Opinion : Anything we can do… they can do worse? – Renault 14

Keith Adams ruminates about some of the not-so-great cars sold by British Leyland’s competitors – and wonders why it’s still so fashionable to knock our once-great nationalised carmaker even though its mistakes were echoed across the wider industry.

Here, in the first article of this occasional series, we look at the Renault 14 and compare its fortunes with the Austin Allegro. Were we really that bad?


Renault 14: Not-so-rotten pear?

Renault 14

Sometimes collaborations between carmakers is the mother of all evils. Other times, they can be wonderful. However, more often than not, we end up with misunderstood cars that are neither fish nor fowl. Great collaborative efforts include the R8-generation Rover 200 or 6oo-Series, while misunderstood ones would be best epitomised by the Alfa Romeo Arna. Then we have the bad ones.

Conventional wisdom is that the Renault 14 is a bad one concocted from the joint Peugeot-Renault parts bin. It’s considered so bad that some people around here have compared it with the Austin Allegro. You can see why – the parallels are there in so many ways. For one, it’s blessed with rotund styling that wouldn’t be mistaken for anything else in its class. Secondly, by Renault’s lofty commercial standards, it was far from a resounding success – during its 1976-1983 production run, it sold fewer than a million examples. Finally, and just like the Allegro, it earned a memorable nickname in its home market – ‘Rotten Pear’ in the case of the R14.

It was known internally as Projet 121 and was designed to compete against the Volkswagen Golf with power coming from the Société Française de Mécanique Renault-Peugeot’s Douvrin ‘suitcase’ transmission-in-sump engine. With its zeitgeisty five-door hatchback body and range of efficient engines, it had the potential to be as successful as the Renault 5 in a much more profitable sector of the market.

Renault 14: the rotten pear

However, it got off to a bad start. Its introduction was delayed by six months due to industrial unrest, and there was press and buyer resistance to the car’s styling. Although it was the first Renault powered by a transverse engine, it was also considered to be a problem child for dealers and workshops, unused to dealing with the intricacies of this ‘Peugeot’-engined car. Sales were slow after an initial flurry, and the success that the company had expected for the R14 simply wasn’t forthcoming. Sound familiar?

Model development followed rapidly with the launch of the larger-engined, and highly economical, GTL and the surprisingly capable sporting TS version. Then, a facelift was rolled out in 1980, which saw a slight revision to the front-end styling and some interior upgrades to keep it on the pace of rivals such as the Chrysler Horizon, Fiat Strada and Vauxhall Astra/Opel Kadett. Was it enough to turn the fortunes of the R14? Not really, and when it was replaced by the 9/11, few lamented its passing – especially those within Renault.

So, Renault 14 or Austin Allegro?

Well, I’d rush to the defence of the R14. Styling is a subjective matter, and it has to be said that, for a car launched in 1976, it was nothing if not modern thanks to its integrated bumpers and door mirrors, a complete lack of fussy-looking drip rails around the windows, and a clean, timeless look that predicted the move to more organic designs in the 1980s and ’90s. But a car like this can’t help but be defined by its failure – and, in this case, poor corrosion resistance, public derision, low residual values and a limited model range place it in a very poor place, even now.

Is it better or worse than the Austin Allegro? It was certainly more modern, and benefited from a hatchback and a roomier interior, which made it an infinitely more practical proposition. The two were on a par with each other in terms of ride quality, while the Allegro’s flatter cornering made it better suited to UK roads. The Allegro also had a bigger model range, with up to 1750cc compared with the R14’s maximum of 1360cc – but, despite that, an Allegro Equipe was barely any quicker than a Renault 14TS. Moreover, as the years rolled on, it was clear that the Allegro rusted less and was more durable than the R14.

In commercial terms, the Renault outshone the Austin, but only just, with the latter selling 667,192 examples in a nine-year production run. However, the British car was probably more profitable, and at least shared a great deal of its technology with a wider range of models in the company’s portfolio than the Renault did.

So the question remains: was the Renault 14 worse than the Austin Allegro? I’d say say the Renault was probably the better bet then, and I’d definitely prefer a Rotten Pear over an Aggro today. Having said that, as a classic car to own and run on British roads today, the Allegro definitely gets the nod – you’ll be able to find parts for it, and will never be short of conversations with random strangers – if that’s your thing…

Keith Adams

56 Comments

  1. Now, if you were talking about the Renault 16, instead of the 14, it would be a different story. The 16s were great cars. My Dad had two – a ‘J’ reg TS, and then an ‘R’ reg TX. The TX had four headlights, which helped it look really stylish. Mechanically, it had a 1.6L four cylinder engine with Weber twin carburettors, and a five speed manual gearbox, with column shift, which was really easy to use (I drove it several times as a kid, on a private car park). It also had electric front windows, which wasn’t exactly common in those days, except on the likes of Jaguars. There was even the option of an air conditioning unit, that went where the gear shift would usually go, though my Dad didn’t get it. I may have been in love with Jaguars for the whole of my adult life, and also loved the 3-litre Reliant Scimitar that he replaced the TX with, when I was a teenager, but I shall always remember those Renault 16s very fondly.

