Renault has always been a French company, founded in 1899 by the two brothers Louis and Marcel Renault. Their first car was sold in 1900. In the beginning, Renault focused on engines for cars of other manufacturers. This changed in 1906 when they launched their first model, the Type A. From this point on, Renault was active as a car manufacturer. The first car with the Renault name on it was the Type KZ from 1911. In 1914 Renault produced its one-millionth car.
In 1925 they introduced the first rear-engined car, which at that time was considered revolutionary: the Baujet 10CV.
Renault was one of Europe’s largest car manufacturers during most of its history. It became a major player in international motorsport with cars such as the Dauphine Gordini and R5 Turbo and would eventually win the World Rally Championship three times with drivers such as Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol (twice) and later in 2005 with Finn Mikko Hirvonen (who has since left for Ford).
In 1980s, Renault introduced a new line of cars to compete with the more expensive marques such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW. They included the Renault Espace, a large multi-purpose vehicle that also served as a people carrier, which was popular across Europe.
In the 80s, Renault was a major player in the car market, especially in Europe. They were selling more cars than any other manufacturer and this was mainly due to their low cost small cars that they were selling in huge numbers.
The biggest seller of these was the Renault 5, which was produced from 1978 until 1992. It was made with different engine options including a 1.1, 1.2 and 1.4 litre petrol engine as well as a 1.6 diesel engine. The car had a hatchback design which was very popular at the time and had seating for four people with two front seats and two rear seats. The car could also be specified with an optional sliding rear seat which allowed for up to five people to travel in the car if needed.
The Renault 5 GT Turbo version came out in 1985 and had all of the standard features of the normal Renault 5 plus an optional turbocharger that increased power by up to 40%. This made it one of the fastest superminis around at the time and many people loved it for this reason alone.
The most popular Renault models in the 1980s:
The Renault 11 was the first of the superminis to hit the market in Europe, and is still remembered as one of the most popular cars of its time. It was first released in 1972, but only really became a hit in 1979 when it was re-released with a more aerodynamic look. It had front wheel drive and a five-speed manual transmission, and boasted a spacious interior for its size.
The Renault 5 came out in 1972 and was also produced for several years after that, becoming known as one of the most stylish superminis on the market at that time. It had front wheel drive and five gears on its manual transmission, and its engine offered high torque at low speeds for easy handling.
This model hit the market in 1979 as a more luxurious version of the Renault 11; it offered up front wheel drive with four gears on its manual transmission, plus an aerodynamic design to make it even more appealing to buyers. This car is still fondly remembered by many people today as one of their favorite models from this decade.
The Renault 12 was the last model of the decade to be released, coming out in 1983. It offered front wheel drive and five gears on its manual transmission, and was considered a more modern version of the Renault 9 that had come out a few years earlier.
The Renault 4 came out in 1967 and was sold for many years after that, offering up front wheel drive with four gears on its manual transmission. It was the first car to have an energy absorbing structure, and is still considered one of the most popular models from this decade.
This model was first released in 1972, offering up front wheel drive with five gears on its manual transmission. It is still considered one of the most stylish models from this decade, and was also one of the first models to offer ABS brakes.
The Renault 6 was released in 1966 and continued to be sold for many years after that, offering up front wheel drive with four gears on its manual transmission. It had a roomy interior for its size, making it very popular with buyers in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The Renault 4CV/Dauphine was released in 1949 and sold for many years after that, offering up front wheel drive with four gears on its manual transmission. It is still remembered as one of the most stylish models from this decade, and is even being offered by some manufacturers today as a classic car option.
The Renault Alliance was produced from 1981 to 1988. The car was based on the R5 supermini and featured a range of four-cylinder engines and a four-speed manual transmission. The Renault 20/30 was produced from 1982 to 1990. The R20, R30, and R31 were three-door hatchbacks with a choice of four-cylinder engines and five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmissions. The R21, which came out in 1984, was the estate version of the hatchback. It had more cargo space than the hatchback but less than that of the R25 (which had not yet been released).
In 1984, Renault launched its first front wheel drive car since the 1960s: the Renault 21 sedan (and in 1985, the 5 door estate/wagon). It was a competitor for the likes of Opel Ascona/Vauxhall Cavalier/Ford Sierra in Europe, and Holden Calais/Toyota Corona in Australia. Like most FWD Renaults, it featured MacPherson strut suspension all around (the rear struts were located by trailing arms).