Yes, it’s that time of the week again. Every Friday we like to look back at a modern classic, or perhaps a quirky disaster of a car from yesteryear. This week the undeniably influential and game changing Renault 5. This plucky little French number certainly turned heads when it was launched and despite not being a performance legend it gained a place in millions of hearts over its 12 year life span.
The Early Days
Launched at the very end of 1971 the Renault 5 was the lasting legacy of designer Michel Boué who sadly died before seeing the car actually launched. Although not the first of what we now call the super minis it was certainly a game changer. The styling was smooth and rounded, the wrap around bumpers gave it a whole new look people had not seen before. The 3 door launch version was very quickly hailed as a design success and generally still is today. Initially launched with a tiny 850cc engine the Renault 5 soon appeared with a wider range of power units. Over its lifespan it saw many different options from diesels to a rather radical 1.4 turbo in the now infamous GT Turbo edition.
In 1979 a 5 door version was launched only adding further to the Renault 5’s mass appeal. If you lived in mainland Europe, especially France you would have seen them everywhere. But Britain took the little “5” to its bosom too with many thousands being sold across the country. Over the years various models won economy awards and styling recognition too. In the early 80s a 1.4 TX version was launched as the first car in its class to ever have power steering. Again and again the Renault 5 was a pioneer, the brand kept pushing the template, constantly upgrading and launching new versions and this played a major part in its massive success.
The interior, as you would expect, was stylish at the time, sleek and practical. The boot space was held in amazement compared to what people were used to. The only oddity really was the placement of the stereo system; on the floor by the gear stick. This meant it was mounted almost vertically and you had to lean down to use it, on the plus side the tapes never fell onto the floor when you ejected them.
Driving the 5 was something you had to get used too. As with many French cars of the era, the suspension had a certain amount of give in it. The first time some reviewers went into a corner they assumed it would fall over but after a while people found by gently feeding the car into a turn it would actually take a bend a quite a speed.
A Hatchback Hero
There is no doubt the Renault 5 is a historic hero, it helped build the idea of small cars being flexible and suitable for more than just little journeys. It may not have been to everyone’s taste but it certainly was to most people’s. It influenced many cars that came after it and certainly helped with the creation of the highly successful Renault Clio. The GT Turbo version also helped carve a niche for hot hatchbacks along with other heroes like the Volkswagen Golf. If you want a Renault 5 now, you can find them but the cheap ones are normally in a poor state and the good ones are rather expensive.