    • @Marcus, the Renault 14TS had 5 speeds too, power-windows and central locking too, but was launched in 1979, roomier than the older Renault 16 TS and TX.
      The latter were a little plusher. And more powerful even though much heavier.
      Speaking Robert Broyer’s design the shame was a narrow rear track that did not fit correctly with the wheel arches, he told recently how he fought with the chassis department and … lost
      My parents had a standard “TL” Renault 14, it was brisk, Peugeot-sounding, comfortable, roomy, modern looking but rusted badly, but like I often say, not worse than a seventies XJ6 Series 2. This is the car I drove 1st when I got my driving license, apart from the Peugeot gear whine it was really a good car.
      The 11 was more conservative styling, and slow with old Cleon even in 1.4 form with only 60bhp for about 850kg. Better with the dual carb “GTS” 72bhp and finally with the new “F” 1721cc 82bhp – smooth and quiet.

      • Thanks for that additional information Philippe, though I must point out the article says that the 14 launched in 1976 rather than 1979 (my Dad’s 16TX was 1977), but I just remember the 14 looking completely bland – as I think the pictures show – unlike the 16, which had character, and the 12, which might have had character but was also ugly. Your comment reminded me that my Dad’s 16TX also had central locking – I’d forgotten that – there were little hollow see-through plastic caps on top of the internal door panels, as I recall, and little red caps shot up into them when it was locked. You’re right about rust of course, as with virtually all 1970s cars – it’s amazing any of them survived, and I suspect the ones that have done are garaged, and always have been. That said, my Dad had the TX treated with waxoyl & Ziebart, and had the body panels armour-glassed, so it lasted pretty well, and he didn’t change it until 1986. Even the Series One XJ6, which I bought as my first car and learned to drive in (it was a manual with overdrive, and nearly as old as I was!), went the way of the tin worm eventually, but what a car, and so easy to drive. You couldn’t even stall it, unless you were a completely hopeless driver. I was adamant I’d have an XJ, from the age of 14, and my family laughed of course, telling me it wasn’t practical, but I got one, and I’m currently on my sixth XJ (eighth Jaguar), with a couple of other cars along the way, which included three Rover 827 SLi saloons and a Mercedes 300E saloon. Funnily enough, I couldn’t find a manual for my second XJ, and so I went for an automatic. Although I’ve driven manual cars occasionally since, I’ve never owned another one after my original XJ, and never plan to. I was totally converted within 48 hours of getting a 1989 XJ40 3.6L. That’s not strictly relevant to the current topic of course! 🙂

        • Thanks for the reply Marcus.

          The 14 was released in 1976 but the 14TS came in 1979, probably because they would stop manufacturing the 16TS, the 16TX could be replaced by the 20GTL in term of features and pricing Many people in France switched from 16TL to 14 GTL and from 16TS to 14TS.

          Yes the 16TX featured electromagnetic central locking as standard but it could be an option since 1973 for the 16TS. And remote control in 1978.

          Remote control was called “PLIP” funny contraction of Paul Lipschutz then R&D VP of the famous Neiman company. I had the opportunity to meet
          Mr Lipschutz when I was a child.

          BTW the 16TS/TX all aluminium “Cleon” 1600cc with hemi-head was a healthy engine delivering 83bhp in the TS and 93bhp in the TX (and over 150 in Alpine racers …). Sporty sound due to aluminium structure plus finely tuned exhaust and sufficiently powerful for a one ton car.

          My father had started as a worker in Renault in 1947 and was a technician in the seventies-eighties, he worked on these devices as well as the 1967 power windows. All these features were already available on high-end US cars and say Jaguar MARK X and RR/Bentley in Europe.

          His own car was a Renault 4 and then 6 (I hatred it !) and then a 14 when I was 18 and passed my license.
          He retired in the eighties, working on air-cond which would also be fitted as standard much later on every car.

          He got all his beloved devices later-on say in the nineties when retired as standard feature of his 19GTL and air-cond end of the nineties with the Megane.

          The 12 was Robert Broyer’s 1st opus, the 14 being the second. The 12 was not that ugly but flat side windows where not what you expected from a 1969 even though the nicest saloon in the World was launched with same flat windows in 1968 and lasted so till 1979.

          I undestand your feeling with the Jag (where did you get the money for refueling ??), owner of a 4.2 XJC MOD since 2011 (with rust, with Lucas jokes and so-on …).

