Renault's Next Espace To Be Inspired By Failed Formulas

Illustration for article titled Renault's Next Espace To Be Inspired By Failed Formulas

We get it, people hate minivans. No matter how practical, sensible or spacious minivans are, the uncool factor of them makes them repulsive to fashion-conscious parents looking to for a family shuttle. While it’s never been sold here, the Renault Espace has long been a standard bearer for practical people carriers where space is more important than style.

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Introduced about the same time as the Chrysler minivans debuted in the States, it eventually became a model to emulate to make a successful minivan. However, decades of neglect turned it into a big expensive thing nobody wants. Naturally, Renault is concerned and thinks it’s time to change up its Espace formula. According to Autocar, they’re turning it into a three-row “cross between an MPV and a crossover.” We’ve been here before.

It’s a cross that didn’t work well for the Chrysler Pacifica (nobody bought a more expensive, short-wheelbase Town & Country) or the Mercedes-Benz R-Class (nobody wanted a fatter, uglier GL). Ford Flex? Still not exactly setting sales records. As comfortable and spacious and grand-sounding as these crossvans or miniovers, they’ve never been the segment busting successes as promised and I thought automakers had generally given up.

If the rumors are true, it’ll be interesting to see what Renault pulls off for a new Espace. As far as minivan-type vehicles go, the Espace has been a good-looking vehicle – way better than a lot of the failed minivan rivals that have arrived in the US over the years. It would be a shame for it to ditch its practical shape for something uglier and less usable.

Photo: Flickr/Saima

DISCUSSION

This makes sense. Europeans, at least Europeans in my part of Europe, don't buy full size minivans anymore. I think people tend to have smaller families, and the few that do need a full size minivan now have certain forms of CUVs/SUVs to choose from as well. So making the new Espace more CUV like makes sense from a marketing point of view, as its what the consumer likes. I personally abhor that trend, but I'm not the target demographic.

I believe manufacturers are partially to blame for the demise of the full size minivan in Europe as well. The current Renault Espace was released a full decade ago. The Eurovans (Peugeot/Citroën/Fiat/Lancia) are over a decade old or discontinued. The VW Sharan mk1 (and its clones) soldiered on for a whopping 15 years, until 2010 when it was actually replaced. The 2006 Ford Galaxy will be discontinued this year. The Chrysler Voyager became uncompetitive (too big, thirsty and unrefined?).

So other than VW no manufacturer has a viable full size minivan on the EU market. I think it's save to say that this means that manufacturers don't see a future for full size minivans in Europe.