First generation (1972–1985)
The Renault 5 was first unveiled on 10 December 1971, being launched at the beginning of 1972.
The Renault 5 was styled by Michel Boué, who died before the car's release, the R5 featured a steeply sloping rear hatchback and front dashboard. Boué had wanted the taillights to go all the way up from the bumper into the C-pillar, in the fashion of the much later Fiat Punto and Volvo 850 Estate / Wagon, but the lights remained at a more conventional level. The 5 narrowly missed out on the 1973 European Car of the Year award, which was instead given to the Audi 80.
The R5 borrowed mechanicals from the Renault 4, using a longitudinally-mounted engine driving the front wheels with torsion bar suspension. OHV engines were borrowed from the Renault 4, Renault 8, and Renault 16, and ranged from 850 to 1400 cc.
Early R5s used a dashboard-mounted gearshift (the gearbox is in front of the engine)—later replaced with a floor mounted shifter. Door handles were formed by a cut-out in the door panel and B-pillar. The R5 was one of the first cars produced with a plastic bumper bar—or fascia—that has become an industry standard.
This car has introduce a small invisible revolution. It was the first one with a front and a rear bumper in plastic (polyester and glass fibre). Nowaday, 99% of the manucfactured cars in the world have plastic bumper.
The R5's engine was set well back in the engine bay, above and half behind the gear box, allowing the stowage of the spare wheel under the bonnet/hood, an arrangement that freed more space for passengers and luggage within the cabin. The passenger compartment "is remarkably spacious" in comparison to other modern, small European cars. The Renault 5 body's drag coefficient was only 0.37 (with most European cars going up to 0.45).
Other versions of the first generation included the four-door sedan version called the Renault 7 and built by FASA-Renault of Spain. The Renault 5 achieved, like the original Mini, a cult status.
Renault 5 Alpine/Gordini
The Renault 5 Alpine was one of the first hot-hatches, launched in 1976. Its launch pre-dated that of the Volkswagen Golf GTI. In the UK, the car was sold as the Renault 5 Gordini because Sunbeam already had the rights to the name "Alpine" and was used on the Talbot Alpine at the time. Use of the name Gordini was from Amédée Gordini, who was a French tuner with strong links with Renault and previous sporting models such as the Renault 8.
The 1.4 L (1397 cc) OHV engine, mated to a five-speed gearbox, was based on the Renault "Sierra" pushrod engine, but having hemispherical combustion chambers and featured a crossflow cylinder head and developed 93 PS (68 kW; 92 hp), twice as much as a standard 1.1 L (1108 cc) Renault 5. The Alpine could be identified by special alloy wheels and front fog lights and was equipped with stiffened suspension, but still retaining the torsion bar all round. The UK car magazine Motor road test figures quoted top speed of 104.7 mph (168.5 km/h) and 0-60 mph in 9.7 seconds.
Renault 5 Alpine Turbo/Gordini Turbo
The Renault 5 Alpine Turbo was launched in 1982 as an upgraded successor to the naturally aspirated Alpine. In Britain, the car was still called Gordini rather than Alpine. Motor magazine undertook a road test of the Turbo in 1982 and while they appreciated the performance (top speed 111.8 mph (179.9 km/h), 0-60 mph 8.7 seconds), they were critical of its high price as it was £2 more than the larger Ford Escort XR3.
The 1.4 L (1397 cc) was the same as the Alpine, but with the addition of a (single Garrett T3 turbocharger) increasing the power output to 110 bhp (82 kW; 112 PS). Sales continued until 1984 when the second generation Renault 5 was launched, and the release of the Renault 5 GT Turbo in 1985.
Renault 5 Turbo
The Renault 5 Turbo should not be confused with the Alpine Turbo or GT Turbo as it was radically modified by mounting a turbocharged engine behind the driver in what is normally the passenger compartment, creating a mid-engined hot hatch and rally car. The Renault 5 Turbo was made in many guises, eventually culminating with the Renault 5 Maxi Turbo.
