The iconic Renault 5 is set to return as an all-electric hatchback

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The 2021 Renault 5 Prototype is a concept car that the French automaker unveiled during the presentation of its "Renaulution" strategic plan in January 2021. A modern tribute to the iconic Renault 5 produced from 1972 to 1996, the Renault 5 Prototype previews a production model that will arrive by 2025. The modern Renault 5 will be one of seven all-electric vehicles that the French brand wants to launch over the next four years, but apparently it won’t replace the Zoe or the Clio. What makes the Renault 5 Prototype special and how much of it will go into production? Let’s find out in the review below.

Design

  • Modern version of the iconic R5
  • Cute design overall
  • Muscular fenders
  • Bright colors
  • Red and black accents
  • Compact size
  • Sporty
  • Revived iconic design cues
  • Five-seat layout
  • Bolstered front seats
  • Illuminated headrests
  • Digital instrument cluster
  • Head-up display
2021 Renault 5 Prototype - A Glimpse Into The Future Exterior
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Design-wise, the modern Renault 5 is definitely worthy of the iconic "5" badge. Not just a tribute to Renault's classic hatchback, it's also a modern copy of the supermini that the French company launched back in 1972.

The R5’s defining features are visible everywhere, starting with the almost square headlamps set at the corners of the front fascia. The classic model’s narrow front grille is gone, but Renault kept a slender black line between the headlamps to simulate the contact area between the grille and the tip of the front hood. Just like on the old R5, a diamond logo pops out in the center of the fascia on the 5 Prototype.

2021 Renault 5 Prototype - A Glimpse Into The Future Exterior
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While the headlamps and the upper fascia are reminiscent of the first-generation R5, the turning signals are actually inspired by the second-generation hatchback, which also featured them right beneath the main lights. Down below, Renault added a decidedly modern feature in the form of thin and rectangular LED daytime running lights around the vents. The bumper also sports old R5-inspired features, such as the three-piece outlets in the center and the protruding, splitter-like element at the bottom of the bumper. The offset grille on the front hood, usually found on performance-oriented R5 models from the past, rounds off the 5 Prototype’s front end.

2021 Renault 5 Prototype - A Glimpse Into The Future Exterior
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The concept’s profile is even more proof that Renault made great efforts to keep it as close as possible to the original. The thick side skirts are painted in a different color than the body to suggest the cladding that adorned most versions of the classic R5. The 5 Prototype even features squared-off fender flares that contrast the otherwise smooth and slightly rounded bodywork. While flares weren’t a thing on most old R5 models, they’re a defining feature for the R5 Turbo versions and the R5-based rally cars. Even the six-spoke wheels are inspired by those found on performance-oriented versions of the original R8.

2021 Renault 5 Prototype - A Glimpse Into The Future Exterior
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Similarities to the old hatchback continue around back through a clean and slanted tailgate section and vertical taillights mounted high on the pillars. Although modern, the LED layout of the lights also harken back to the first-generation R5. A completely new feature is the thin light bar that runs across the tailgate, but the offset diamond emblem with "5" graphics is yet again inspired by the original hatchback. The clean and tall bumper is also reminiscent of the previous R5 and the absence of exhaust pipes is a strong hint that Renault is ditching combustion engines for the modern R5.

2021 Renault 5 Prototype - A Glimpse Into The Future
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The French firm did not release photos of the interior, but there’s one shot of the windscreen that reveals a five-seat layout with heavily bolstered front seats. The blue lights on the sides of the headrests are a cool touch. The 5 Prototype also features a digital instrument cluster placed high on the dashboard. And you can program it to display "hello" through the windshield, which should make pedestrians smile as they go by.

Powertrain

  • All-electric drivetrain
  • Renault-Nissan EV underpinnings
  • More than 100 horsepower
  • More than 200 miles per charge
  • Beeded-up Alpine version coming
2021 Renault 5 Prototype - A Glimpse Into The Future Exterior
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Renault didn’t have much to say about the 5 Prototype’s powertrain beyond the fact that it’s electric. So there won’t be internal combustion models like the classic R5 and there won’t be any hybrids. The production version of the upcoming R5 will run on battery power only. But what will actually underpin this hatchback?

The Renault 5 will ride on a smaller version of the second-generation Renault-Nissan EV platform.
2021 Renault 5 Prototype - A Glimpse Into The Future Exterior
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The latter will underpin the all-electric Megane that’s set to go into production at the end of 2021. Previewed by the Megane eVision, the all-electric Megane will feature an electric motor that sends 215 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. The hatchback will be able to hit 62 mph in eight seconds and run for up to 280 miles (on the WLTP cycle) on a single charge.

