Renault Espace (1994)
The Renault Espace is a large MPV originally designed by Chrysler UK in Coventry, in collaboration with Matra of France. It was manufactured by Matra in France, and marketed by Renault. Originally designed for sale as a Talbot in the late nineteen-seventies, the car was finally launched in 1984 and currently in its fourth generation, it seats seven passengers; the Renault Grand Espace is a longer-wheelbase version which seats seven and holds their luggage too. Along with the Dodge Caravan, the Espace was the original minivan.
Espace I (1984-1991)
The Espace's design was originally conceived in the 1970s by the British designer, Fergus Pollock, who was working for Chrysler UK (formerly the Rootes Group), the UK subsidiary of Chrysler, at their design centre in Coventry . Later Matra, who were affiliated with Simca, the then French subsidiary of Chrysler, were involved in partnership in the design.
The Espace was originally intended to be sold as a Talbot, and to be a replacement for the Matra Rancho station wagon. Early prototypes used Simca parts, and hence featured a grille reminiscent of the Simca 1307 (Chrysler Alpine).
In 1978, before the Espace went into production, Chrysler UK and Simca were sold to the French company PSA Peugeot Citroën (PSA), and the Espace design was given to Matra.
PSA decided the Espace was too expensive and too risky a design to put into production, and Matra took their idea to Renault (PSA finally ventured into the minivan sector 11 years later with the Citroën Evasion/Peugeot 806).
The Matra concept became the Renault Espace. The design featured a fiberglass body mounted on a warm-galvanized steel chassis, using the same technique and assembly line at the factory as the Talbot Matra Murena. In fact, the introduction of the Espace required the relatively small factory to cease the production of the Murena, to make room for the Espace.
The Espace was launched by Renault in 1984 (incidentally, the minivan that Chrysler had also been developing in the US was released a year earlier than the Espace in 1983).
Espace 1 - Phase 2
Building upon its success, the Espace was revamped in 1988 with most of the Talbot/Simca content being replaced by equivalent Renault parts (the chassis and mechanical components of the car remained largely unchanged). The most obvious cosmetic exterior difference between the very first Espaces and the revamped post-1988 models were the changed headlights: the forward-slanting lights with orange indicator casing of the original Espace were replaced with backward-slanting lights with a clear indicator casing.
Espace II (1991-1997)
A heavily revised Espace was launched in 1991, adopting the Renault family look to replace the Talbot-themed styling of the original. This was essentially a re-skin of the original car, with a new dashboard and other interior improvements. The chassis was essentially unchanged.
Espace III (1997-2003)
The third generation of the Espace arrived in 1997, its most notable feature being the radical futuristic interior (with a centrally-mounted digital speedometer).
Espace IV (2003)
The fourth-generation Espace arrived in 2003 and was the first Espace designed and built entirely by Renault. All of the production of the earlier Espaces was built by Matra in their Romarantin factory. The new vehicle was also the first all-steel Espace.
It's styling was reflective of a new design direction at Renault, symbolised by the radical Vel Satis and Avantime models, marking a major departure from the previous model, which also saw the range moved upmarket.
In 2002, Renault goals were to deliver 450,000 units of the fourth-generation Espace before 2009, which will account for 20% of the European market for MPVs/minivans. This 2009 target for Espace sales figures suggest that the fifth-generation Espace will be released that same year.
In exchange for giving up design and production of the Espace, Matra were allowed to design and build the upmarket Renault Avantime model. However, due to delays in getting the Avantimes pillarless construction safety-approved, caused Renault to push their Renault Vel Satis model - whereby the Avantime when finally introduced subsequently sold so poorly that Matra ultimately shut down their automotive production altogether.
Espace IV - Phase 2 (2006)
As is common with most modern-day Renaults, the Espace has been given a minor facelift to prolong the life of the fourth generation before being replaced by an all new model. The revamp extends to a slight re-working of the grille and badge area at the front of the car, with the Renault diamond now sitting in a much deeper and more pronounced cavity. The body-coloured 'beak' between the two radiator grille openings is slimmer and sits flush with the bonnet edge above it. The headlamps have also been re-profiled so that they appear to follow the lines of the grille.
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