          As daily cars I have had an Alfa-Romeo 75V6, not rusting in 1990 anymore but a bit BL – like quality and reliability, Magneti-Marelli being sort of Italian Lucas, door handles jumping out of their doors and all sorts of tricks.

          And then some Renaults, Safrane, Espace – 4 boys to transport, now Scenic – less children 🙂 – with the healthy 1.3 gasoline engine co-developped with Mercedes for their A and B classes, 140 or 163bhp. All of them very reliable apart from my1st Espace, an auto V6 (24v 194bhp), the 4 speed ZF gearbox let me down around 50 000 miles, I drove it like my manual Alfa, maybe it was a bit too much for it.

          • It must have been great growing up with a Dad who was a technician for Renault, Philippe. I was a little surprised that he never had a 25, which was by far the best car they had made, by the time of it’s launch, in my opinion. A friend of mine had one when I had my first XJ, and it was a lovely car. He had it in automatic 3.0L V6 form – top of the range, with everything on it – including leather seats, and a dashboard that looked like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise!

            I could afford the petrol because it wasn’t that expensive back in the 90s – neither was the insurance, even for a young man, unlike nowadays – and I had a decent job, but also I didn’t need a car for work back then, as the company laid on good public transport, so it was just for social use and pure fun. I only started needing a car for work in 1997, when I went on shifts for 8 years, and that’s when I got the 1989 XJ, as I needed a reliable car for work then. I was earning more money too, and the “new” car was more efficient than the one it replaced. I know what you mean though – no XJ could ever be described as cheap to run. 🙂

            You’re absolutely right about electrical parts in cars of the 70s. The reason that my original XJ had two twelve gallon fuel tanks and a switch between them, rather than one twenty-four gallon tank, was that the SU fuel pumps were unreliable, so if one broke, you could still use the other one! The XJC that you’ve got is a lovely car, and the one thing about Jaguar was that, during their BL years, despite being heavily merged, they managed to retain complete control of their engineering department, so whatever issues BL managed to cause for them in bodywork and electrics, you always knew that the engine, gearbox, drivetrain, and suspension – basically anything mechanical – would be spot on.

            Then of course John Egan came in and brought everything together for Jaguar, so they could survive. He had been told by Sir Michael Edwardes, to fix Jaguar or close it, and John was adamant that he wasn’t going to close it! The first two results were that the latter Series Three XJ’s were much more reliable in bodywork & electrics, and then the XJ40 launched, which was incredibly reliable in all ways. The rest, as they say, is history. That is, until Ian Callum decided to lose the brilliant classic looks, and make Jaguars that looked like everybody else’s cars. 🙁

            One of the things I like about French & Italian cars, is that a lot of them still seem to have some character. Take the modern Fiat 500, for example. Yes, a lot of these characterful cars are like Marmite, in that you either love them or hate them, but they often seek to be different, and that matters, in a world of boring homogeneity. Since 2009, the only car that Jaguar can claim that for is the F-Type, so I think I’ll stick with my current 2004 XJ6 3.0L V6, which also happens to be the most fuel-efficient car I’ve ever owned, at 24 mpg round town, and 32 mpg on the motorway. Not bad for a 3-litre! Compare that with around 15 to 17 mpg on my first XJ6 4.2L! Instead of an automatic choke, it had an “Automatic Enrichment Device” which was basically like a third carb, whose job seemed to be to pour neat petrol into the engine when it was cold! 🙂

            Despite your superb English, I assume you still live in France, which I am rather envious of, as I love your country, and especially the cuisine. If the pandemic situation doesn’t get worse again, I plan to take my girlfriend to Paris next summer, but I shan’t be driving there, as I’ve seen what the traffic is like on previous visits! How they don’t all collide, all of the time, is a complete mystery to me! They must be the best drivers in the world! 🙂

  2. There was a Renault dealership in my hometown so the latest models were always on display. I remember being quite intrigued by the 14 when I was a boy. It really was quite unlike anything else on the road at the time, my perception being that it was egg-shaped. I think I liked it, most of the time anyway. Other times I wasn’t sure. My dad had had a 16 too, though it was from the other end of the range, a 1400cc TL. Recall it being a comfy ride, but I was too young to be given an opportunity to drive it, private land or not. It ran it’s big ends during my dad’s custodianship, after which he returned to the Vauxhall fold.

  3. We bought a year old TL in 1985, ran it for two years with no mechanical or rust issues, and then sold it two the village postman who was very happy with it.

  4. I remember them outside the old Renault dealers in the middle of Hadleigh, with these, the 18 and the funky looking Master, they all looked modern against the escort mk2 and cortinas that Ford were churning out. My mate at school’s dad had an 18 and it was a very nice comfy car. I do however remember seeing very rusty young 14s.

