Motoring Trailblazers - Renault 16

Sat 26th Jan 2019

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Renault 16
Considered by many to be the father of modern family cars, this French classic was offering front-wheel drive and hatchback design years ahead of of more popular pioneers the Vauxhall Cavalier and the Volkswagen Passat.

The Renault 16 (or R16 as it was described by the French manufacturers) made its debut at the the 1965 Geneva Motor Show with the company’s boss, Pierre Dreyfus said the car had been built to address “families receptive to the appeal of modern developments in consumer society”.

The French family loved the R16 and baby-boomers the world over fell in love with the appreciation of style, comfort and practicality, Renault’s 1980s tagline was ‘voitures à vivre’, but it was perhaps the 1960s that really captured that essence of ‘cars with flair’.

Renault’s own advertising captured the essence of the R16’s appeal: ‘Now, in one vehicle, you can have the passenger comfort of a sedan and the carrying capacity of a station wagon. You can design your interior for a carpool, for errands, for travelling, for hauling cargo, for camping! In minutes, you can arrange the interior seven different ways, to suite any errand or purpose’.

While we may take this interior versatility as standard, in the 1960s this was revolutionary.

On the year of the Renault 16s release, 1966, the Renault 16 was voted Car of the Year, beating the legendary Rolls Royce Silver Shadow into second place. And though not quite competing with the Rolls Royce for a price tag, the R16 was not cheap at £948 17s, but it was a hit with the public and the critics. Even racing driver Stirling Moss was moved to say: “There is no doubt that the Renault 16 is the most intelligently engineered automobile I have ever encountered and I think that each British motorcar manufacturer would do well to purchase one just to see how it is put together”.

The Renault 16 enjoyed 15 years on the production line and featured a number of variants including the TA, TL and luxury TX models which kept the car relevant and appealing in the ever changing motor markets.