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Renault Espace Is the Minivan that Isn't

8 October 2014 - Autoblog

Renault Espace Is the Minivan that Isn't

A one-box shape, three-rows of seating, a huge feature set and sliding rear doors: these are the elements that make up what we know as "minivan."

That's a category that the Renault Espace has headlined, in Europe, for decades now. Well, until the new generation's launch at this year's Paris Motor Show, where the French automaker has – sort of, kind of – changed up the minivan formula in favor of something distinctly more crossover-flavored.

Not that family buyers are going to be devoid of function now that Espace has ditched the sliders and added a tiny bit of ride height. Renault still presents seating for seven and ample, configurable cargo space, but with this new hauler said space is presented in a more attractive and higher-design space than we've yet seen.

The forward cabin is dominated by light, with the sloping windshield meeting up with a gigantic glass roof – both serving to make the space feel open and airy. Espace drivers will see a Tesla-sized touchscreen in place of traditional instrumentation on the center stack, an elegant, leather and metal shift lever, and substantial-looking wood and brightwork just about everywhere. The instrument cluster is digital and completely configurable, too, with Renault even offering a slew of colorways for the display lighting.

Renault plans to offer the Espace with three turbocharged powerplants at launch – interestingly all with the same 1.6-liter displacement but with different outputs. The horsepower leader of the trio is the gasoline-powered Energy TCe 200 EDC (rolls right off the tongue), with 200 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. There are two diesel options, as well, the big boy making 160 hp and 280 lb-ft, and slightly weaker version good for 130 hp and 236 lb-ft. Six- and seven-speed automatics are on offer, as well.

Renault has even packed in its 4Control four-wheel-steering system to make the non-minivan more maneuverable than ever before.

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