One of the most exciting cars of the past few years hasn’t had huge turbos, neck-straining acceleration figures, or a cabin strewn with simulated stars. It’s a small French hatchback that harks back to a car from the 1970s.
Renault’s upcoming 5 EV was first conceptualized in 2021, and the company’s CEO, Luca de Meo, loved it so much he decided that Renault would build a production model by 2024.
For those not familiar with Renault, or the original Renault 5, the story is pretty simple. Renault has specialized in affordable, smartly designed, fun-to-drive cars largely for the French market (it’s a French company after all). In the 20th century, it had a string of popular cars that got the masses motoring: the agricultural Renault 4, the chic Clio, the family-sized Megané, the Espace (which basically invented the “people carrier” segment), and, of course, the Renault 5.
The dinky 5 came with engines to suit all budgets—the R5 Turbo was a rather spicy proposition—and ensured easy, spacious travel in a small package. It’s a car that’s undoubtedly been romanticized over the years, so the prospect of a new electric version caused tongues to wag and hopes to rise.
The production car is due to appear in the second half of 2024, but Renault was feeling confident enough to let WIRED behind the wheel of an early prototype, and the company hosted a few media outlets, including WIRED, in Sweden for a look. Sadly, the prototype we’re driving on the ice doesn’t appear to look remotely like the concept that wowed crowds three years ago. Instead, for now at least, it’s got the body of Renault’s staple hatch, the Clio. We’re assured, however, that the final design will resemble the 2021 concept.
But there are already plenty of new features to gawk at. Under the door line is a big slab of metal, which is the new, lower platform. Nestled in the nose is a flap that hides its charge port. The rear wheel sits forward in the arch, highlighting the 5’s shorter wheelbase. The 5 also has a wider track (both front and rear) than the Clio, so plastic wheel arch extensions have been bolted to the side. The interior is a mass of big red buttons to stop the car’s various functions in an emergency.