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Renault design chief: new 5 is “not trying to be vintage"

... it's trying to be cool for what it is. Gilles Vidal explains the new car's lovely shape ahead of its 2025 release

Published: 28 Feb 2024

Mesdames et Messieurs! The Renault 5 finally made its global debut at the 2024 Geneva Motor Show and is confirmed to be heading for the UK market early next year at a starting price of circa £25k. 

And in exchange for your shillings, you’ll get a choice of three power outputs (between 94 and 148bhp) and two battery sizes offering either 186 or 249 miles of range between trips to the charger. 

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But let’s forget the raw numbers for a moment and focus on what’s really got people interested: the design. Style is of paramount importance to the successor to the original R5, something Renault design chief, Gilles Vidal, explains.

“The idea for the exterior is to find cues and gradients from the historical vehicle, using inspiration from the Super Cinq and the Turbo - the two models most associated with the 5 - and there are hints to this throughout," he told TopGear.com. 

“Out front, for instance, we tried to remake the ‘lively’ eyes from the original (first-generation) car’s launch in 1972, when Renault flooded the streets with 5s and painted their headlights to give them a sort of sparkly, lively cartoon character look. That’s what we’ve tried to highlight with the extra light at the front, to recapture what we did with the cartoons. 

“But then when you move round to the back, the vertical rear lights come from the Super Cinq and the massive shoulders relate to the Turbo. What has become the charging display on the bonnet used to be a rectangular graphic. That’s a pretty good example, because sometimes you don’t always want a part to have the same function, yet you kind of need it to make the car recognisable to what it’s trying to be.” 

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Renault’s commitment to retaining certain flavours from the old car is clear, but how will this translate to the inside, where such an approach would be much harder to accomplish in the digital age?

“There have been a few different dashboards across the generations, and now we’ve got a two-layer dash with a step. What was, in the past, a huge chunk of plastic with needles and screws sticking out that you could see are now screens.

“Then we have the squares on the roof, which nobody seems to do any more because it’s a thing of the past. But when you enter the car, you don’t get that vintage feeling - it feels modern. That’s really the sort of thing we try to do to adjust between bits and pieces that people will remember.”

How will this new 5 cater to the next generation who will view it as an entirely new product, and not a remake of an old car? 

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“My kids don’t care so much about the old cars, they don’t even know them. So this new 5 needs to be cool for what it is. We tried to step back from the retro references often enough and asked ourselves, ‘does it resonate with modernity’, and ‘does it resonate with the future?’ We asked ourselves what they’ll appreciate about the new car, and what is it they’ll find cool and futuristic about it, and that’s how we crafted everything.

“The sections are not actually vintage. Of course, some principles will be recalled, but the way we’ve executed the design is by not trying to be vintage at all. I try to explain it this way: if you do a close-up of the car, anywhere along the exterior or interior, you will not find a single vintage-looking detail, and that’s the trick.”

As a closing note, we even quizzed Vidal about the possibility of a full-scale comeback for the Turbo badge, to which he smirked and responded: “We’ll see.”

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