Renault repositions Espace minivan as midsize SUV


PARIS — Renault will reposition the Espace as a five- and seven-seat SUV to be revealed this spring, after five generations as a minivan.

The first generation Espace was launched in 1983, but in recent years sales fell sharply as buyers increasingly chose SUVs or crossovers over minivans.

The Espace will be based on the Renault-Nissan CMF-C/D platform, for compact and midsize cars, Renault said Tuesday. It follows the Austral compact SUV as CEO Luca de Meo focuses on sales of larger, higher-margin compact and midsize vehicles.

Peugeot followed a similar strategy in 2017 when it repositioned the 5008 minivan as a crossover available with seven seats, essentially an extended wheelbase version of the 3008 compact SUV.

Renault did not release any other details on the Espace. The next generation model is expected to be similar to the Austral – which was launched last year as the first of a family of compact SUV/crossover models  – but with a larger rear overhang and potentially a longer wheelbase. A coupe-style version is also reportedly planned.

Sales in Europe of the fifth-generation version were just 1,135 units in 2022, compared with 2,773 in 2021, according to figures from Dataforce. The model debuted in 2015, with sales of about 21,500 in Europe; earlier generations had sold well in excess of 50,000 units a year.

The Peugeot 5008, which had similar sales figures as the Espace in 2015, received a significant boost when it was restyled as a crossover for the 2017 model year. Sales in 2017 were 46,689, rising to 78,832 in 2018. Volumes have declined in recent years, with 2022 sales of 36,187 in 2022, according to Dataforce.

Volumes in the midsize/large mainstream SUV segment were up 5.8 percent in 2022 to 524,664, according to Dataforce, because of the introduction of a number of full-electric entrants.. The Toyota RAV4 was in first place with 80,684 sales, followed by the Volkswagen ID4 EV (66,960 sales) and the Skoda Kodiaq (57,833). Other EV models in the top 10 included the Skoda Enyaq iV, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, the Ford Mustang Mach-E and the VW ID5. Renault and alliance partner Nissan did not have a vehicle in the top 10. 

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