  5. I think it was a near miss – the concept and styling hasn’t dated that much although the door handles look a bit weird. A bit more development, rustproofing and customer clinics could have made it a winner.

  6. I was never very fond of them because they always looked a bit plain and basic. Lack of chrome, bright-work and other bits of trim always made them look like they were unfinished. Lack of bling is a good thing, but this went too far the other way.

  7. My mother bought an s reg 14tl. It was a defining car in the sense that everything she drove before hand seemed incredibly old fashioned. Rear wheel drive, beam axle rear suspension, loads of chrome. I actually liked it better than the horribly over styled Lancia Delta that replaced it. The rear hatch on that one fell off at 2 years of age.

    • The 11 targetted the US market when AMC-Jeep belonged to Renault. Styled by Robert Opron, the one who had designed the GS/CX/SM when he was at Citroen’s.
      Robert Broyer’s 14 was inaugurating some style we would see again through his mate Michel Jardin’s later opus : Fuego and 25 – the latter in cooperation with Gaston Juchet back after Opron’s firing.
      Broyer had left to create his own business, he failed to launch the Ligier-Renault 14 coupé – too dangerous for the upcoming Fuego and carried-on as a designer for various goods.

  8. The Renault 14 was the choice of our very own Richard Bremner in the legendary 1990 CAR magazine ‘Edingburgh on a monkey’ piece, his experience with the car was far from smooth!

  9. One million in 7 years isn’t a bad effort, considering the Allegro managed 700,000 in nine years, but the 14 never sold well outside of France and the odd styling and poor rustproofing harmed sales. Not a bad car in many ways, it rode well, was well equipped and the TS was fairly powerful, just it was blessed with unusual styling and could rust badly from an early age if not properly rurstproofed. However, it was certainly no worse in this respect than other French and Italian cars od this era and the 14 didn’t seem to self destruct like the Fiat Strada.

  10. Despite being badged as such, it is difficult to see the 14 as a Renault and not an enlarged bland-looking yet under-engined (for the segment) Peugeot 104 spinoff that owes little to nothing with other Renaults. In that respect the Renault 14 could also be compared to the Honda-derived Triumph Acclaim and thus better then the Allegro, Yet one would have expected Renault to produce an in-house model via an enlarged 5, shrunken 12 or 2 decade earlier Dacia Nova analogue (conceptually and preceding the 9/11) instead of the 14.

    Based on the sketches and other proposals the 14 could have looked much better than what was approved for production, leaving the fact the range-topping 14 featured the same 1.4 Douvrin / X-Type / suitcase engine as the smaller Peugeot 104 rather then something better suited for a C-Segment car.
    https://www.facebook.com/cardesignarchives/photos/pcb.314157765619233/537427776625563

    Funny enough Renault actually looked at a “Maxi” LWB version of the 14 as a possible replacement for the larger 16, yet like both the 14 and Maxi as well as arguably even the 16 would have still been under-engined.
    https://www.facebook.com/cardesignarchives/posts/536508186717522

    • Nothing to do with an Acclaim which was a Triumph-badged Honda.
      The 14 was a Renault sharing its engine and gearbox with a Peugeot.
      Does a Renault engine a Mercedes C Class B Class or A Class transform them into Renaults ?
      Does the complete front train with engine and GB of the FWD V-Class transforms the Mercedes into a Renault ?
      As for the other more conservative design proposal you found from cardesignarchive on FB, well they were not retained, too conservative.
      Not understood what you call a maxi LWB version. None of that was ever studied.
      As for underpower with 57 to 72 bhp it was anyway much better that the 50bhp Mk1 Golf for approximately same size and weight around 820kg.
      And the Renault 16 was : 67bhp/83bhp/93bhp for a little over the ton, depending on the variant.

      • Just cannot see what Renault was trying to achieve with the 14, when they could have easily achieved similar results without Peugeot’s limited contribution with the engine and gearbox.

        It seems the 14 was more of a standalone government make-work project to satisfy a quota on the joint-venture with Peugeot for the X-Type unit (in the vain hope of merging Renault/Peugeot BL-style), then something Renault’s themselves would have considered independently (hence the rough parallel with the Acclaim).

        While conceding there was additional Renault content outside of the engine/gearbox within the 14, if it was not a blind alley for Renault exactly how much of the 14 was subsequently carried over to the 11/9 (or the Supercinq that was said to have made use of a shortened platform)? At least BL was said to have used the Allegro as a starting point for what eventually became the Maestro/Montego, yet it is not clear if the 9 and 11/Alliance also similarly used in the 14 as a starting point.

        Meant the 14, 16 and Maxi were underpowered in terms of engine displacement relative to their respective segments, something that was later remedied with the 11/Alliance, 20/30 and Montego.

