The fourth incarnation of the Espace is the latest car to join our long term test fleet, and could reasonably be offered as an alternative to luxury cars such as the BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E-class.
And with a price-tag of more than £34,000, our 3.0 V6 diesel automatic certainly matches those type of cars on price – but what about comfort and specification?
It can rightly claim the title of an executive MPV with a host of gadgets included as standard and a powerful 3.0-litre V6 engine that pulls it along effortlessly and quickly.
This is a genuine luxury vehicle wrapped in an MPV body shell. Our test vehicle also has a fantastic panoramic sunroof which almost stretches the length of the roof, although it’s an option at £1,200.
This is a perfect vehicle for lengthy periods on the road, because, despite its size, the Grand Espace is incredibly easy to drive. No-one should expect pin-sharp handling from a large MPV but the steering is light enough for the driver to feel as though they are in command of a much smaller vehicle.
Although this makes for relatively easy parking, the sheer size of the vehicle can be problematic and you wouldn’t want to attempt slotting it into a tight spot. Once you have parked, the front end sticks a fair way out of a normal sized bay so could be prone to a trolley bashing in the supermarket car park.
I haven’t yet had any cause to remove the rear seats but I’m moving house soon and the prospect is made easier by the sheer load volume offered by the Espace. Although Fleet News staffers have access to a long-term van should the need arise to shift bulky items, in my case washing machines, fridges and the like, the Espace should prove ideal for the smaller, more delicate items which I’d rather transport in the utmost safety.
The Grand Espace, which is 20cm longer than its Espace sibling, has a minimum luggage volume of 456 litres compared with 291 litres for the shorter car. In a two-seat configuration, the volume increases to 3,050 litres.
The next couple of weekends will be spent transporting stuff to my new home and I’ll let you know how the vehicle performed. But I’m expecting it to meet my high expectations.
WHAT WE EXPECT
Comfort and lots of space ANY Fleet News road testers looking to transport more than a traditional carload of family or friends to events at weekends will no doubt make a beeline for the Grand Espace which will carry seven people in great comfort. It is also expected to be popular among testers who need a load-lugger as its interior space is huge. It’s a good looking MPV that also projects an image of sophistication despite its size but would you pick one over a premium executive estate?
THE MANUFACTURER’S VIEW
Safety is the top priority. KEITH Hawes, director, Fleet & Light Commercial Vehicles, says: ‘Duty of care is increasingly important in determining company vehicle policy, whatever size their fleet is. Safety is a rising priority, and with the Grand Espace fleet managers can be assured their staff are not only travelling in comfort and style, they are also travelling in the safest vehicle on the road, having achieved the highest score from Euro NCAP.
‘This will be a major influencing factor for company car drivers who will be carrying their most valuable possessions – their family.
‘Espace celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, and the latest Espace IV has redefined again what a top range MPV should be. Luxurious, refined – Espace is the only MPV with a V6 diesel engine – and consequently with strong residual values. Espace sales for the first nine months of this year are up by 18.3 % in fleet, despite the large MPV fleet sector being down by 0.4%. Overall, large MPV sector sales have risen by 1.5%, with Espace as the biggest grower up by 52.5%. Fleet takes 62.1% of Espace sales versus a 47.1% sector average so Espace is an important fleet car for Renault.
‘Aspirations for 2005 will see Renault UK seeking to further build on the success of the award-winning Espace.’
Model: Renault Grand Espace 3.0 dCi Initiale
Price (OTR) £36,475 (as tested)
CO2 emissions (g/km) 252
Company car tax bill (2004/5) 40% tax-payer £396 per month
Insurance group 14
Combined mpg 29.7
Test mpg 29.9
CAP Monitor residual value £10,125/30%
HSBC contract hire rate £600 per month
Expenditure to date Nil
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles