New Renault Espace 2015 review

We drive the new Renault Espace in top-spec Initiale Paris guise, powered by 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine from the Clio RS

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

Find your Renault Espace
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
Or are you looking to sell your car?
9/10 sellers got the price they expected
Advertisement

Renault has no plans to sell the fifth-generation Espace in the UK. However, if the holiday rent-a-car rep offers you a choice of petrol or diesel, we’d pick the oil burner every time. Not only does it feel more responsive thanks to the extra 120Nm of torque, it’s also significantly cheaper to run.

Despite Renault’s intention not to bring a right-hand drive Espace to the UK, it has hinted that the new MPV-come-crossover styling may find its way onto other mainstream models in the not-too-distant future. 

Best 7-seaters on the market

Earlier this month we got an early drive of the new Espace diesel, and now we’ve taken the wheel of the turbocharged petrol to see how it stacks up against more conventional rivals. 

Lifting the 197bhp 1.6-litre engine from the dinky Clio RS is no mean feat for a seven-seat MPV. Despite being 250kg lighter than before, the Espace still tips the scales at more than 1.6 tonnes – around 400kg more than the Clio

It shows, too. The normally exciting four-cylinder turbo never feels fast – and the lowly 260Nm of torque is some 120Nm shy of the diesel we drove a few weeks ago. While it’ll easily keep up with traffic, it’s far from exciting. 

It’s clear Renault has placed an emphasis on comfort – despite claiming this fifth generation model is more fun to drive than its predecessors. No matter which of the five driving modes you put the car in, it wallows and floats round corners rather than attacking them with any finesse.

The 4CONTROL four-wheel steering system we tested in the petrol car works well, but the Ford S-MAX is a much sharper drive, and proves you needn’t sacrifice comfort for driving dynamics.

The EDC gearbox doesn’t feel as quick as comparable setups from VW Group cars, either. This isn’t helped by the lack of steering wheel-mounted paddles – and if you try to use the shift-by-wire lever on the centre console, it won’t always give you the gear you ask for. 

However, in top-spec Initiale Paris trim, all this pales into insignificance. Renault has thrown everything at its flagship model – with all but the panoramic roof included as standard. That means unique 19-inch alloy wheels, exclusive colours, full Nappa leather and heated massage seats.

Initiale cars even get laminated side windows – which when paired with the hushed petrol engine, makes for impressively quiet cruising.

In France, the Initiale Paris version of the Espace commands a premium of around €4,000 (£2,850) over the next-level Intens specification, and includes things like concierge servicing and an improved dealer experience. 

It’s a shame the new Espace doesn’t drive as well as it looks, because as a piece of design and technology, it’s up there with the best.

While our verdict might not be of immediate interest to British buyers, the fact that we could see styling influences cross over onto lesser models in the Renault range, is an exciting prospect.

Deputy editor

Richard has been part of the our team for over a decade. During this time he has covered a huge amount of news and reviews for Auto Express, as well as being the face of Carbuyer and DrivingElectric on Youtube. In his current role as deputy editor, he is now responsible for keeping our content flowing and managing our team of talented writers.

Most Popular

Car Deal of the Day: Land Rover Defender looks the business at £324 per month
Defender Hard Top - downhill off road
News

Car Deal of the Day: Land Rover Defender looks the business at £324 per month

The current Defender is a fantastic SUV van for businesses and is our Car Deal of the Day for 20 February
20 Feb 2024
“The £16k Dacia Spring is an electric car game-changer”
Opinion - Dacia Spring
Opinion

“The £16k Dacia Spring is an electric car game-changer”

With many people claiming electric cars are just too expensive, editor-in-chief Steve Fowler thinks the Dacia Spring’s arrival in the UK is exactly wh…
21 Feb 2024
New Volkswagen Tiguan 2024 review: improved quality and more practical than ever
Volkswagen Tiguan - front
Road tests

New Volkswagen Tiguan 2024 review: improved quality and more practical than ever

The new Volkswagen Tiguan addresses many of its predecessor's failings, but it’s still far from the best in class to drive
21 Feb 2024