        It was Renault’s choice to embrace a more radical styling direction for the 14 (as with the 15/17), only that the less radical alternatives for the 14 looked a lot more appealing and less bland (or jarring) IMHO (the same goes with the 12 based Dacia Coupe and earlier Dacia Brasovia Coupè prototype against the 15/17).

        Despite not amounting to anything the 14 LWB study does look remarkably modern from some angles, the speculation on the 14 LWB study potentially replacing the 16 was from Olivier Guin’s page on the basis the model’s capacity was close to the 16.

        • The 14 was addressing a new segment, inaugurated by the ADO16 and Primula. The central front-mounted engine Renault 5/16 or Citroen Traction/DS/SM like was outdated, noisy and cumbersome for the driver at-least, difficult to maintain (go and try removing the 2 last spark-plugs on a 5), so they decided to go transverse. During that period they had decided to share components without merging the companies, Peugeot was a family-owned manufacturer and not willing to sell any of it. No reason, neither for Renault nor for Peugeot. They had planned a common top of the range “H” project, and 4 engines : small, medium, V6, V8. The 2 latter based on same tooling. Later-on the demand for Cleon-fonte was decreasing, oppositely Peugeot had swallowed Citroên who was guzzling X-engines for their Visa and BX, Simca for the Samba and all in all some Renault vendors and customers did not like the Peugeot whine, reason why the 9/11/supercing got back a Cleon, but the 1721cc was under study and launched in 1985.. As for the rest PSA carried-on with the 2 and 2.2 “Renault” J-Type and both carried on the “Z” V6 and even started to develop a new 60° “L” V6. As for gearboxes Renault had developped the Société de Transmission Automatique with VW but they divorced and developped a remarkable “intelligent” 4 speed box to be launched in 1996 and used by both groups. With the V6 and DP0 box the Renault-PSA cooperation lasted till the mid 2000.
          As for the commonalty of the 14 with the forthcoming 9/11 you can take the complete rear axle. Not talking engine-gearbox, the 16 did not give anything to any other, the 18 was a reshape the 12, the 19 retained the 9/11 platform, the 21 quite nothing from apart the rear axle, the 25 quite nothing from the 20/30, the Safrane nothing from the 25, no general policy for platform continuity.
          The Dacia coupé is as ugly as the 15//17 are beautiful, Gaston Juchet’s opus.
          Maybe 58bhp was too few for the 14 when the Golf had 50 and the Allegro 48 ? We speak base models. Otherwise there was a 72bhp 14TS, a 75bhp Golf and a 1500 69bhp Allegro …
          The 16 was on the Peugeot 404, Opel Olympia, Ford 15m, Fiat 124 segment, all those around 60/65bhp.
          For those who wanted more power there were a 1700 Olympia, a Ford 15M RS (1.7 but 75 bhp only), Fiat 125 with 90bhp and Renault 16TS with 83bhp

          • Can understand Renault not wanting to go with a longitudinal engine layout for the 14, is it known if a Primula-style transverse solution was considered or was the Peugeot layout chosen due to expediency? The first two generations of Toyota Tercel as well as the Audi 80 B1-based Brazilian Volkswagen Gol (and Volkswagen BY Projeto in Portuguese video below) show a longitudinal inline-4 FWD layout of similar size was possible if less then optimal.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRiGdVLFFNQ

            Was somewhat aware of the Renault 19 forming the basis of mk1 Renault Megane (as it has been cited as one example by some that the R8 should have been similarly rebodied in place of HHR), yet was not 100% sure on the relationship between the Renault 19 and the Renault 11/9. Thanks for confirming.

            It is remarkable Renault were able to get 2 decades out of the same basic platform (on top of underpinning the Supercinq), however unlikely the following is it would be even more remarkable if both the mk1 Renault Clio and mk1 Renault Twingo turned out to share further commonalities under the skin (beyond engines/etc) with the 19 / mk1 Megane.

            Will have to disagree on the Dacia Coupe (or at least the Brasovia Coupe) and 15/17, the latter unintentionally looks like something influenced by AMC’s Dick Teague.

            Displacement wise the 14 needed 1500-1600cc IMHO as a range-topper or failing that, something to put it a cut above the 92-110 hp Renault 5 1.4 Alpine/Turbo and 93 hp Peugeot 104 1.4 ZS2. More along the lines of the 105 hp Peugeot 104 ZS2 Arvor prototype in terms of output against the VW Golf GTi at most. The larger size of the 14 in theory should have meant it could have coped with a further updated 1.4, if not a 1.5-1.6 X-Type precursor to the later cast iron TU5.

