First Look: Renault Espace E-Tech Hybrid on the Road

Renault Espace E-Tech Hybrid in the first driving report

Renault has revamped the Espace, converting it from a van-SUV hybrid to a full-blown SUV. The French automaker hopes that the technical aspects of the car, particularly the multi-mode transmission, will help it succeed where its predecessor did not. The new iteration is shorter than the previous model, at 4.72m, but boasts an interior space that is slightly longer in the front. The second-row seats can be shifted by 22 cm to create more space in the back, and there is an optional third row of seats. However, the trunk has reduced in size to just 159 liters. The car comes with Android Automotive, which provides voice control and Google Maps integration.

Although a reasonably priced car for its size, the Espace could have a hard time competing in the market. Because it is a full hybrid, rather than a plug-in, the car does not benefit from a reduced tax rate that would make it more attractive to buyers. Renault has yet to explain why it has taken this approach with the car, given that the multi-mode transmission and its motors have been used in the externally chargeable Megane hybrid for several years.

With only one available drive option, the Espace’s idiosyncratic hybrid configuration, consisting of a small battery, a 1.2l petrol engine, a double electric motor and a multi-mode transmission, ensures high fuel efficiency. The car is not designed for speed, with its main objective being maximising engine efficiency. In fact, its handling is not particularly dynamic, reacting rather hectically to acceleration inputs. The comfort setting is a better option for smooth driving. The base model Espace sells for €43,500 ($51,632).

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