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First Look

The R5 has returned: meet the all-new, all-electric £25k Renault 5 E-Tech

Renault's classic small car returns for the electric age, complete with a baguette holder

Published: 26 Feb 2024

This is the new Renault 5 E-Tech and it might just have the single greatest optional extra ever. A ‘porte baguette’ to hold your favourite tubular loaf and stop it shedding crumbs all over your car. It’s a masterstroke in sucking the seriousness out of a new car launch and simultaneously confirming that the new 5 is as french as a Édith Piaf chain-smoking Gauloises in a bathtub full of unnecessarily smelly cheese.

“That was [Renault CEO] Luca de Meo’s idea,” says design boss Gilles Vidal. “It’s funny, we often think he could be a designer. We thought about putting a beret on the headrests, but that was a bit much.”

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In simple terms the 5 is a new B-segment electric supermini, a replacement for the Zoe that ensnared cost-conscious EV adopters, but not hearts and minds. It’s also the beginning of Renault lighting the retro EV afterburners with E-incarnations of the 4 and Twingo coming down the pipe. All we know is it’s barely changed from the 2021 concept that melted our hearts with rose-tinted memories (if you’re of a certain age) and made you raise an eyebrow (if you’re whippersnapper looking to go electric). It will cost from just £25k when it goes on sale early next year and we want one already. With a baguette sheath.

Based on a new AmpR Small (formerly CMF-B EV) platform, it shares a front axle with the Clio and Captur, but the multi-link rear suspension is a rare treat in this class and benefits not just handling but makes more space for the battery. A short steering ratio and a tight turning circle of 10.3 metres should guarantee le nippiness.

Three power outputs are available, all single motor (20kg lighter than the Zoe’s e-motor) and front-wheel drive: 148bhp (181lb ft torque, 0-62mph in under 8 secs, top speed 93mph), 118bhp or 94bhp… although the latter probably won’t be offered in the UK.

You’ll have the pick of two battery sizes too - 52kWh for a range of around 249 miles and 40kWh for a range of circa 186 miles. Max DC charging speed is 100kW, or 30 mins from 15 to 80 per cent. Weight? Around 1,450kg for the 52kWh version, 100kg less for the smaller battery and, rather bizarrely, you can order it with a tow bar for pulling up to 500kg. Ideal if you have a Hobbit-sized caravan.

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It also has bidirectional AC charging, which means if you purchase Renault’s special home wall box and sign up to a specific energy contract, then you could use your plugged-in R5 as a power bank to charge when energy’s cheap and sell it back to the grid when demand is high. Result: potentially significant savings on your energy bill, and who doesn’t like the sound of that?

 

Renault claims the production car is 95 per cent faithful to the concept (how the hell do you measure that?). Wing mirrors and door handles are more bulbous, as per regulations, the squircle LEDs in the front bumper have a broken outline rather than a continuous one (a motif repeated on the air vents inside) and a battery indicator panel has been added on the bonnet - inspired by the R5 Turbo’s vent and originally intended to be the charging port, before Renault realised that would be annoying. And that’s about it, honestly, even the squat dimensions with short overhangs, longish wheelbase and 3.92m overall length (longer than a Twingo, shorter than a Clio) are within mm of the showcar.

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The headlights wink at you when you unlock the car, which is nice, the boot (326 litres, with a hidden cubby beneath for your cables and 60:40 split folding rear seats) is manually operated in keeping with the car’s simple, playful persona and all wheels are 18in. These here are direct copies of the concept’s rims, there are also ‘Disco’ hubcaps inspired, again, by the R5 Turbo. We’re not complaining. Colour is part of the R5’s DNA, so we insist you order it in Pop Yellow or Pop Green, although black, white and dark blue are also available if you’re a joyless husk of a human.

The interior hits all the right notes, blending tech with vintage nods. Like the waffle-effect headliner that references the Seventies original, and the two tier padded dash in front of the passenger, presumably to prevent head injury when you lean forward for a bite of your baguette. The seats reference the R5 Turbo… and they’re brilliantly done, especially covered in this dirty mustard fabric and the 5 logo, with strong bolsters but enough width and squidge to be supremely comfortable. On the Techno trim level, the seats, dash and door panels are covered in denim made from recycled plastic bottles.

Fish around and you’ll find 19 litres worth of cubbies dotted about, and a couple of screens - a 10in display behind the wheel and another 10-incher in the middle of the dash, designed with a chunky flat edge and buttons on the top of it to switch it off like a tablet. You’ll also find a row of physical buttons below the central screen and a dash satisfyingly canted towards the driver. Because everything is compact and close you don’t need orangutan arms to reach the central touchscreen, it’s just there.

Renault 5 revealed 2024

Jobs for the facelift? Headroom and legroom for a small adult is fine in the back, but we did have trouble sliding toes under the seat in front - a symptom of the underfloor battery and Renault wanting to keep the roofline low. Either go barefoot, or ask the driver to crank the chair up a notch or two. And then there’s Reno - your friendly, freaky blue-diamond-shaped avatar thing that pops up on the screen and is overly keen to help. It’s not voice recognition, it’s a personal assistant says Renault, so not only can it deal with mundane commands, it can also answer questions like “how do I change a tyre?” or “where can I buy another baguette, I appear to have eaten this one?” Because there’s ChatGPT built-in it’s even capable of fluid conversations on the move, which is ideal if you don’t have an actual friend to call.

What Renault has achieved here in three years is impressive, because doing retro right is never easy. “A clean sheet design is easier actually, because you can design around the constraints. Here, creativity is constrained because you have your brief,” says Gilles. It feels like the right car for the right time, something to tickle the taste buds of saddos like me, and appeal to a younger generation grappling with whether they care about cars at all, because it’s simply an appealing object.

15 minutes 45 seconds

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