30 Years after the introduction of the groundbreaking first generation Espace and 11 years after the Espace IV, the long awaited fifth generation Renault Espace is shown as a production model in Paris. The exterior design isn’t exactly a surprise, as Renault have made no secret that the Initiale Paris concept car would be a clear indicator for the new Espace. That means it looks much less a large MPV and more a large crossover, although the Espace V will remain front-wheel drive only. After a number of canceled projects, the final production version will be built on Renault-Nissan’s Common Module Family platform that’s also used on the Nissans Qashqai and X-Trail and will be used for Renault’s version of the Qashqai as well as replacements to the Laguna and Megane line-up. That doesn’t sound good for the interior dimensions of the Espace, and from what I could see at the Paris Auto Show, the third row of seats is only suitable for little children, which leads to the question what the Espace has to offer what the Grand Scenic doesn’t. Renault has not yet announced plans for a stretched Grand Espace, but considering this was the most popular version of the previous model and also considering the cramped third seating row, it certainly would make sense to build such a version. European sales of the Espace peaked at just under 65.000 units in 2004, but have declined to 8.200 sales last year. Renault anticipates 25.000 sales for the new generation, of which Germany and France would each take more than one quarter. But I don’t think those sales figures will be enough to outsell the Ford S-Max and take back the crown of the large MPV segment.
The third generation Skoda Fabia was the star of the Skoda stand, introduced as a five-door hatchback and a station wagon simultaneously, although the station wagon will arrive in showrooms a few months later. Renault and the VW group are the only ones to offer a station wagon version of a subcompact car, with the Renault Clio Estate, Dacia Logan MCV, Seat Ibiza ST as the only competitors to the Skoda Fabia combi. Skoda seems to have adopted the same design strategy that’s proven successful for Volkswagen and Audi, which is to slowly evolve the exterior design of their vehicles instead of trying to come up with a revolutionary new look. The new Fabia is therefore still very recognizable as a Fabia, although critics may say that it looks too much like the old one. Nevertheless, the Fabia should again be able to peak at 200.000 annual sales in Europe, as both previous generations have done by a large margin. [Read more…]