It was a beautiful photo from 2016, which brought together the entire Renault offering at the launch of the fifth generation Espace. Next to it sat the Talisman saloon and the Koleos SUV. This was the strategy put in place by the product under the Carlos Ghosn era: to renew the top of the Renault range with a large SUV (Koleos), a classic saloon and estate (Talisman) and finally a new family crossover: the Espace 5. It was necessary to erase the Vel Satis – Avantime – Espace 4 era which had not worked. And for good reason, all these products had high silhouettes. But the return to a certain classicism wanted by Ghosn, notably with the Talisman (although a very good product), did not work any better.
The arrival of Luca de Meo at the head of the Renault group has clarified the situation with a certain pragmatism: it is in the “C” segment, the middle of the range, that the brand must make its efforts. And more consistent margins. After the Mégane E-TECH electric and the Austral thermal hybrid, here comes the new generation of Espace, which is a longer Austral (from 4.51 m to 4.72 m), with two extra seats in row three.
The cabin retains the sliding bench seat above, which, while very functional, does not have the richness of three independent seats, as in a Citroën C5 Aircross. Renault explains that the Espace “is equipped for the first time with a sliding bench seat that can be split into two independent parts in a 2/3-1/3 ratio”. So, but how do you access the third row with two child seats on the bench? You have to keep up with the times: the times of blended families, for example.
The Espace 4 below, for example, had the ability to safely seat two children in row 2 without obstructing access to the two seats in row 3, thanks to the third seat being left free to be manipulated. How do you do it in the Austral? Having three children to position in row 2 is not necessarily easy when they require rather invasive safety seats. Why on earth go without such a strong asset in the spirit of a family car? No doubt customer surveys have reported that this architecture is not often used, nor is the handling of the modular seats that can be removed at will.
True. Reasoning by absurdity: airbags aren’t often used either… Let me reassure you, the new Espace is full of them. This new generation based on the Austral is the sequel to Georges Lautner’s “Tontons Flingueurs” with 90% of the lines from the first opus in it. Of course, we’re not laughing as much. However, Renault is only copying a strategy of silhouettes that can be found in certain competitors, including Peugeot with the 3008/5008 duo. So the Excel tables, the survey reports, the economic accounts and all the rest are probably right. The Austral-based Espace is likely to sell better than the Espace 5.
GIVE ME BACK MY PICNIC!
Although Renault rightly claims that the previous generations of Espace had a revolutionary and then visionary vision, we can’t help but feel sad at the lack of architectural boldness in this new generation. The manufacturer dares to announce that “the other example of intelligent modularity: the third row of seats retracts into the floor. A real revolution, seen 20 years ago in a modest VW Touran! The memory of the tests of the first Espace in 1984, with a picnic organised on board, will therefore have to be erased from our memories. “The picnic, Mr Bonnaud, is outdated. Is it? If you say so…