    • I’ve had a look to what you call the MAXI LWB, displayed on Olivier Guin’s pages, it was not adressing any Renault 16 replacement but more a 14 estate or some idea of what a Scenic would be much later-on. They just did 3 sketches and an 1/5 mock-up and stopped.

      • @Nate, the “Tercel” layout implied as much lost space as the Renault 4, they wanted to place spare-wheel under bonnet like previous Renaults. The “suitcase” layout was just a bit noisier than the “Primula” layout but as reliable and expanded to 5 speeds, smooth lever, so why ?
        The rear torsion bars had a very long life in Renaults but finally a light semi-live torsional axle gave the best for less half the price. The Laguna 2 vs 406 comparison was impressive. Even the Espace had this torsion axle (I think inaugurated by Audi though). They did not dare use it on the Vel Satis and designed a costly conventional layout without any additional comfort nor roadholding, just to please the press ! The 15/17 were US inspired for sure – Teague I do not know even though he was a very good one – some tell that Giugiaro would have given some consulting at that time. However the 15 is close to the ill-fated top of the range H project and even the other ill-fated 120 project, all of them signed by Gaston Juchet. The alternative consevative design was by the Safety BRV research vehicle designer – can’t remember his name.

        • Unless the suitcase layout was planned for other Renaults (be it a R5 replacement/etc), would say the fact the layout was exclusive only to the 14 and not other Renault models limited its choice of engines.

          Short of Renault engaging in little known experiments with modifying the 14 layout (similar to reputed experiments at BL involving a Hydragas-equipped Maestro), it seems the suitcase layout was useful only as a stopgap between the existing longitudinal layout used by Renaults and the later Primula/128-like 11/9-style transverse layout. Peugeot-owned Citroen for example was able to redesign the Citroen Visa to an end-on gearbox layout for the 1.8 Diesel and 1.6 GTi models.

          Was Gaston Juchet also involved in styling the IKA-Renault 40 Torino prototype?

          Apart from looking ahead of its time, what was the downfall of the ill-fated 120 Project (between Project H and Project 127 aka 20/30)? Was Project 120 mechanically similar to the 20/30 including a FWD layout or did it carry over much from Project H?

          • The suitcase layout allowed to center the engine, for overall balance, capability to make either LHD or RHD. More difficult to service, probably more expensive to produce and with some torque limitations, it was replaced by the “Primula” layout on most of the X engine vehicles when they moved to the TU like 205/BX/Visa. The H to 120 then to 127 projects is a complicated story. 120 was supposed to be higher in the range than the final 127 (Renault 20/30) and had more sex-appeal. The Renault 40 – Torino-based – was another story, at that time it was decided that Dick Teague’s Rambler American with slight Pininfarina modifications had to be replaced and then a design was issued by the Renault styling center in France. Gaston Juchet, styling department director was probably involved, it looks like Jean Thoprieux was the designer. As for the 120 it was a reduced H with FWD. More appealing than the 127 in term of design, maybe too much for a top of the range ? Both were issued by Gaston Juchet.

  11. I think history is being unkind to the R14. I dont remember it being badly regarded at the time, in fact the UK motoring press generally gave it very good reviews – and it seemed to still be getting good write ups well into the 80s being considered competitive against the likes of the Escort MK3 and MK1 Astra. In fact I have a copy of Motor Magazine from 1981 when the Magazine took competitor cars to an event with Ford Engineers to assess improvements made during a crash programme to sort the Escorts poor rear suspension. The R14 was line up with an Astra, Alfasud and modified Escort and even the Ford engineer said he preferred the way the R14 drove!

  12. My dad, who was in no way interested in cars thought that the Renault 14 was a thing of beauty. We already had a Renault 6, and we, the sons were groing, so we bought a new Renault 14 TL. It was roomy and drove quite nicely, so the honeymoon was nice. Pity it was over when after 3 months my dad discovered blisters in the paint on the roof.
    Back to the garage. Alas, to no avail. The garage and Renault refused to take action. After that the car started rusting badly and it was the last Renault my parents bought. Ever.
    A few years later my dad thought of buying a RWD Skoda. Luckily I talked him out of it and into a Fiat Uno 55S. A car I dearly loved and still looks modern. It was quite spacious too, but I digress.
    Back to the 14. I still think it’s a nice looking car. Pity they rusted so bedaly and our garage and Renault gave us a cold shoulder.

  13. Agreed on the styling. Always thought they were sharp looking cars and, as the article says, if you compare this 1976 design to the Escort Mk 3 and Astra Mk1 it look like a more modern car. Perhaps it was just too much for the public then and therefore ahead of its time

  14. Have great memories of the Renault 14. My dad had a 1980 R14TS with central locking, electric windows, and tinted glass which felt very modern after several generally unreliable mid ranking BL cars of the ‘70s. I learnt to drive in the 14, that later became my first car which I ran for 5 years until it succumbed to corrosion in 1991 after 90,000 miles. It didn’t like the damp but otherwise reliable, and the soft suspension meant vigorous cornering could scrape the mud-flaps along the tarmac. Easy rear seat removal created a really useful space for hauling stuff around too. The later versions with indicators located beside the headlamps have stood the test of time better than many of its contemporaries.

