Early studies on Clio-based DS3 rival; chic three-door could cash in on ‘premium small car’ success

Renault is considering the development of a premium supermini inspired by the original R5, sources have revealed.

Positioned as a chic rival for the Citroën DS3, Mini and Fiat 500, the reborn R5 would complement the next Twingo as well as the fourth-generation Clio, besides strengthening Renault’s presence in the flourishing small car segments.

The R5 was the first modern supermini with its three-door hatchback layout, and is still considered a styling tour de force. It was a European best-seller for most of the 1970s and lived until 1985, when it was replaced by the visually similar ‘Supercinq’.

See Autocar's exclusive rendering of the R5-inspired supermini

Plans for a contemporary R5 are at a very early stage, not least because Renault has many new models under development as well as an ambitious electric vehicle programme. But well placed insiders believe that the reinvention of one of Renault’s best-loved and most stylish models would give it a chance to cash in on the fast-growing market for specialty small cars.

Renault’s planners will be anxious to avoid producing a design that is too retro in character when the company is launching itself into a period of more forward-looking and imaginative designs. But the success of the Mini and 500 is hard to ignore, especially when VW is renewing the Beetle and reintroducing the Microbus.

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So expect to see plenty of references to the original car, including the signature rectangular headlights, slender grille, unusually low crease in its flanks, innovative impact-absorbing bumpers (though perhaps in classier, coloured textures than the original plastic) and vertical tail-lights.

Inside, Renault’s engineers are unlikely to risk reproducing the push-me-pull-you gearlever that sprouted from early cars’ dashboards, although they may reference its vertical ribbing. But the interior will be considerably more inviting than the rubber-floored original’s, finished to a far higher standard and offered with the wide variety of materials that have made the Mini, 500 and DS3 so appealing to customers.

A long options list and the scope for extensive personalisation will be key to the car’s appeal and its profitability. Mechanically, the R5 is likely to be based on the Renault Nissan Alliance B platform, as used on today’s Clio and the Clio 4 that will be unveiled at this autumn’s Paris show. Should a new R5 get the green light — and it is a long way from approval — it would be unlikely to appear before 2014.

Richard Bremner

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