Currently reading: Renault hails "irresistible" pull of retro as it expands EV line-up
Nostalgia can break up "dark clouds" shrouding wider society, says Laurens van den Acker

Renault is turning to retro design for its upcoming EVs as a means to differentiate its cars from “anonymous” and “cold” rivals.

Renault Group design chief Laurens van den Acker told Autocar that reinventing classic designs is “irresistible” for CEO Luca de Meo, who revived the Fiat 500 while boss of the Italian firm in the 2000s and, on arrival at Renault, green-lit the retro-styled 4 and 5 EVs for showrooms.

Van den Acker said: “I think there’s this unsaid expectation that EVs should look a little bit anonymous, very fluid, very cold. I hope there’s more richness in the future for EVs, and we’re trying to do our best. The Renault 5 and Renault 4 will be full EVs, but they will be legendary icons. At the same time, the Mégane and the future Scenic are just very modern cars.”

“For a guy like Luca”, added van den Acker, doing something with Renault’s back catalogue “was irresistible”.

The Renault 5 was shown as a concept in early 2021 as the mascot for de Meo’s wide-reaching ‘Renaulution’ transformation strategy and the production car has now entered late-stage testing ahead of a launch next year.

Renault 4ever concept front

The 4 was shown in concept form at last year’s Paris motor show and will enter showrooms – minus the outlandish off-road addenda – in 2025.

Both are based on the firm’s new CMF-BEV architecture for small electric cars.

Van den Acker continued: “When I came to Renault in 2009, they asked me: ‘When are you going to do an Alpine or a Renault 4?’ I said: ‘Look, I’m hired to design the future, not to design the past.’

“But ironically, I think at this time when there’s so much insecurity in the world, where there are many dark clouds hanging left, right and centre, to make a few cars that really talked about the good times – and the times when the brand was alive – and stir all these positive emotions that people have [is a good thing].

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Renault 5 convoy

“The amount of people I’ve met that said ‘Oh, that was my first car, the Renault 5’ or ‘I learned how to drive in my aunt’s Renault 4’.

“I think these good memories are worth reviving. They’re feel-good products, and that is very rare to have. This is a card we can play that nobody else can play. Even in England, I think the Renault 5 is just massive, right? So why not? Why not give people what they want?”

The main reason we have not seen a revived 4 or 5 before is because packaging them faithfully to the originals would not have been possible with a combustion engine, hinted van den Acker.

“If the Renault 5 had used an internal combustion engine, it would have had a nose like this,” he said, gesturing at his nose and mimicking Pinocchio. “So in that sense, [the transition to EVs is] very exciting.”

Charlie Martin

Charlie Martin Autocar
Title: Editorial Assistant, Autocar

As a reporter, Charlie plays a key role in setting the news agenda for the automotive industry. He joined Autocar in July 2022 after a nine-month stint as an apprentice with sister publication, What Car?. He's previously contributed to The Intercooler, and placed second in Hagerty’s 2019 Young Writer competition with a feature on the MG Metro 6R4

He is the proud owner of a Fiat Panda 100HP, and hopes to one day add a lightweight sports car like an Alpine A110 or a Lotus Elise S1 to his collection.

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Commenter 16 August 2023
Continuation cars designed from beginning to be EVs! Objectively the Renault 16 deserves this treatment more than the r5 if not the r4 world first hatchback. World needs a car that excels in everything from driving enjoyment everywhere to practicality in something that doesn't need to occupy several old parking spaces.
anglia 15 August 2023

The black and yellow 'Tron movie' 5 looks terrible.

LP in Brighton 15 August 2023

Renault has such a history of innovative and stylish small cars - R5, Twingo, Clio etc. So why not keep going with the neat packaging opportunities open to an EV? Harking back to the past leads to a dead end as VW showed with its front drive Beetle. I think Peugeot is currently showing how modern design should be done...