  15. To me the styling of the 14 has really stood the test of time, and looks a far more recent design than most of its contemporaries. Maybe that was part of its problem, the public wasn’t ready for such curvey styling.

    Indeed it’s hard to believe that the 14 is only 2 years younger than the Mk 1 VW Golf!

  16. My brother-in-law had an S reg Renault 14 at the same time as I had a T reg Allegro 1.3. Although I never drove the Renault it had an engine that seemed much more smooth and peppy than the rough A series in the Allegro. I don’t recall his having particular rust problems and we all know the Allegro was pretty good by 1970s standards for resisting rust.

  17. 14 sold less than a million in a 7 year run – well 999,093 to be more exact so while maybe not a star product it certainly wasn’t a dog either. Bet BL wished they could have shifted that many of anything in that late 70s period. OK – perhaps Mini counts but as discussed elsewhere on here it is debatable whether Mini made or lost money for BL.
    Renault comparing the 14 to a pear has to be one of the industry’s less smart marketing moves though. Unadorned base model 14s looked pretty bland but the overall styling was quite modern even by today’s standards if you look in detail – plastic bumpers, gutterless roof, neatly integrated door mirrors, distinctive door handles, even if its hefty C-pillars are a bit last year. My Dad had a TS for a while, was very comfortable, had a 5-speed box, electric front windows, central locking and those ‘petal’ front seats you only got on that model. TS trim was smart to look at from the outside too. Unlike the upright Issigonis arrangement the Peugeot ’suitcase’ engine provided enough room under the bonnet for the spare wheel, although wheels and tyres were a lot skinnier in those days.
    Was Renault really making cars that were ‘worse’ than BL’s output at the time? Maybe the answer is that you can still buy a new Renault nowadays…

  18. Indeed some of the 14’s styling cues were advanced for the time (eg the polycarb bumpers). One of the photographers in my Firm had a bronze R14 that I got to borrow a couple of times. It felt sprightly enough and the seats were very chunky & comfortable I have to say. I remember the sound of the indicators was click-click-click rather than the usual tick tock – tick tock.

    The 14 wasn’t a car I aspired to own in those days, more so a Vaux Magnum or Cavalier.

  19. Following a CAR magazine Giant Test I convinced my father to replace his 1952 Austin A70 Hereford with an R14 rather than a Golf or Horizon or, heaven forbid, an Allegro.

    As an 18 year old with a new licence, I enjoyed it a lot and we didn’t keep it long enough to find the corrosion problems….

    • Yes the 1st ones were alternate proposals from other members of Gaston Juchet’s team. But Robert Broyer won. The green estate is a Photoshop.
      The coupé was again from Robert Broyer who in the meantime had left Renault as a free-lance, but it was anyway commissioned by Renault. As Ligier was jobless, Brissoneau&Lotz disappeared and Heuliez probably busy, the idea was to have it manufactured by Ligier. But the 17 was selling well, the Fuego was planned, there was no real need for such a vehicle and Bernard Hanon axed it. Robert Broyer never forgot nor forgave. Ligier entered the minicar business.

  20. Interesting to hear the Renault 14’s launch was delayed by industrial action. Now surely this was only something that affected British cat factories and continental car factories were supposedly strike free and highly productive. Wrong, Italian car factories were even worse and strikes flared up now and again in French factories in the seventies, as in 1976, when the Renault 14’s launch was held up by a long dispute.

    • Many strikes during the seventies, the longest being the Poissy troubles that finally got the company bankrupted despite the Horizon good selling, aging 1307/1308 but still doing well.

  21. I think every car manufacturer can look back at some of their models and say, “That was a dud, a real lemon. We were lucky to get away with it.”

    In addition to the Renault 14, there are candidates like the elk-dodging Mercedes A Class, the “monster from the deep” Ford Scorpio or the VW 411/2. That’s not to mention the disasters that really did spell the end of the unfortunate company, like the NSU Ro80 or the Alfasud.

    The fascinating point about BL is that they managed to produce a whole range of commercial failures at the same time. It’s not fair to put all the blame on the Allegro when the Maxi, Princess and SD1 were also flops. It’s not that they were bad cars either, but their lack of success is undeniable.

