Welcome to Used Car Face Off, where we find two similar or similarly priced used cars and ask you which one you would buy. Choose wisely!
There's no other way of saying this, but the French car companies are in deep shit. Citroen just gave up on making big cars again with the C6, and its parent Peugeot isn't going to make big cars with GM (probably a good thing, actually) while both of those companies are just trying to keep their heads above the rising level of red ink.
Renault isn't in a whole lot better shape, having thrown its eggs in the budget Dacia basket. But that's OK, because while we may love how the French do big luxury cars – the C6, 505 Turbos, DS5 – they're probably best known for doing inexpensive cars well. And that would go over well in an economy where growth isn't a word that's used very often.
Aside from the Citroen 2CV, there's probably no more quintessentially French car than the Renault 4. You don't see many 4s in the US, even rarer than 2CVs in these parts. But occassionally one like this 1982 car in Baltimore will pop up and attraction is strong. It's an odd-looking car, but it seems less cartoonish than a 2CV or even a Beetle, and I like that.
Then there's the interior, because it's a great example of sensibility, though the seat covers add a little splash of color. Micro cars today are hardly restrained and styled in a low-key way. Park this Renault next to a Chevy Spark and you'll see the difference. The Spark probably has more fire under the hood though, since I'm not confident there's more than 1,000 CCs from this car. Zero-to-60? 60?
Reasons to skip it? It's an old French car and even though the 4 has all of the mechanical complexity of a rock and chisel, Renault's parts distribution in the US hasn't really existed since I last read Yertle the Turtle. Still, someone with more mechanical ability and an eye for old car parts could certainly keep an old 4 running. It is pricey car, though, and at $9,000 there are a lot of flashier, more German things you could buy that are nearly as interesting and far faster and far better to drive.
But no word in the automotive lexicon says "wrong move" more than Fuego. And the attraction is very strong when I come saw a Renault Fuego Turbo. Renault screwed up when it left its lasting impression in the US with rusting old Alliances in the AMC years, and I don't think I've ever come across a person who has happy memories of a Renault Fuego as everyday transportation.
But as someone who doesn't remember the 1980s, well, at all, I'm totally struck by the Fuego Turbo. Probably because I've never actually come into contact with one. This one in New Hampshire hasn't been on the road in 25 years, hence the relatively decent interior and low mileage. It's also missing a window on the right side, which I'm sure is as easy as popping down to your local glass shop and getting another. But what do I know about these things?
Honestly, I love this car. The upholstery is great, looks like it was inspired off the Renault badge. There's the awesome wedgy exterior. There's the early keyless entry remote, because the Fuego was the first car in the world to have one. Modern! I know that even with the turbo, the 1.6 four-cylinder only measly performance, but Renault did say it wants you to enter The Turbo Zone! I want to go to there.
If you have any common sense, you'd pick the Renault 4, because there's way more chance to keep that going than the fragile Fuego. But if you had common sense, you probably aren't looking too intently on buying a 30-year-old Renault in the first place. I'd have the Fuego and probably spend any subsequent moments with my head in my hands and the car in pieces. But hey, Lotus owners do that, right?