News has broken that there is to be a new Renault 5, or at least, a new concept based on the original. Renault, as per many other manufacturers, is looking toward a future based around zero emissions and electric technology. And this makes sense, as Renault has significant form in this area, as we can see from cars like the Zoe, which has been in production for a while now.
Renault has always been a forward thinking brand, and one that has prided itself on its innovation and technological advancements. In fact, you could say that about the French automotive manufacturing industry as a whole. As a nation, it has produced some of the most wild, and most iconic classics out there. Renault, as a case in point, has never been afraid to try new things. The world laughed at the Espace, but it’s now seen as a defining point in automotive design. Cars like the GTA shows the world Renault had performance chops, while cars like the utterly mad Avantime showed us that it was always willing to build based on passion, not just market research and box ticking.
It’s surprising then, that Renault is looking back as it looks forward. But we’re not complaining, as an electric future with the 5 reborn is something we can get on board with. The concept is a bold, striking machine but one that somehow manages to be familiar despite being, quite literally, from the future.
The Renault 5 Prototype is a charming, compact, city car which takes one of Renault’s timeless successes and develops it to be fit for the future with a modern, 100 percent electric twist. It has retained the fun and mischievous character, with the pop of yellow highlights. The Renault 5 prototype takes strong features from the original design.
“The design of the Renault 5 Prototype is based on the R5, a cult model of our heritage. This prototype simply embodies modernity, a vehicle relevant to its time: urban, electric, attractive.”
Gilles Vidal, Renault Design Director
The R5 is immediately recognisable, but thanks to a modern treatment of lines and flush surfaces with futuristic detailing, the result is in keeping with current times. Additionally, the styling elements taken from the original design hide some of the more modern features, for example: the bonnet air intake hides the charging hatch, the rear lights include aero flaps and the fog lamps in the bumper are daytime running lights. There is even a nod to the original ‘5’ on the side vent, the wheels and rear logo.
The front end and the textile roof are influenced by the world of furniture and are full of ‘French charm’, or so the enthusiastic press release says. The front and rear logos light up, bringing the car ‘to life’. The French flag situated in the rear-view mirrors underline the “invented in France” ethos of the vehicle, and the name displayed on the small transparent screen on the dashboard provides that final flourish.
It’s all very exciting and very pleasing. We would love the 5 to return, and to do so in the guise of being electric would be in fitting with modern car trends. But what about the old cars? You can’t talk about the Renault 5 without looking at the heritage behind it? And more specifically, what about the performance models? This new, electric version is bound to be a nippy little thing, but can it excite us like these past legends?
Renault 5 Gordini
When it comes to the hot hatch revolution, especially here in the UK, many will speak enthusiastically about the Volkswagen Golf GTI. However, the Gold wasn’t the first. The Renault 5 was, in Turbo guise.
The Gordini was available to us in the UK before the Golf GTi, and it was right hand-drive. We got it in 1976. Powered by a stout 1.4 engine with some 90bhp, it was a proper hot hatch. But that was nothing compared to what was to come. In 1982, Renault offered us a turbo version. Fitted with a Garret T3 turbocharger, the little 5 kicked out 110bhp and could sprint to 60 in 8.7 seconds.
Renault 5 Turbo
Then of course, there was the wide boy, the icon, the homologation special that was the Renault 5 Turbo. Built with rallying firmly in mind, this wide-bodied beast was rear wheel-drive due to the engine being in the middle, it could only seat two and the whole thing kicked out 158bhp at 6,000rpm. It was, and still is, a screaming, bonkers moment in Renault’s history. One of those cars that, even forty years on, can still set pulses racing at the mere mention of it.
The Renault 5 GT Turbo
Finally, there is the GT Turbo. Introduced in 1985, this version of Renault’s hottest hatch was based on the phase two version of the 5. The phase two car was a clean, smart, tight little design that still holds up today. It was also a car that we, the buying public, were keen to see in some sort of performance guise. Renault happily obliged.
Like its turbo predecessor, it was powered by a 1.4 with a Garret blower, this time a T2. It packed 113bhp, but tipped the scales at a featherweight 850kg. 60mph was achieved in a mere 7.5 seconds, which is still impressive today. It was a car that captured the imaginations of many, and became a poster child for hot hatch culture. A true icon, it still has a devoted following today, and prices are on an unstoppable rise.