Renault Le Car
The North American Renault 5 debuted in 1976 as the Le Car. American Motors (AMC) marketed it through its 1,300 dealers where it competed in the United States against such front-wheel-drive subcompacts as the Honda Civic and Volkswagen Rabbit. It was described as a "French Rabbit" that "is low on style, but high on personality and practicality".
AMC's ad agency launched the car in the U.S. with a marketing campaign emphasizing that it was Europe's best selling automobile with millions of satisfied owners. It did not achieve such immediate success in the United States market even though the Le Car was praised in road tests comparing "super-economy" cars for its interior room and smooth ride, with an economical [35 mpg-US (6.7 L/100 km; 42 mpg-imp) highway and 28 mpg-US (8.4 L/100 km; 34 mpg-imp) city] as well as smooth-running engine.
The U.S. version featured a 1397 cc I4 engine that produced 55 hp (41 kW), and a more conventional floor-mounted shifter was substituted for the dash-mounted unit. In 1977 it dominated the Sports Car Club of America "Showroom Stock Class C" class.
The Le Car was offered in 3-door hatchback form from 1976-80. For the 1980 model year, the front end was updated to include a redesigned bumper and grille, as well as rectangular headlights. A 5-door hatchback body style was added for the 1981 model year. Imports continued through 1983, when the car was replaced by the Kenosha, Wisconsin-built, Renault 11-based Renault Alliance.
In at least one U.S. municipality, the Le Car was used as a law enforcement vehicle, when the La Conner, Washington police department acquired three of the vehicles for its fleet in the late-1970s. Renault advertised Le Car's versatility in a full page ad featuring its use by the department.
- January 1972: Introduction of the Renault 5 in L and TL forms. Both models had rear pull handles, a folding rear seat, grey bumpers, wind up front windows, and a dashboard-mounted gear shift lever. The TL was better equipped, and had a vanity mirror for the front seat passenger, three ashtrays (one in the driver's door armrest and two in the rear), two separate reclining front seats instead of one bench seat, front pull handles, and three stowage pockets.
- 1973: Gear lever moved from dashboard to floor, between front seats. TL gains heated rear window.
- 1974: Introduction of the R5 LS, same as R5 TL, but with different wheels, H4 iodine headlights, electric windscreen washers, fully carpeted floor ahead of the front seats, carpeted rear parcel shelf, electronic rev counter, daily totalizer, two-speed ventilation system, illuminated ashtray with cigarette lighter.
- March 1975: R5 LS renamed R5 TS. The TS had all features of the previous LS, plus new front seats with integrated head restraints, black bumpers, illuminated heater panel, front spoiler, rear wiper, clock, opening rear quarter lights and reversing lights.
- February 1976: Introduction of the R5 Alpine, with 1397 cc engine with hemispherical combustion chambers, high compression ratio and & special 5-speed manual gearbox. The R5 GTL was also launched in 1976 with the 1289 cc engine from the R5 TS (albeit with the power reduced to 42 bhp), the equipment specification of the R5 TL plus grey side protection strips and some features from the R5 TS such as the styled wheel rims, reversing lights, cigarette lighter, illuminated heater panel, electric windscreen washers.
- 1977: R5 GTL gets opening rear quarter lights and R5 L gets new 845 cc engine.
- 1978: Introduction of the R5 Automatic, similar to R5 GTL, but with 1289 cc (55 bhp) engine, 3-speed automatic transmission, vinyl roof and front seats from TS.
- 1980: 5-door TL, GTL and Automatic models arrive.
- 1982: Introduction of the R5 TX and the hot hatch R5 Alpine Turbo, a replacement for the R5 Alpine with a Garrett T3 Turbo, new alloy wheels, stiffer suspension and disc brakes all-round.
