PARIS: Around 25 years ago, the last R5 rolled off the production line at Renault. Decades after its heyday, this hatchback supermini is poised to return as an electric - if Renault's latest concept is anything to go by.
The Renault 5 Prototype unveiled in January is an all-electric car clearly inspired by the classic cosy design of the R5, a widely successful runabout built from 1972 to 1996, before disappearing from city streets in the 21st century.
With its chunky sides, the concept also brings back memories of the R5 Turbo sports car, which Renault even sent to compete in some races.
The study might be inspired by the past, but according to the manufacturer, that's where history ends. The new Renault 5 is resolutely oriented towards the future and the company says it exemplifies a new direction of the brand.
Renault isn't yet giving any details on a possible series production, but it would come as no surprise. After all, the original model is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022 - which would at least be a fitting time for a reboot.
The French firm has pledged to launch seven new EVs worldwide by 2025. Industry observers noted that when the electric R arrives, it could replace the highly successful Zoe EV as Renault's main compact electric hatch.
Full technical details are sketchy but visually the electric R is close to the last, sportier versions of the R5 which was built as a petrol-engined runabout from 1972 to 1996. R5 production topped 5.5 million over a 14-year period, making it France's most popular car.
"The design of the Renault 5 Prototype is based on the R5, a cult model of our heritage. This prototype simply embodies modernity, a vehicle relevant to its time: urban, electric, attractive," Renault Design director Gilles Vidal said.
Going by this and the model's history, we can expect any series version to be tailored towards city dwellers not looking to break the bank or make regular, long road trips.
The two-door R5s of yore was known for being small on the outside and big on the inside, stylish and yet cheap to buy - and above all cheap to repair.
One of the most successful cars in France in its heyday, it ushered in a new era of small cars. Even today, the R5 is roomier than most modern small cars, and drivers were spoiled with up to 900 litres of luggage space with the rear seats folded down.
The original had a spare wheel built in under the bonnet, but we don't imagine this old tradition will be kept on. The 33 kW/45 hp engine was known to struggle with the weight of this 900-kilo car. Here's hoping those ratios change.
The future R5's top speed may not improve radically on the predecessor's 135kph maximum, if we can assume an affordable battery-powered runabout designed for city driving.
But even if the hinted-at electric comeback is to remain cheap, we would hope that Renault can improve on the original's sprint time: 21.4 seconds from 0 to 100kph.