Needless to say, the Renault 5, which will slot under the Megane EV, won’t be as powerful. The base version will probably generate a little over 100 horsepower, while an optional drivetrain will pump out almost 150 horses. Renault will also offer a performance-oriented version under the Alpine brand. The Alpine R5 will probably arrive with close to 200 horsepower.

2021 Renault 5 Prototype - A Glimpse Into The Future Exterior
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Since the Renault 5 was replaced by the Clio in 1996 it’s only natural to wonder whether the third-generation R5 will put an end to the current Clio. The answer is no. The upcoming R5 and the Clio will continue side by side. While the Renault 5 will be all-electric, the Clio will be offered with combustion and hybrid powertrains.

Conclusion

2021 Renault 5 Prototype - A Glimpse Into The Future Exterior
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The Renault 5 mostly unknown outside Europe, but it’s still a great thing to see it return after nearly 30 years. And if the 5 Prototype goes into production with small changes, we could say that Renault hit the spot. Not only it recaptures the cute and fun yet avant-garde look of the original R5, but it also brings it into the future with an all-electric powertrain and modern materials and technology. The fact that Renault will also build a higher performance Alpine version makes things that much better.

  • Leave it
    • Still three years away

Renault 5 legacy

The Renault R5 - A Legendary Hatchback You Probably Forgot All About
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The Renault 5 debuted in 1972 and it was part of the first wave of subcompact hatchbacks.

The R5 preceded the more iconic Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo by four and three years, respectively. Viewed as an avant-garde design at the time, the R5 was penned by Michel Boue in his spare time. When Renault executives found out about it, they were so impressed by the concept that they immediately set up a development program.

The 3.5-meter long hatchback was originally sold with a selection of four-cylinder engines. During the first generation, which was produced from 1972 to 1985, the lineup included engines as small as 782cc and as larger as 1.4 liters. The base models came with only 36 horsepower and barely hit 80 mph, while the 1.4-liter model were rated at 62 horses and hit 88 mph. Renault also offered a 1.4-liter turbo-four good for 108 horsepower and top speeds in excess of 110 mph. These engines powered versions like the 5 Alpine Turbo and Gordini Turbo. Renault also built naturally aspirated Alpine and Gordini models with 92 horsepower.

The Renault R5 - A Legendary Hatchback You Probably Forgot All About
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Built in nine factories spread across seven countries and five continents, the Renault 5 was one of the best-selling cars of its era. With 5.5 million units sold, it was also the best-selling car in France from 1972 to 1986.

The Renault 5 was also imported to the U.S. as part of American Motors Corporation’s partnership with the French brand at the time. It was dubbed Le Car in North America and it was imported to compete against the Honda Civic and Volkswagen Rabbit. The Le Car was sold Stateside from 1976 to 1983 with a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 55 horsepower.

In 1980, Renault introduced the 5 Turbo, a more extreme hatchback with the engine mounted behind the front seats. Designed for rallying, the 5 Turbo was eventually offered in a street-legal version to meet requirements for racing homologation. The mid-mounted 1.4-liter engine developed 158 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque and enabled the hatchback to hit 62 mph in 6.9 seconds and a top speed of 120 mph.

The Renault R5 - A Legendary Hatchback You Probably Forgot All About
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Renault launched the second-generation 5, also known as the Supercinq, in 1984. While the platform was completely new, based on the larger 9 and 11 models, the aesthetic remained similar under Marcello Gandini’s pen. But the new R5 was a bit longer and wider to provide more interior space. It also adopted a transversally mounted engine and modern suspension. Renault kept the four-cylinder engine lineup, but the smallest unit was now a 1.0-liter. Renault also introduced a larger 1.7-liter gas engine and a 1.6-liter diesel.

Output ranged from 41 horsepower in the 1.0-liter to 81 horses in the 1.7-liter, while the turbocharged 1.4-liter four-pot generated up to 118 horsepower. The latter powered the Renault 5 GT Turbo, arguably the most iconic variant of the original R5 after the mid-engined 5 Turbo.

The second-generation R5 was discontinued in 1996, when it was officially replaced with the Clio, already on the market since 1990. Renault produced a little more than nine million cars in almost 25 years.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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The Renault R5 - A Legendary Hatchback You Probably Forgot All About

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