- B1B 0.8 L (845 cc/51.6 cu in) 8-valve I4; 37 PS (27 kW; 36 hp); top speed: 126 km/h (78 mph); 0–100 km/h (62 mph): 22.3 s
- C1C (689) 1.0 L (956 cc/58.3 cu in) 8-valve I4; 42 PS (31 kW; 41 hp); top speed: 130 km/h (81 mph)
also with 44 PS (32 kW; 43 hp); top speed: 135 km/h (84 mph)
- C1E (688) 1.1 L (1,108 cc/67.6 cu in) 8-valve I4; 45 PS (33 kW; 44 hp); top speed: 136 km/h (85 mph); 0–100 km/h (62 mph): 21.4 s
- 810 1.3 L (1,289 cc/78.7 cu in) 8-valve I4; 55 PS (40 kW; 54 hp); top speed: 140 km/h (87 mph) (automatic)
- 810 1.3 L (1,289 cc/78.7 cu in) 8-valve I4; 64 PS (47 kW; 63 hp); top speed: 154 km/h (96 mph); 0–100 km/h (62 mph): 15.6 s
- C1J (847) 1.4 L (1,397 cc/85.3 cu in) 8-valve I4; 63 PS (46 kW; 62 hp); top speed: 142 km/h (88 mph); 0–100 km/h (62 mph): 21.4 s (automatic)
- C2J 1.4 L (1,397 cc/85.3 cu in) turbo 8-valve I4; 110 PS (81 kW; 108 hp); top speed: 185 km/h (115 mph); 0–100 km/h (62 mph): 9.1 s
The Renault 5 Alpine version was raced in Group 2, its most notable result was a second and first in the 1977 Monte Carlo rally despite a serious handicap in power against other works cars. In the 1978 Monte Carlo, the Renault 5 Alpine came second and third overall, despite a powerful team entry from Fiat and Lancia.
For 1978, a rally Group 4 (later Group B) version was introduced. It was named as the Renault 5 Turbo, but being mid-engined and rear wheel drive, this car bore little technical resemblance to the road-going version. Though retaining the shape and general look of the 5, only the door panels were shared with the standard version. Driven by Jean Ragnotti, this car won the 1981 Monte Carlo Rally for its first race. The 2WD R5 turbo soon had to face the competition of new 4WD cars that proved to be faster on dirt, however it remained among the fastest of its era on tarmac.
Production in Iran
The original Renault 5 continued in production in Iran by SAIPA and Pars Khodro, as the Sepand. In 2002, the Sepand was replaced by the P.K, a car that adopted a styling reminiscent of the second generation, but still using the slightly-modified original bodywork. The P.K has been replaced by the New P.K which is a little changed in body style.
Second generation (1985–1996)
The second generation Renault 5, often referred to as the Supercinq or Superfive, appeared in 1985. Although the bodyshell and chassis were completely new (the platform was based on that of the Renault 9/11), familiar 5 styling trademarks were retained; styling was the work of Marcello Gandini. The new body was wider and longer featuring 20 percent more glass area and more interior space, with a lower drag coefficient (0.35), as well as 57.4 mpg-US (4.10 L/100 km; 68.9 mpg-imp) at 90 kilometres per hour (56 mph) in the economy models. The biggest change was the adoption of a transversely-mounted powertrain taken directly from the 9 and 11, plus a less sophisticated suspension design, which used MacPherson struts.
The second-generation R5 also spawned a panel van version, known as the Renault Express. It was commercialized in some European countries as the Renault Extra (UK) or Renault Rapid (mainly German speaking countries). This car was intended to replace the R4 F6 panel van, production of which had ceased in 1986.
Renault decided to use the naturally aspirated 1.7 L from the Renault 9/11, which utilized multipoint fuel injection in addition to the sports orientation 1.4 L turbo. Under the name GTE, it produced 95 PS (70 kW; 94 hp). Although not as fast as the turbo model, it featured the same interior and exterior appearance, as well as identical suspension and brakes. The Baccara and GTX versions also used the 1.7 engine - the former sporting a full leather interior, power steering, electric windows, sunroof, high specification audio equipment and as extras air-conditioning and On-Board Computer. The latter was effectively the same but the leather interior was an option and there were other detail changes.
