A veritable icon among minivans, the Espace has been hauling families in Europe since 1984. It wasn't until 2002 when the fourth-generation model arrived as the first to be fully developed and built by Renault as the previous iterations were a joint effort with Matra. The Espace IV had a 13-year life cycle and was replaced with a more crossover-like model in 2015. Now entering its sixth generation, it's basically abandoning all minivan cues.
Essentially, it's a long-wheelbase version of the Austral compact crossover with some minor changes to the design. While cars tend to grow in size and add weight, the new Espace bucks the trend since it's 5.5 inches (14 centimeters) shorter and 474 pounds (215 kilograms) lighter than the minivan it replaces. It also rides 1.25 inches (32 millimeters) lower and has a more spacious third row, but you can have it with only five seats as well.
Accessible via a power tailgate, the cargo area varies from 5.6 cubic feet (159 liters) with all seven seats in place to a cavernous 64.2 cubic feet (1,818 liters) in the five-seat configuration with the second row folded. Renault mentions a volume of 27.4 cubic feet (777 liters) is available in the five-seat model when the rear seats are pushed all the way forward. An extra 1.37 cubic feet (39 liters) of storage are available throughout the cabin for smaller items.
To make the cabin feel even more spacious, customers can opt for a massive glass roof measuring 1.33 x 0.84 meters. Wheel size is either 19 or 20 inches depending on the trim level, with the range-topping Esprit Alpine trim positioned above the base Techno and the midlevel Iconic. Even the cheapest one has a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 12-inch touchscreen while a 9.3-inch head-up display costs extra. Your devices will never run out of juice since aside from a wireless charging pad and a pair of 12V sockets, there are two USB-C ports for each row.
As with the Austral, the new Espace isn't available with a diesel engine. Instead, you can have the midsize SUV with a turbocharged 1.3-liter gasoline engine as a full hybrid with a pair of electric motors. The three-cylinder unit is good for 131 horsepower and 151 pound-feet (205 Newton-meters) of torque while the main electric motor is rated at 68 hp and 151 lb-ft (205 Nm). The second e-motor works as the starter generator with 25 hp and 37 lb-ft (50 Nm). Combined, Renault says the driver has access to 199 hp.
By adopting a hybrid powertrain, the French marque claims it has slashed fuel consumption by as much as 40 percent to 4.7 liters / 100 km with corresponding CO2 emissions of 105 g/km. Since efficiency has been prioritized and people are not looking for performance in a minivan, you won’t be taking down any Nürburgring lap records with the new Espace. It does 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 8.8 seconds and tops out at 109 mph (175 km/h).
Aside from having a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, the Espace has another ace up its sleeve compared to most mainstream SUVs in its segment. It boasts rear-wheel steering to reduce the turning circle to a Clio-like 10.4 meters. It would be 11.6 meters without this system, which steers the rear wheels up to five degrees in the opposite direction to the front wheels at speeds of up to 31 mph (50 km/h). At higher speeds, the rear wheels steer at up to one degree in the same direction as the front ones for improved stability.
Renault will begin to take orders for the new Espace this spring. It's not the only minivan name morphing into an SUV as the Scenic will follow suit in 2024, but strictly as an EV.