Renault 4

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Renault 4

1961 - 1993
4 cyl.
24 bhp
3 spd. man
Top Speed:
120 km/h
Number Built:
2 star
Renault 4
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2


When the Renault 4 was lauched, it was looked upon as Renault's answer to Citroen's famous 2CV. In time it was to prove itself as much more than that. It was the first car with a fifth door, and thus it was the first true hatchback. It led to the Renault 5, another of the most successful Renaults produced to date.

Only the French could have designed a second car for people who did not even have a first. Give it unequal length wheel bases, a wonderous collection of straight and curved lines and a vast carrying capacity and you have the Renault 4.

Today it remains the most produced French car ever, reaching production figures over 8,000,000 by the end of its career in 1993. This Renault survived and endured through several model line-ups, from Dauphine to Clio.

The Renault 4 was designed on an all new platform which formed the basis for the R5, R6 and R7. Renault never invested much in developing the car, and it used parts from the Renault parts bin. It used wheels, engines, switchgear, dials and transmissions that were designed for other cars in the range.

Its success was based solely on the fact that its design was so intrinsically right. Throughout its 32-year run it was a simple car, ever practical, and reliable. Due to its enduring design and long production run, the Renault 4 has only recently become a collectors car.

It out-produced legends such as the BMC Mini (5 million), the Morris Minor (2 million), the Citroen 2CV (over 3 million), and also the original Fiat Cinquecento (4 million), to become one of the most produced cars ever.

It was popular worldwide, and was produced in France, Australia, Spain, Portugal, Tunisia, Zaire, the Ivory Coast, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Ireland, Chile, Angola, Madagascar, Morocco and Slovenia. It is without a doubt, one of the most influential cars ever made.

The Four Speed Renault 4

In 1967 the Renault 4 had a face lift, not so much to make it more beautiful (it could never be anything but plain) but to bring it up to date. At the same time, the gearbox was changed. The 4 was not really the sort of car one would use for Grand Touring - Renault made the 16TS for this - and its little 845cc engine remained unnchanged, developing 30 bhp net at 4700 rpm. The main change was in the transmission, with the old three-speed gearbox being replaced by the four-speed all-synchromesh version. Originally the ratios were almost a day's march from each other, so that when a load was being carried the engine had to haul itself up the rev range with no spare accelerative power.

With the introduction of the 4 speed gearbox second gear, which previously had a ratio of 7.58 to 1, has been "split" by two gears with ratios of 8.50 and 5.61 to 1. Bottom and top gears remain unaltered. These new ratios gave maximum speeds of 21, 39 and 59 mph, and a mean maximum speed of around 72 mph, 6 mph better than the 3 speed Renault 4 for no apparent reason, and 3 mph more' than was claimed by the factory.

Acceleration and fuel consumption hade both been improved, the car now taking 1.1 sec less to 40 mph, with 11.1 sec compared with 12.2, while 60 mph came up in 32.1 sec innstead of 38.1. Fuel consumption, at 38.6 mpg, was 1.6 mpg better than before. Driving the 4 took a little experience. It started easily, and once the right karate movements had been learned for working the gear lever, which sprouts out of the facia panel, life became a lot easier. The gear change pattern followrf a fairly conventional shape, with top being the odd man out; a pear-shaped 9 knob was used, made out of toffee-coloured transparent plastic.

The single bench seat at front afforded superb straight-line comfort but on corners there is no support at all, the torso of driver and passenger being thrown sideways, making roll seem far greater than it actually was. Thankfully you could option individual front seats that went some way to providing more support.

Getting To Know You

On first acquaintance with the Renault 4 you needed a little time for cockpit drill. The heater had no fewer than four separate controls, all of which were practically out of sight. Fresh air at face level was supplied through two vents on the facia, the front seat passengers also being able to see the bonnet lid through the wire-mesh intake.

The load the 4 could take was amazing. The tail-gate lifted to reveal a good sedan-type boot space. It took only a matter of seconds to fold the backrest down on to the rear seat, then tip the whole thing forward against the front seats. The rear shelf lifted out quickly if even more space was needed, and the entire rear seat could be removed liberating yet more space. If even this were not enough, you could remove the entire front passenger seat!

Renault were able to keep the price of the 4 modest by doing things logically. Press-down flaps crafted from door panel cutouts made perfectly good handles, and sliding windows provided adequate ventilation. The facia was a simple plastic moulding, functional if not very beautiful, and the floor was covered with rubber mats. One feature of the 4 which was not so good were the Michelin X tyres. During road-testing in the late 1960's motoring journalists found they could make the tyres spin quite easily during standing starts, and in the wet they lost grip easily.

But for a car manufactured with affordability as its cornerstone the 4 was remarkably well accomplished. The ride was good, the torsion suspension having long, well-damped movements. Although there was a good deal of roll it was well controlled and the car never started wallowing. Indeed the Renault 4 was a car which grew on you, and afforded incredible practacality for carrying large loads. In East Africa it became known as the roho - meaning big hearted. Need more be said?
Renault 4

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Also See:

Louis Renault
The History of Renault
Renault Car Commercials
Reader Reviews page 1 of 1
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gary k
Posted Recently
Although I am a "Citroen" person, the R4 appealed more than the more popularly loved 2CV. I've owned many of them. Rack and pinion steering, torsion bar suspension, versatile load carrier, comfortable and easy to drive. You learn what driving is about with the small engine and ordinary brakes, and always fun and comfortable. Rust (as with many older cars) is troublesome. We are contemplating an electric conversion ... what a sensible combination. Under rated cars.
Tim S
Posted Recently
I too now own a Mercedes, but I miss my little R4. We (the R4 and I) used to go bush bashing, and made it up to Birdsville and back from Adelaide without the car missing a beat. Crossing creeks in the Flinders Ranges was simply a matter of opening the doors to stop the car from floating. Any hill that couldn't be got up frontwards could usually be conquered backwards, and all on little razor-edge Michelins. The short overhangs and long suspension travel could make it quicker over the really rough stuff than a two tonne V8 4WD. In short, the R4 is one of the finest cross-country vehicles ever built.
Sure it sways a bit, like a yacht in a seaway in fact, but it's not an unpleasant motion as long as you see it coming, and girls did seem to find the car cozy and comfortable, even if it wasn't sexy in the way of, say, a Ferrari.
Bob T
Posted Recently
My favourite car.
I now own a mercedes but I would go back to a Renault 4 if I could get a good one.
Mine had a very good engine and was able to get much faster speeds than most. The speedo went to 80 mph and I did a lot faster than that. I even averaged 80 mph on the highway for one trip.
It was tough car, and survived me getting it airbourne many times, though the front frame was starting to compress.
The small engine meant that I had to buy 3/8 inch drive sockets as the 1/2 inch ones did not fit!
every girl who rode in it loved the comfortable seats.
Stephen Perry
Posted Recently
Renault 4 was not superceded by the Renault 6 in 1968, the R4 ended production in 1986 - long after the R6 finished production
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