Renault has changed the face of our automotive world with its Espace, now already decades ago, since 1984 to be exact.
Indeed, it seems they reinvent their concept of what a space car should be, every time a new generation of their iconic "Espace" comes along.
The new Renault is lighter, sleeker, beautifully proportioned and full of panache. A truly formidable people mover which has turned into an elegant mid-size cross over, truly standing out. Indeed, the Espace is now a cross over, based on the Renault–Nissan Common Module Family architecture developed by both Renault and Nissan. We drove the 130 HP diesel version with the 6 speed manual. Just read on...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The new Espace has gained in style and personality, and lost in weight. Thanks to the adoption of light alloys, the kerb weight has come down to 1622 kg.
Character and style
We must admit that we are totally smitten by the styling of this Espace. The front end has a refreshing boldness which translates very well the confidence displayed by the marque with the lozange by its recent models, not to mention the Kadjar, for instance.
This very cunning styling continues with the curvaceous lines flowing along the sides and rear end, with the bold upward sweeping curves culminating in the rear roof line.
The rear end is also dynamically styled and very well proportioned, and we also liked very much the big 19 inch aluminium wheels of the Espace, making it stand tall like a very grown up and able SUV. The Espace breathes elegance and luxury, yet is pure, purposeful and efficient.
The cabin is of course spacious, and we liked very much the "floating" centre console with a massive central display, giving you all the information you would ever want on your trip.
A good seating position is soon found, all the controls are well placed. The slick lever of the gearbox, the audio commands on the steering wheel column, a Renault "first" decades ago introduced in the Renault 25, all just falls into place.
The instrumentation with the large central rev counter and the digital indication of the driven speed is an example of good design and clarity, adding to the very restful driving experience this Espace offers you.
There is furthermore abundant gallic practicality to delight you, with amongst others a large box in the centre console, and a cavernous glove box on the passenger side which drops open electronically, just to mention a few things. Connecting your iPhone is a breeze, and as a matter of fact, as soon as you choose the bluetooth function or hook it up through the USB connection, the Bose sound system starts playing the music on your device right away.
Diesel engined passenger cars are coming into the environmental spotlight lately, and as we all know, in not too positive terms. Well, we all will be needing them for years to come, if it were only to bring the average CO2 emissions down of all the cars we will be driving in the foreseeable future.
And quite frankly, the Diesel unit under the hood of the Espace truly surprised us. Its docility and smoothness was uncanny, and its pulling power so impressive, that subjectively it totally belied the quoted maximum power of "only" 130 HP at 4000 rpm. It is the torque of a healthy 320 Nm at 1750 rpm, which this common rail unit with variable geometry turbo achieves, that determines the liveliness of this Espace.
One would be convinced that a modern, state of the art two litre engine is doing the work here, but be surprised with us, it is the well proven 1598 cc dCi unit that lives under the hood. As said, its pulling power is more than ample enough, to warrant brisk accelerations throughout the gears, and one hardly needs to rev it beyond 3000 rpm.
Performance is quite sufficient, with 0 to 100 acceleration in 10,7 seconds and a top speed of just over 190 km/h. The Espace invites to a relaxed, swift pace, with the excellent handling and state of the art stability being a further asset to achieve an absolutely effortless driving style which is one of the major charms of this people mover.
Indeed, owning and driving the new Espace is a very relaxing experience. It is also soothing in heavy urban traffic, with its smooth clutch, docile engine and slick changing gearbox.
Getting in and out of the car is effortless and what is also an everyday delight is the automatic, keyless opening and closing of the doors and boot lid, always accompanied by a polite acoustic signal, while the rear view mirrors are whirring into a flush position whenever your Espace closes itself off.
This relaxing friendliness of this Espace makes it most endearing, this is indeed a car which is a pleasure to use and own.
The latter especially when one considers how frugal this big car is. No effort at all to achieve an average consumption of 5,3 litres, with quite a fair amount of city driving thrown in.
These are figures a petrol engine with the same power and torque can presently not achieve, given the rather swift driving style we adopted and the sheer weight of the car. So do we still need Diesels and do they have a future? You bet, certainly after having driven this Espace, you will be - as we are - even more convinced. What is even more remarkable is that this average consumption has been achieved WITHOUT using the "eco" mode...
State of the art suspension
French cars have a knack when it comes to combining good comfort with excellent road manners, especially in the wet and uneven road surfaces. Here the Espace scores very high indeed. Stopping power is warranted by big 320 mm diameter ventilated disks in front, and these disks are also used in the 200 HP petrol version, so you have some extra reserves here.
A delightfully practical, relaxing, spacious ans smooth performing people mover, now grown into a mid-size cross over. Beautiful and frugal on top of all that.
Quite endearing in everyday use, it has quite sufficient performance, and is a constant joy to drive and steer.
Life in the cabin is very pleasant with everything easily at hand and last but not least very easy to use communication, navigation and infotainment functions.
A car which makes your everyday life just so much nicer. You (and your passengers) will love this Espace for all this, and this for years and years to come...
Hans Knol ten Bensel