The design previews the design of the next-generation Espace, but UK will be denied the production model be cause of weak sales of large MPVs.
Said to be “very close” to the final Espace production design, the concept is built around a lower roofline, sleeker proportions and a mildly raised ride height. The aim is to compete more successfully against SUVs, which have eroded the market for large MPVs.
Renault design chief Laurens van den Acker told Autocar: “We have redesigned the silhouette to give a more premium expression and more status to the design of our top-range model.”
The outgoing Espace was conceived around a roomy and light interior with plenty of headroom and a large glasshouse. But since the launch of the third-gen Espace in 2002, the market has swung towards the tougher image of SUVs, with more ‘technical’, cockpit-like cabins.
“We are starting with a fresh page for the new luxury Renault,” said van den Acker. “We are looking for a different expression of that feeling of space and luxury that we have in today’s Espace.”
"Renault is back and better than ever, we've now completely refreshed our design identity. Our concepts have shown and are showing our future. This new concept celebrates an open mind and living life to the full. It's Renault's vision of premium motoring."
Speaking about the design of the concept, he said: "The roof is a tribute to Paris and is machined out of a piece of aluminium. The Initiale Paris name will be rolled out on selected models from 2014 [as a luxury trim]. The concept is a forerunner to the new Espace"
The footprint of the Initiale Paris concept is broadly similar to today’s extended-wheelbase Espace, which is still in production for main European markets. It is significantly lower, though, by some 90mm.
Renault’s design team has shifted the main proportions of the upper body, pushing the base of the windscreen rearwards to create separate windscreen and bonnet lines. That marks a seismic shift from the revolutionary one-box look that the Espace introduced to Europe back in 1984 and, for a decade, was the dominant car industry design trend.
Although the concept’s interior features only four seats, the production car is expected to have a seven-seat option. Given the tapering roofline and raised floor level, that looks likely to translate more into a 5+2 than a true seven-seater.
The driving position will be much cosier than today’s roomy front cabin, with the fascia and centre tunnel enveloping the driver in a sportier-feeling cockpit.