Renault, it seems, have an infinite ability to surprise us industry watchers. The Espace came straight out of the blue when it was launched in 1984, and few recognised the potential of the mini-MPV market that Renault so cannily cornered with their Scenic. Latterly, Renault have been growing increasingly bold, with the adventurously styled Megane II and the flights of fancy that are the Vel Satis and Avantime models. Therefore, it would be reasonable to assume the latest Espace, launched in November 2002, would be something radically different to its predecessor.
The New Espace, as Renault prefer to call this fourth generation car, is an evolutionary advance over its predecessor rather than anything manifestly revolutionary. What is surprising is that Renault have, if anything, toned down their recent excess of novelty and have restored some normality to the Espace. Whereas the outgoing model was built around a radical spaceframe chassis with composite parts, the Espace instead opts for a more conventional steel monocoque platform shared with the Laguna and Vel Satis. Only the wings and tailgate are now made of plastic composites, the doors and bonnet being fabricated in aluminium with a steel roof. The choice of engines was also widened with a superb 3.0-litre diesel and a punchy 2.0-litre turbo petrol unit being standout units.
A mild facelift was carried out in early 2005 followed by a more far-reaching one in early 2006. The later set of changes brought a 175bhp 2.0-litre dCi diesel engine to the line-up, introduced swivelling bi-xenon headlamps that turn with steering inputs to illuminate round corners. You'll spot the post facelift Espace by its thinner bumpers and simpler grille.
The trim levels were re-jigged at the start of 2007 with the Team model taking over from Authentique and Expression at the bottom of the range. There was also a Tech Run special edition.