The model was starting to show its age by 1990, when it was effectively replaced by the Clio, which was a sales success across Europe. Production of the R5 was transferred to the Revoz factory in Slovenia when the Clio was launched, and it remained on sale as a budget choice called the Campus until the car's 24-year production run finally came to an end in 1996. The Campus name was revived in 2005 with the Renault Clio II.
Renault 5 GT Turbo
A "hot hatch" version, the GT Turbo, was introduced in 1985. It used a heavily modified four cylinder, eight-valve Cléon 1397 cc engine, a pushrod unit dating back to the 1950s. It was turbocharged with an air-cooled Garrett T2 turbocharger. Weighing a mere 850 kg (1,874 lb), and producing 115 PS (85 kW; 113 hp), the GT Turbo had an excellent power-to-weight ratio, permitting it to accelerate from a standstill to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.5 seconds. To differentiate it from the standard 5, it came with blocky plastic side skirts. Unfortunately, turbo lag was an issue, along with poor hot starting, and was considered rather difficult to control. The same engine was used, with similar issues, in the Renault 9 and 11 Turbos.
In 1987, the facelifted Phase II was launched. Major changes in the Phase II version included installing watercooling to the turbocharger, aiding the Phase I's oil-cooled setup, which extended the life of the turbo. It also received a new ignition system which permitted it to rev 500 rpm higher. These changes boosted engine output up to over 120 PS (88 kW; 118 hp). Externally, the car was revamped, with changes (including new bumpers and arches) that reduced the car's drag coefficient from 0.36 to 0.35. Giving the Phase II a 0–100 km/h time of 7.5 secs. In 1989 the GT Turbo received a new interior, and in 1990 the special edition Raider model (available only in metallic blue, with different interior and wheels) was launched. In late 1991 the Renault 5 GT Turbo was discontinued, superseded by the Clio 16v and the Clio Williams.
In 1989, the Belgian company EBS produced convertible versions of the Renault 5 (1,400 in total), almost all of which were left-hand drive. A total of 14 of the 1,400 cars produced were based on the right-hand drive GT Turbo Phase II.
- 1985: Introduction of the second-generation Renault 5 3-door Hatchback range in TC, TL, GTL, Automatic, TS and TSE forms. The entry-level TC had the 956 cc engine (rated at 42 bhp), while the TL had the 1108 cc engine (rated at 47 bhp), and the GTL, Automatic, TS and TSE had the 1397 cc engine (rated at 60 PS (44 kW; 59 hp) for the GTL, 68 PS (50 kW; 67 hp) for the Automatic, and 72 PS (53 kW; 71 hp) for the TS and TSE). The TC and TL had a 4-speed manual gearbox, while the GTL, TS and TSE had a 5-speed manual gearbox (which was optional on the TL), and the Automatic had a 3-speed automatic gearbox.
- 1987: Introduction of 1721 cc F2N engine in the GTX, GTE (F3N) and Baccara.
- C1C (689) 1.0 L (956 cc/58.3 cu in) 8-valve I4; 42 PS (31 kW; 41 hp); top speed: 130 km/h (81 mph)
- C1E 1.1 L (1,108 cc/67.6 cu in) 8-valve I4; 49 PS (36 kW; 48 hp); top speed: 150 km/h (93 mph)
- C1J (847) 1.4 L (1,397 cc/85.3 cu in) 8-valve I4; 63 to 68 PS (46 to 50 kW; 62 to 67 hp); top speed: 155 km/h (96 mph)
- C1J (784-788) 1.4 L (1,397 cc/85.3 cu in) turbo 8-valve I4; 115 to 120 PS (85 to 88 kW; 113 to 118 hp); top speed: 204 km/h (127 mph); 0–100 km/h (62 mph): 7.9-7.5 seconds
- F2N 1.7 L (1,721 cc/105.0 cu in) 8-valve I4; 82 PS (60 kW; 81 hp); top speed: 170 km/h (106 mph); 0–100 km/h (62 mph): 8.9 seconds