Renault's supermini


Renault 5 Campus

THE early 1970s was a time of iconic designs in the motor industry.

One of the most significant was the Renault 5 which appeared in 1972 and became a familiar sight on UK roads.

Although billed as a direct competitor to the BMC Mini, the 5 upped the ante and was a pioneer of what became known as the slightly larger Supermini genre which later swept through the marketplaces of Europe like a hurricane.

Unlike the Mini with its squat stance, the 5 was more roomy with pure French style and it certainly flaunted it.

Although the Mini was a highly successful and brilliant design, it was just too small for many and the Renaut 5 swept in with a solution.

The 5 had that certain something that assured success and was far more than just a slot in model between the Renault 4 and Renault 6.

It made that vital step between a city car and all-purpose vehicle and had the benefit of a hatchback, so fueling a further trend. There was even a four-door for added convenience.

And all of this was crammed into a length of just over 11 feet.

British buyers could initially choose between an 845cc or 956cc engine, both being married to four-speed manual gearboxes.

The smaller engine could attain 74mph and economy was modest at 31-40mpg.

The 5 drew heavily on existing components for its structure but the looks were very new. It was also one of the first cars to do without a conventional bumper. It had a protective tough plastic shield protecting the full width of the car front and rear and for about 8 inches under the chassis pan.

I remember driving one of the first to come to Britain and immediately surmised that having the front-wheel-drive arrangement with the engine set longitudinally, rather than transverse like the Mini may not have been such a good idea.

The problem was that the resulting bulge into the passenger compartment compromised the layout of the pedals.

Even so, the 5 was a winner. However, rust, scrappage and the like drove this little hero to the point of oblivion. So, if you want to see one stay on the alert as their numbers are dwindling.


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