Renault’s funky new EV, previewed as the Renault 4ever concept in Paris, is close to being signed off for production.
The final design of the new Renault 4 is weeks aways from being signed off, following the reveal of the outlandish 4ever Trophy concept on which it will be based.
Renault design boss Gilles Vidal said the final touches are now being completed, but the overall shape is already agreed. The upper half of the concept, excusing the more out-there elements such as the spare wheel roof rack and bonnet grab handles, will be closely reflected in the production model when it arrives in 2025.
Meanwhile the lower half will see bigger changes, given that this concept was created in reference to the modified Renault 4s that take part in the yearly 4L Trophy rally across the Moroccan desert.
“The trick now is how to make a recognisable form and project it into the future. The front light signature and the taillights are recognisable elements by those who know the historic cars but the way we translate them is not retro in any way.”
The interior of the production 4 (or the lower-slung Renault 5 supermini) has not yet been revealed, but Vidal said: “The interior is very different to the rest of the range for sure. It’s the same approach as the outside: what do we activate that actually resonates with the historical detail, but of course without it being plastic-ky like it was then? And how do you project it into the future in terms of quality of execution, screens and so on?”
The 4 will be the second car to use Renault’s compact CMF-BEV architecture and will be built alongside the 5 at Renault’s new ElectriCity production hub in northern France.
The original 4 – variously referred to as the world’s first mass-production hatchback, MPV and crossover – was a hugely important car for Renault and sold more than eight million units across a three-decade production run. In reviving its name and some of its defining design cues, Renault is hinting at similar volume aspirations for the electric second coming.
“It was a car you could drive in the countryside, you could drive off road, you could drive in the city,” designer Sandeep Bhambra told Automotive Daily Network partner Autocar. “So that versatility was part of the brief: we wanted to make the 4 the most versatile car in the segment, whereas the 5 is more of an urban city car.”
So while the production-spec 4 will lose the ‘4Ever Trophy’ concept’s more rugged cues and sit slightly closer to the ground (Bhambra said: “Whatever you see in the body colour is very, very close to production”), the focus on practicality and utility will remain.
Measuring 4060mm long and with a wheelbase of 2570mm, the concept is slightly smaller than the Captur but a tad larger than the Clio. With the lack of a combustion motor up front, and with no transmission tunnel running through the cabin, it should offer an overall boost in space and functionality.
Product boss Laure Gregoire gave Autocar an idea of the differences in priority between the 4 and 5: “In the B-SUV segment, one customer out of two uses it as their main car and 50 per cent as a second car, so you have a bigger scope of usage than on the B-hatch [Renault 5] which is more specialised.
“On this one, we need more roominess, more practicality. This is where the Renault 4 will separate itself from the 5. This is what we are working on.”
The 4 will draw its power from a 42kWh nickel-cobalt-manganese battery mounted under the floor and expected to give a range of around 400km. It will be propelled by a 100kW synchronous motor on the front axle, which should enable a 0-100km/h time of less than 9.0sec mark. These figures will position the crossover as a rival to the likes of the MG ZS EV.
Renault bosses would not be drawn on the potential for more powerful or four-wheel-drive variants at this early stage, but sibling performance brand Alpine will launch a 160kW hot version of the 5 in 2024, so a technically identical 4 would not be an impossibility.
There is also no suggestion the 4 is in line for a hydrogen-assisted powertrain, as previewed by the recent Scenic Vision concept. “Hydrogen is another topic for another project,” said Gregoire, citing the company’s ambition for pure-EVs to account for 65% of its sales by 2025, and 90 per cent by 2030.
But just as important as the car itself is the way Renault will sell it. Gregoire said: “It’s a new product, but it’s also a new business that we have to invent, of course, to keep it as accessible and affordable as possible for the customers”. She referenced the roughly 90 per cent of cars in France that are leased and suggested that the 4 has been conceived partly with a focus on subscription services. Notably, the Renault Group’s newly hived-off mobility sub-brand, Mobilize, which operates on a subscription model, is expected to account for 30 per cent of the company’s total revenues by 2030 – a push in which the 4 could play a core role.
But a headline on-the-road price of around $45,000 for buyers looks likely, based on earlier suggestions that the 4 will command a premium over the 5, which bosses are keen to launch at sub-$35k.
The 4 will launch in Europe in 2025, following the 5 supermini in 2024, and they will sit alongside the existing hybrid line-up of the Clio and Captur which are in the same respective segments. It is far too early for Australian confirmation, which would likely come after its European launch schedule.