    • why the Alfasud ? It sold well ! And the 14 not that bad.
      The Maxi who knows why ? Nice shape and decent engines, 4 independant wheels and FWD.
      The Princess had a strange look a kind of soft wedge, an antiquated B engine, SD1 suffered from very low reliability otherwise beautiful design from David Bache, plush interior, mighty V8 and 2600 six. The 2000 and VM were ill-fated.

      • Nice shape and decent engines? er.. no, neither of those. Frumpy, non-styled looks and coarse, under powered engines. Not to mention an obstructive gear change and queasy, bouncing hydragas ride. It had space but if you need that much room, buy a van.

      • @Philippe: According to Wikipedia, “893,719 were manufactured from 1972 to 1983, with the addition of 121,434 Sprint coupé versions between 1976 and 1989.”

        That’s not a lot over 18 years, even with the bulk being in 11 years.

        It is a shame, because it was good looking, nice to drive and practical. With the Alfa Romeo image, it should have sold millions and become the Italian BMW. It went wrong (we all know why) and Alfa ended up being swallowed by Fiat.

        • Reliability was not that better than a BL-produced vehicle, not speaking about rust.
          Alfa was state-owned, the “Sud” was created to compete against FIAT and others in this new segment and create jobs in the Mezzogiorno.
          They were rusting like any Giulia but the rest was much cheaper, plastics, Magneti-Marelli equipments no better than Lucas.
          The government was not willing to invest and then decided to sell, they did not want of any stranger.
          As Fiat had already swallowed Lancia then they would swallow Alfa.
          And then busy with Chrysler they let Alfa completely down.
          Tavares who is a car-lover wants heavily Alfa and Maserati to survive, let’s see…
          It’s told that Alfa would soon become 100% EV in a Jag manner, sooner we hope.

  22. @ John Wilkes, big Fiats must be on the list as well. They might have sold reasonably well in their own country, but the 132, Argenta and Croma failed to do much outside of Italy. The 132 rotted badly in the colder climates of northern Europe and faded into obscurity, while the Argenta and Croma offered nothing over their rivals, even if the Croma was much better made. Then there was the Alfa 6, Alfa’s alternative to cars like the BMW 5 series, that bombed totally and was the most forgettable car they ever made.

    • The Alfa 6 was made on an elongated Alfetta platform, elongated nose and boot, higher bonnet, gearbox came back home under bonnet bye-bye transxle. It resused some of the Alfetta body panels.
      It was a very good car with a very bad look due to narrow tracks and clumsy reuse of Alfetta body panels.
      Alfa-Romeo lacked money. They had spent a lot on the Alfasud and on the Busso V6 developments.

    • @Glenn: Thanks for the rundown of dodgy Fiats. I’d completely forgotten about the Croma. In fact, if I wrote the word “dull” a thousand times, it would only begin to describe the car. It killed off the big Fiats. The Alfa version of the car was good looking though. Still didn’t sell particularly well.

      • The Alfa version was the 164 with a Peugeot 405 Farina-like style.
        It suffered from being a transverse FWD, something the traditionnal Alfisti could not bear.
        It was anyway stylish, the following 166 was weird !

      • The Croma was developed on the same platform as the SAAB 9000, but had little in common with the car otherwise and was an ungainly looking large hatchback that looked like a stretched Uno. OK it didn’t develop serious rust early on and was better made than the Argenta it replaced, but buyers just weren’t interested in this big Fiat when if they wanted a large hatchback, they could always buy a Mark 3 Granada that had far better residuals and wasn’t plagued with irritating electrical faults.

        • And don’t forget the loverly Lancia Thema which was the third car that was developed! The mad ferrari engined 8.32.

  23. As stated before – my ex Boss had a company Fiat Croma Auto (G reg). Performance wise it was pretty good and I enjoyed driving it (one of the few Autobox cars for me). However it did have mechanical problems at an early age and was disposed of in 1994.

    • I can remember an H reg Croma being in regular use as a taxi in Dumfries in 1994. Maybe the taxi driver, or the company owner, fancied a cheap big car that could be thrashed for a couple of years and then dumped at auction when the bills mounted up and the Croma was worthless.

  24. I remember one of my friends was buying a car in the mid 1990s, & looked at a Croma because it was a lot of car for the money, but decided against it.

    I don’t remember many being around as most savvy people seemed to buy a Saab 9000 if they wanted a type 4 car.

    • The Saab 9000 in the end deviated strongly from the other Type 4 cars anyway, as what was acceptable safety and quality for the Italians wasn’t for the Swedes!

      • The story goes that SAAB turned up at a safety test for the Thema, which the Italians said was excellent but SAAB engineers thought was awful, and therefore went their own way!

  25. Most intriguing entry in this part of the market was the Citroen Visa GTi. It looked peculiar, but went well. The diesel versions were, um, very sensible. They must have been stronger than AXs cos a mate of mine rolled one, but kept driving it!

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