Home / Social media / Cars / Modern review - French classic. Chris Harris revisits the iconic 80s Renault 5 Turbo


Around the time that the phrase ‘hot hatch’ was coined, there were some classic cars that would have been pretty serious contenders in the segment. The Volkswagen Golf Mk1 GTi is always the car that people think about when the subject of early hot hatches comes up, but there were actually some cooler, and faster cars in this new segment of affordable, compact cars that offered up some great performance. For comparison, the 1983 Mk1 GTi was powered by a compact normally aspirated 1.6-litre, 8-valve engine with 81 kW (108 hp) and 140 Nm of torque, which is pretty much what modern small capacity motors produce in affordable daily runarounds. The Renault 5 Turbo, also called the R5 Turbo, was as the name suggests, turbocharged and that means more power of course. The Renault’s engine was smaller in capacity at just 1.4-litres, but thanks to the boost from a Garrett T3 turbocharger, power available vastly eclipsed most small cars of the day with 118 kW (158 hp) of power available, and of course that boosted torque figure of 221 Nm meant the R5 was quite a formidable compact hatchback.

While that OG Mk1 Golf wasn’t the prettiest, it quickly garnered fans around the world, and the design ended up being timeless, well as far as cars go. From inception in 1973, there was only really one proper facelift before production ended in 1983. In Europe. The same shape carried on production all the way to 2009 in South Africa. The Renault 5 on the other hand was more rounded, more European and oddly, less desirable. It still sold magnificently well, but not as well. If the regular Renault 5 looked more like R5 Turbo then we’re sure it would have been the hot hatch to have, but then again, that would have meant it’s uniqueness and rarity wouldn’t be what it is today. The car was basically a homologation special, so Renault had to sell a certain number to be able to call it a production car and thus use it in competitive motorsports, and nothing but F1 was bigger than rally at the time. To get it to accommodate the mid-engine setup inspired by the Lancia Stratos, extensive reworking of the chassis took place, and while the car was under the knife the bodywork was widened with added ducting. The result is easily one of the coolest cars of the 80s.

During the R5 Turbo's 6-year production run 4 987 units were made for worldwide consumption, which is why they're quite rare these days. Even though it wasn't huge power, the cars could be snappy at the rear and that alone would have been reason enough for many of these cars to have been totalled. Its firstly great to see one in this condition, and to secondly see it actually driven. Having Chris Harris comment on the car is great, it gives you a modern interpretation of an 80s car by someone with the right skills and knowledge to give proper comment.

Take a look at the YouTube video with one of our favourite online motoring journos, Chris Harris, who gets behind the wheel of the rare and iconic mid-engined, rear wheel-drive French hot hatch, below: Chris Harris Drives The Renault 5 Turbo 1 | Collecting Cars

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