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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For A quiet and spacious MPV that can rival some executive saloons for comfort

Against The 2.0 petrol engine isn't man enough for the job, and reliability is suspect

Verdict Soothing ride and fine practicality, but bad ones can be very bad

Go for… 2.2 diesels

Avoid… 2.0-litre petrol and V6s

Renault Espace MPV
  • 1. The digital speedo is prone to problems and costs a fortune to fix
  • 2. The unconventional control layout and centrally mounted digital speedo can take some getting used to
  • 3. Safety kit looks a little meagre compared with more modern Renaults, but includes driver and passenger airbags
  • 4. Grand Espace is more than 250mm longer than the standard car, improving space for luggage and rear passengers
  • 5. Suspension and anti-lock brakes have been known to fail
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Renault Espace MPV full review with expert trade views

Unlike most MPVs, the Espace comes in two body styles - standard and Grand. The Grand, launched in 1998, is more than 250mm longer than the standard car, improving luggage and rear passenger space.

In both versions, all five rear seats can be folded forward to form tables, or removed completely, while RXE and Initiale models have floor rails that add to your seating options.

Up front, the unconventional control layout - much of the switchgear is housed to the right of the steering wheel - and centrally mounted digital speedo can take some getting used to. But, this does keep things uncluttered, as do the many useful cubbies Renault have included.

The ride is smooth and comfortable, although the price you pay for this soft suspension is a lot of body roll. Things are impressively quiet at motorway speeds, with little wind or road noise reaching the cabin. However, diesel versions emit an unmistakable clatter until they're warmed up.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Colour and condition are vital while 2.2 dCi Privilege best for retail

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The entry engine was originally a 105bhp 2.0-litre petrol, but this was replaced with a 140bhp 2.0-litre unit when the car was facelifted in October 2000. Mind you, whichever you go for, performance is sluggish.

That's not something you can say of the flagship V6 models, but they're simply too thirsty. At least, there's a 110bhp 2.2-litre petrol that sits between these two extremes, and makes some sense.

However, it's the 130bhp 2.2-litre diesel that Renault introduced with the 2000 face-lift that best suits the Espace. It provides effortless performance and strong pull from low in the rev range, and replaced a far weaker 88bhp 2.1-litre diesel.

Safety kit on this version of the Espace looks a little meagre compared with more modern Renaults, but it does include anti-lock brakes and driver and passenger airbags.

Electric windows, remote central locking and air-conditioning are also fitted to all models, while higher trims bring you metallic paint, twin sunroofs and (on petrol models) cruise control. Other than the extra length and interior space, there's no difference between standard and Grand versions.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Big bills and big failure rates mean it's not good for a family's wealth

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

In its day, this Espace was one of the best MPVs around, but the good news for used buyers is that never had especially strong resale values, so any version is pretty cheap to buy.

However, fuel economy varies widely from engine to engine. The early 2.0-litre petrol cars may look particularly cheap to buy, but they only average 26.4mpg. That's almost as bad as the 20.6mpg that a V6 of the same age returns.

Cars with the newer 2.0-litre engine introduced in October 2000 manage a more acceptable 31.7mpg. And, our favoured 2.2-litre diesel will cost you least to run, returning 39.8mpg.

An early 2.0-litre car will be cheapest to insure, sitting in group 11, while at the other end of the scale there's the group 14-rated V6.

Renault dealers charge less per hour than many rivals and you can make useful savings by giving independent Renault specialists a try. However, the low cost of maintenance has to be weighed against the comparatively high chance of something going wrong.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Colour and condition are vital while 2.2 dCi Privilege best for retail

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Renault doesn't have the best of reliability records, and information supplied to us by Warranty Direct shows that the Espace is one of the worst performing cars in any sector.

For starters, its digital speedo is prone to problems and costs a fortune to fix. Heater leaks are also common, the 2.2-litre diesel engine may need an expensive rebuild at some point, and both the suspension and ABS have been known to fail.

This all makes a full service history a must, as do the many recalls that have been issued on the car over the years.

The potential faults that led to these recalls range from relatively minor problems such as the possibility of the spare wheel coming loose to far more serious concerns. For example, there was a fire risk on cars built between March and August 1999 because the exhaust manifold and fuel pipe had been positioned too closely together.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Big bills and big failure rates mean it's not good for a family's wealth

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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