Though it may not have been the first people carrier ever conceived, the Renault Espace is credited with breaking new ground with a futuristic design for its first MPV in 1984. If you grew up in the US in the ’80s, you may remember sitting in a minivan — probably one built by Chrysler or Ford — on your way to soccer practice, camping or the pool as a young child. Your parents were likely chauffeured around in a station wagon, so the minivan was a step forward for them.
But times, and vehicle typologies, change. After the SUV craze of the ’90s and early 2000s, the default family vehicle of choice has since become the Crossover which, as the name suggests, effectively combines aspects of a station wagon with those of an SUV. But what happens when you’d like a bit more space? Would you buy an MPV?
“The new Espace is a crossover that is generous, not only in its proportions, but also in its technological content and equipment, as well as in the emotional experience it offers occupants.” — Laurens van den Acker – Senior VP, Renault Design
Renault thinks the answer to that question is a resounding ‘No’, and it comes as no surprise that the French firm decided to change course with the new Espace. Having previewed the fifth generation car in concept form at the Frankfurt auto show last year, the production vehicle that made its debut at the recent Paris auto show is a welcome departure for the brand, effectively reinventing the MPV to create a new MPV crossover identity that is very successful aesthetically.
The exterior design’s two-box silhouette, high waistline, lower roof height and stocky body sides (underlined by chrome lightcatchers) combine to give the MPV a more robust and adventurous character rather than to push the family theme of its predecessor. It’s front face also more aggressive, with large chromed element running the width of the headlamps and grille, thick slats taking pride of place around the Renault badge and a skid plate element nestled in the lower half of the front and rear bumpers.
It continues to remain inherently practical inside with seven seats and clever stowage solutions. But the new car also plays the sophistication card — the floating screen element and a center console that extends clear up the instrument panel add an elegant, technical touch, emphasized by the different colorways and ambient lighting that can be configured to taste. It’s also decidedly more upscale in its material usage and overall ambiance, enhancing the sense of space within.
We were pleasantly impressed upon seeing the new Espace on the Renault showstand in Paris, and we don’t doubt in Laurens van den Acker’s decision to enter a new, more contemporary and luxurious space with the successor to the time-honored nameplate.
The minivan is dead! Long live the minivan!