Renault 4 to return as affordable and practical electric car

The iconic Renault 4 will bring retro design to the electric supermini segment

Renault’s next-generation all-electric line-up looks set to embrace the brand’s stars of yesteryear, with the Renault 4 badge tipped to reappear. The French firm’s decision to bring back its famous nameplate will result in a retro-styled, practical EV designed to sit alongside the returning Renault 5

The Renault 4 had a production run that spanned 31 years, during which more than eight million were sold. It was designed in response to the Citroen 2CV to provide simple, practical and cheap transportation to the growing number of car owners in the 1960s. 

Last year, Renault unveiled a new concept car called the ‘AIR4’ with assistance from mobility company TheArsenale. It was built to celebrate 60 years since the Renault 4 was launched. 

The body is a clear homage to the original Renault 4, but with LED headlights and a more rounded appearance. We expect the all-electric production car to hark back to the old car too, but perhaps not quite as much as the AIR4. 

Pictures of a proposed Renault 4 design have also been uncovered on a trademarking website, as well as a new version of the Renault logo featuring the number 4, adding further authority to the rumours that a production model is on the way. 

The new Renault 4 will join the reinvented Renault 5 in the brand’s retro-themed electric car line-up and, judging by these patented images it’ll retain plenty of the original car’s design cues, sharing the classic car’s boxy shape, round headlamps and upright front end.

The production Renault 4 is touted to corner the same niche as its legendary predecessor, but with electric power. It should also be more practical than Renault’s current EVs, sporting a large boot, a pared-back cabin and potential scope for a commercial van variant. With these images we’ve been able to create this exclusive image to show how the finished car could look. 

The new Renault 4 is part of an aggressive push towards electrification; Renault is already gearing up to launch its all-new, pure-electric Megane next year, and says it will introduce a total of 10 new EVs by 2025. Seven of them will be Renaults, and the other three are likely to be Alpines, as the sports car brand moves to full electrification from 2024.

Renault believes it will have the greenest sales mix in Europe by the middle of this decade, when over 65 per cent of its line-up will be fully electric or electrified. And it says up to 90 per cent of its models will be pure-electric by 2030.

The brand’s chief executive officer Luca De Meo recently confirmed to Auto Express that there would be more retro-inspired models in the future line-up after the well received launch of the Renault 5 Prototype. “There have been so many products that made history, so it would be a pity not to reconnect with that long history and tradition.

“We’re not here to only look in the rear-view mirror, we’re here to reinvent things and I think the Renault 5 is a good example,” he told us. “A lot of people say to me, ‘why are you doing retro design?’ This is not retro design, it’s just reinvention of a concept. In our library we have a lot of things that we can reinvent.”

New Renault 4: platform and powertrain

When the original R5 was launched, it borrowed its mechanicals from the R4. This time around, though, the roles are expected to be reversed. The upcoming Renault 4 is expected to use the same CMF-BEV platform as the hatchback to help keep costs down.

Renault has hinted of a maximum range of 249 miles for cars using its CMF-BEV platform, which has been designed specifically for cheap, small electric cars and comes with a standardised 134bhp electric motor.

Traditionally the R4 was priced slightly below the R5, but with the cost of the technology and Renault hinting at a sub £20,000 price for the R5, we’d expect Renault to aim for similar prices for its retro twins. 

If the concept is well received, De Meo could give the project the green light to go on sale shortly after the new 5’s debut, meaning first deliveries in late 2023 or early 2024.

What do Renault 4 fans think?

We asked members of the renault4.co.uk forum what they thought of Renault’s plans to revive the nameplate. 

“It will be interesting to see what aspects of the original Renault 4 the new car will use,” said one. “The original was proper French out-of-the-box thinking. It was one of the first small hatchbacks, one of the first cars with a maintenance-free cooling system, it had folding rear seats and a fold-down front seat in the van.”

“The original R4 was cheap to buy and run and was very practical,” commented another. “It had more boot space than the average estate, and there were some great practical touches. The car was cute and it became classless.” 

“A new Renault 4 would have to be practical, innovative and cute,” said one user. “It will need to find a way to appeal to everyone.” 

“Should the new car show clean-sheet French automotive thinking it’s going to be brilliant,” believed another. “If it’s somewhat derivative it won’t have the spirit of the original, but hopefully it will still be really cool.

What are the best electric cars on sale right now? Click out our list of the top 10

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