Renault Espace Estate 1997 - 2002

Renault Espace Estate 1997 - 2002

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016


  • A large and versatile family car
  • Great exterior and interior


  • Not very economical


There's quite a bit of history behind the best selling family MPV. It was designed as a futuristic concept by an Anglo-Greek design team and was initially based on a Simca 1307 hatchback. After Simca was sold to Peugeot, who refused to produce the strange-looking Espace, the idea was sold to Renault, who in 1984 took a huge risk and put the Espace into production. Although, initially it looked like the European customers were not ready for a mainstream MPV, the sales eventually took off and today the Espace is one of the most recognizable brands on the market. The 1997 Espace is officially the 3rd generation of the versatile family van and it has lost every similarity that it ever had to the rather dodgy Simca 1307. The new Espace is based on the Laguna family hatchback, and although it looks significantly bigger, the Laguna's wheelbase has been increased by just an inch. After that it's just the clever tinkering of the Renault's engineers bringing such versatility to the cabin.

Exterior and Interior

The 3rd generation Espace still pays homage to its forerunner's futuristic design features. It's still has the same recognizable shape, only now it's brought in sync with the remaining of the Renault line-up. It is one of the most beautiful MPVs and it doesn't look clumsy even with the long wheel-base version Grand Espace. The interior design, although it has won many acclaims, has probably taken the UFO-theme one level too far. Its dials and controls are located centrally (contrasting with 'standard' cars with speedometer behind the steering wheel). Many people will find reading the dials difficult. Not only are they shifted to the centre, they now display measurements in digital format. It all really depends on the taste and some people seem to enjoy the striking interior of the Espace. Apart from the slight criticism of the dashboard, there's not much to nag about with the interior. This family 7-seater is the queen of versatility. There are so many combinations in which you can arrange the cabin that you sometimes get confused. With the seats removed the car has a boot space of 2850litres (it's 3100litres in Grand Espace version).

Performance and Economy

The Espace is an expensive car to buy and its economy doesn't help with running costs. The more powerful V6 version only delivers 20mpg. The 2.0-litre petrol engine is slightly better delivering 31mpg, but it should be noted that the smaller engine lacks power. It seems that the diesel has the best price/power ratio. It allows the car to return as much as 40mpg and thanks to high torque it offers decent dynamics. All in all, the Espace often receives criticism regarding the limited range of engines. There's not really that much to choose from. The V6 engine will be out of reach for the majority of people who are looking for a reasonable family car and the 2.0-litre-something petrol and diesel engines make the beautiful car feel quite dull. Having said that, the main competitor is the Peugeot 806 and it isn't much better when it comes to speed and acceleration, so Espace's positions remain strong in both the new and used car market.

Like to Drive

From an expensive car that is a household name in the world of MPVs you'd expect a higher refinement. Driving an Espace doesn't feel smooth. It certainly lacks the comfort of the same class vans produced in the USA and there is significant body roll as you negotiate sharper corners. It's most exciting to drive when you have the V6 engine under your hood. However, it is quite a thirsty beast and the V6 versions don't come cheap with the used car prices stubbornly high. Models with smaller engines are generally much cheaper and compete very well with other European cars of similar sizes.

Faults and Repairs

The Espace is based on the Laguna model, so if anything can go wrong with the Laguna, the same can happen to the Espace, the worst of which include reports of some mild engine failures. It's also the suspension that sometimes troubles the owner of an Espace. The sophisticated interior, although it was assembled to a decent quality, is sometimes too sophisticated and if something falls off, it is then difficult to fix it back in place. The owners should always remember that the new Espace is not a metal car any more. Although it has a stiff and safe chassis, the body panels are mad of plastic.