Excellent new engine and worthwhile interior mods, but now showing its age.
12 April 2006

What's new? What with the advent of crossovers, compact MPVs and roomy off-roaders, full-size MPVs have had a bit of a tough time recently, in terms of both image and sales. The Renault Espace, however seems to have escaped. One of the pricier MPVs, the Espace feels as much executive express as people-carrier. To keep it that way, Renault has just introduced a few revisions.What's it like? Chief among these is the availability of the 2.0-litre dCi turbodiesel engine with 173bhp from the Laguna. And, as in the Laguna, it’s a cracker. Quiet – very quiet – at idle, it pulls cleanly and strongly from around 1500rpm, doing its best work between 2500 and 3500rpm, right through to 5000rpm. So although the Espace is hefty, the dCi motor never feels strained when hauling it. It will also return a commendable near-40mpg on the combined cycle.Which makes it a shame that the rest of the package isn’t quite so advanced. The Espace is a nice place to spend time, especially thanks to new interior materials, but it no longer rides with enough isolation to match a modern executive car. Spring and damper rates have been chosen to provide a dose of compliance but there’s too much bump-thump and noise over broken surfaces. The steering is unsatisfying, too.Should I buy one? Pity, really, because niggles aside, the Espace still has a lot going for it. The cabin is versatile and spacious, and the rear seats are easier to slide, remove and replace than before. If dynamics aren’t that important to you and you need seven seats, you could do a lot worse. 

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