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Renault 4

Renault 4 Published: 24th Jul 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Renault 4
Renault 4
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Why should I buy one?

Débuted in 1961 as Renault’s response to the 2CV, compared to the Citroëns, the R4 isn’t quite so basic with easier-to-open windows and a more ‘luxurious’ interior. As importantly, what the 4 offers over the 2CV is a proper hatchback. It ran in various forms up until the early 90s and got progressively better and because the Renault doesn’t enjoy the cult following of the 2CV, they are notably cheaper to buy – £5000 buys the best around. Renault’s 4 was not only a match for Citroen’s icon in almost every department, but it also comprehensively outsold it, with 8.5 million made so there’s more choice around although very few pre-1967cars are left. Plus… did you know that Alfa Romeo even built them under licence from 1962-64!

What can I get?

Ignoring the high cube quaint commercial van, there’s really only one model but with many changes during its lifespan which involved six engine changes from 603cc to 1108cc, a transsition to a four-speed transmission and several trim changes, the most elaborate being the GTL of the 1980s which by then boasted a four-speed gearbox (1968), front disc brakes and an orthodox handbrake (1983) as well as more modern trim. Over the three decades the 4 also gained a 12-volt electrical system and reclining front seats but it was still the car that, to quote Renault’s 1962 sales copy, had space for “children, prams, wives, groceries, husbands, dogs, bags, baggage and room to spare besides”.

What are they like to drive?

Not unexpectedly, the R4 is pretty much like the 2CV to drive in character, quirkiness and in general performance although the last 1108cc versions are far better equipped to cope with modern roads than the Citroën. Actually, the R4 is faster than you’d think as it’s so light, while the controls are equally light (the gearchange is 2CVlike) and the steering is nicely direct.

Handling is similarly roly-poly prone that looks worse than it is from the outside but, typically French, the ride is truly cosseting and out of the pair the R4 is that extra bit more habitable and more suited to 2019 driving than any 2CV model – Ami Super excepted perhaps. Like the 2CV, there’s even racing championships, particularly in Europe, if the mood takes you!

What are they like to live with?

The R4 is roughly on par with the 2CV although the sheer popularity of the Citroën ensures far better parts supply and club support.

Mechanically, this Renault holds few surprises, or fears as there’s fair interchangeability with other Renaults, although special tools will make certain jobs much easier. The 4’s panels are very thin and rust-prone, so as well as corrosion you need to look for dents and creases everywhere. Just about all replacement panels are available cheaply, and if you can do your own welding it’s easy to restore these cars on a small budget. Interior trim has all disappeared for the earlier cars and even used bits are hard to unearth. Earliest R4s featured hammock-style seats which are now extinct, but at least the exterior brightwork appears to be available.

We reckon

Not only a 2CV rival, Renault’s R4 was the Scenic MPV of its day and is still the blueprint for cheap motoring almost 60 years on. What it lacks in ‘green’ appeal to the chic Citroën it makes up for in sheer practicality and pragmatism.

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