected the design, however, because the company was in financial trouble at the time and saw no profit in a seven-seater concept car that looked like a shoebox. Incidentally, the Fiat 600 Multipla was the first real 6-seater MPV.

Renault wanted to

Matra went one door further to Renault. There was interest in the concept. A cooperation agreement was concluded in December 1982 and the production version of the Renault Espace was presented in July 1984. It was so roughly based on the R18 middle class and had direct bloodlines with the P23 prototype. Matra took care of the assembly of the cars.

Plastic panels

The first Espace was built with fiberglass body panels on a galvanized chassis. A nice stainless starting point. In the beginning, Peugeot seemed to be right about the sales potential of the cars. With 2703 units sold, the Renault Espace was not a real high flyer in its first year. This was because the public still had to get used to the revolutionary appearance of this monovolume.

At its introduction, the Espace got a two-liter petrol engine with 110 hp. A few months later, an 88 hp turbo diesel engine was also available. Later still, a 2,2 petrol engine was added. And the man who built a six-cylinder PRV engine in his Espace called his creation 'The Beast'. The car and its owner were both like Templars. During my visit, the man already put away half a bottle of gin. I dropped out for the test drive.

In 1988 the Espace got a facelift with the Matra headlights being replaced by Renault copies. At the end of the first generation Espace, a version with self-leveling suspension was also on sale. By the end of the first generation Espace in 1991, some 180.000 units had been sold.

In 1991 the Espace was thoroughly redesigned and lost its striking appearance

The concept had meanwhile been picked up by the competition. But apart from the Nissan Prairie, Mitsubishi Space Wagon and Chrysler Voyager, there were not many competitors. Renault redesigned the body in smoother shapes. The mirrors blended into the hood, the headlights became slimmer. Matra still built the new Espace on the original chassis.

In the meantime, such an Espace has become a huge container, in comparison with which a pre 1976 full sized Yank tank has become a thin pastry on thin wheels. And isn't that strange?

Read also:
- The first MPVs: Chrysler Voyagers and Renault Espaces.
- Fiat 850 Familiare ready for 50 years of care by second owner
- Renault Avantime. Just different.
- Mitsubishi Space Wagon
- Renault Espace had almost been a Peugeot



Give a reaction
  1. I myself had an espace III with a 2.0 liter petrol engine and 260.000 km on the clock and encrypted a lot. Now I drive an espace IV 2.0 turbo petrol from 2004 with 356.000 on the clock and the only thing I've had are brake pads and tires. A really great car to drive and the next one will be a Grand Espace. I think the new espace no longer resembles an espace

  2. My first Espace, a type II (4 yrs old), a 2.2 liter petrol, I bought in 1996, when I thought it was a very nice, nice spacious car with two sliding roofs. in 2000 but exchanged for a 4 yr old type III
    2.0 ltr. benz. I still think this is the most beautiful Espace smooth lines, a real front and then those mirrors so streamlined perfectly. again 4 years later exchanged for a 4 yr. old Type III 3.0 Ltr. V6 aut. what a wonderful car !! I drove here for ten years when the machine broke (180.000) 2nd hand box underneath, but it broke down with a year. if I had known everything I would have had the machine overhauled but I know everything is ahead. so it was in 2014 that I switched to Peugeot 5008 2.0 diesel just like the three Espacen also a perfect towing vehicle. Yes the V6 was of course the best tractor. Just two weeks ago, after a long search, an Espace Type IV 2.0 ltr. turbo gasoline found with few km. and in near mint condition! not that the PEU was not good no, also a nice car and also 7 seater for the grandchildren, but yes the seat, the view the space and comfort yes that is really ESPACE a bicycle can simply be upright in the back, and a wheelbarrow also. And a flat floor. I also sat in the new V for a while, but no, that's really not it anymore, the length is fine but you hit your head when boarding unfortunately no more Espace.

    • I totally agree with you our first Espace bj 92 in 96 bought a fine car, later one of bj 95 also a very good car later a grande Espace bj 2002 now just put aside because it is a diesel and it is about 200 in the month now Have an Avantime v6 petrol, a beautiful car, but you miss that space of the Espace. the last Espace is no longer an Espace in my eyes Too bad I hope I enjoy the Avantime just as much as the Espacen I had

  3. In its time a futuristic design and very comfortable. Type 1 remains the most beautiful for me and is very rare. There is hardly anything for sale and if one can be found, it is a run-down wreck. 300.000km on the clock is / was no exception. Highly recognized and should deserve a podium of honor as a classic. But as is so often the case with French cars, they are reviled and supplanted by all that other boring stuff.

    A Renault Alpine driver.

  4. The first Espace model was in fact the successor to the Matra Rancho. The model also contains components from the then Talbots. The prototype and the first model can be admired in the Matra museum in Romorantin. Is really recommended!

  5. beautiful car, wonderful concept for those who want to combine space and driving pleasure. Unfortunately I dropped out of the last model, it has nothing of the original 'espace'

  6. When you drive a Renault car for the first time you think great, but that quickly changes to a few kilometers.
    They don't grow on you and are a grumpy thing.
    I think a Renault Clio of the first generation and an R8 are the best.

  7. I now drive my 14th Espace, model IV, 2.0DCi. From 1988 I drive Espace, so all models up to 2014, model IV, had. Always driven a lot with great pleasure. I estimate that I have driven over a million km of Espace in total, And, a great caravan tractor.
    I think it's a shame that the current generation no longer embraces the space concept. Which is not to say that I don't like the car. On the contrary, but it does not suit my current situation. My partner is disabled and an Espace is also great! Spacious entrance, high seat, wheelchair, mobility scooter, van Raamfiets, everything is possible.

  8. Great cars, each stage in its own way. The first was just the first with the dimensions slightly more than a current B-class, but with space for 7 and luggage. It drove quite well for a car from that time. The second is the least beautiful, but improved compared to the first. The third is still a beauty and the fourth is completely top (especially after the facelift), a 2.0l diesel keeps going. And the fifth, well no longer a real MPV, but 'people' don't want that anymore, but a great (travel) car. Super comfortable, completely complete and relatively competitively priced. If you can, get one with the 1.8 petrol engine or the 2.0 diesel. Years of driving pleasure.

    Oh yes, the phase I of the first series had headlights from the Renault Trafic, nothing Matra. The prototype had lamps (and other parts, such as door handles) from the Peugeot 305.

  9. But what a nasty car to have to send. The dashboard provided space for a serious Berkel scale. That again confirmed the impression of being on the road with an SRV car. I have also regularly ridden with the competitor. A Chrysler Voyager. This clearly offered the driver more pleasure.

  10. From November Espace first drive one of bj 92 and now for a number of years a grand version of bj 2001, the last I think the best. The latest Espace is in my eyes no longer an espace nice car but no espace.

  11. A car with a beautiful history, worth telling and keeping. And also a car that was the basis for many MPVs. I think that the SUV also emerged from this, the format of an MPV without its interior space but a somewhat sportier (well, such a double-butted SUV is far from sporty in my opinion) for the discerning yup. The first Renault Espace is the purest, as so often.

  12. It is a pity about this model, he had the problem with the cooling system, not good cooling
    engine gets warm and broke head gasket etc in itself beautiful model and modern
    interior for that time.

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