Although the Grand Espace is first and foremost a people carrier, it proved very useful for news editor Mike Roberts when he moved house. The moving process wasn’t exactly an overnight affair – more a slow migration – so running the Espace proved useful in this tortuous procedure.
Instead of having a van and needing to exert himself over one long weekend, he could move at glacial speed piece by piece, CD stack by wardrobe, as the Espace allowed him the flexibility to use it either as daily transport or as a very posh occasional van.
The short trips he was doing played havoc with the fuel consumption, dropping it to under 25mpg at one point. However, get the Grand Espace off the errand run and on to serious mileage and we found the fuel consumption improved dramatically. So much so that its second driver, Julie Jackson, managed to beat the combined figure of 29.7mpg by an impressive 3.5mpg.
As with virtually all our long-termers over the past year, the Grand Espace suffered the ubiquitous electronic niggle. It tried to book itself in for a service after about 5,000 miles and our old favourite, the faulty airbag warning message – easily the number one gremlin – came on. A loose connection was blamed and the problem never resurfaced after a visit to the dealer.
Once our news editor’s luxury moving experience was finally over, the Grand Espace was detailed for a more usual job carting Julie’s family about.
However difficult it might be to spot them arrowing their way towards you, try to avoid flying stones if you’ve got an Espace. Jackson managed to get in the way of one which cracked the windscreen badly enough for it to have to be replaced. The cinema screen-sized glass is not only huge but tinted and full of sensors, and the bill was £800 after VAT. While fleets will no doubt get a discount on that one-off price and have insurance, it’s still a very hefty replacement cost.
The satellite navigation system did not impress too many people. Not that it didn’t work – it directed drivers to their destinations without fault. But it is hidden underneath a hinged flap in the lower half of the centre part of the console.
To use it means having the unsightly flap lifted – and it is far enough away and deeply enough recessed to be difficult to see from the driver’s seat without taking your eyes off the road.
But in every other way, the Grand Espace proved itself to be the consummate luxury MPV, from the excellent alcantara and leather individual seats and the multitude of ways they could be arranged, to its strong and smooth diesel engine, which made driving easy work even when the car was packed to the rafters.
In its six months, the car proved exactly what the Fleet News Awards judges had concluded for the past couple of years in naming it the Best MPV – the Grand Espace is the best big MPV on the market.
Model Renault Grand Espace 3.0 dCi Initiale
Price (OTR): £34,175 (£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: 27.6
Test mpg: 33.1
CAP Monitor residual value: £10,125/30%
HSBC contract hire rat:e £600
Total expenditure: £964 (new windscreen and tyre)
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles