An interesting conversation about retro design and potential new electric cars has been prompted by Renault’s recent announcement that it would be reintroducing the wonderful R5 supermini as an all-electric city car (above). It follows the launch of the Honda e, which has been styled to evoke memories of the Honda Civic Mk1, and the new, third-generation Fiat 500, which will only be available in EV form.
Given the new 5 will be developed from the technology used in the Zoe, and all the positives that come from that (range, reliability and nice dynamics), the signs for this one are good. So, could it be that the way to winning buyers’ hearts and converting desire into actual sales will be achieved by making EVs link directly with classics that tug the heartstrings? Some would say the new Renault 5 is retro – but, really, it feels post-retro to me, in a similar way to how the wonderful Alpine A110 recalls the 1960s original, while still looking modern.
With that in mind, my colleagues at Parkers.co.uk devised a video podcast (vidcast?) to discuss that very matter, and came up with some very interesting selections, all of which I can see working very well. You can watch that YouTube video below, and comment on whether they’ve called it correctly. But the idea of an electric Matra Rancho seems like a wonderful one to me. Certainly, the ingredients are all there to do another one.
The AROnline back catalogue is not short of potential cars to reinvent and electrify for the 21st century, though. And I have to say that, after some thought, I came up with a few I’d love to see getting the post-retro treatment as well as being electrified.
First would definitely be the Austin Metro. I wouldn’t call it an Austin, though, and instead it would be the MINI Metro (BMW, you can have that one for free). Unlike the current MINI Electric three-door hatch, which is a simple electrification of the current model, this would be a city car featuring strong styling cues linking it with the original Metro. Lots of people have great memories of the Metro (especially here in Blighty), while the spectre of the rusty, crusty and downright ugly ones has now long since been eradicated, so something fresh from MINI is what we all want right now.
Second would be a reinvention of the Land Rover Discovery. My idea would be to hark back to the chunky styling of the original 1989 model complete with utilitarian Terence Conran-inspired interior. Price it below the new Defender (a stretch, I know) and watch the money roll in. Why the Disco? The current model is being cannibalised by the Defender, and is heading upmarket as a consequence. To me, that feels like Range Rover’s patch. Time to do something new and interesting with the Discovery – a nameplate that’s still held in really high regard – and condemn the current model’s gawky styling to the file marked ‘failed experiment’.
Finally, I’d remix the MGF and shove some volts in it. Electric sports cars are currently a toy for the rich, and the idea of an affordable battery-powered rag top really appeals to me. Okay, the battery pack is heavy, and it won’t deliver scorching feedback but, if we’re honest, did the MGF? However, that battery pack can be mounted in a Tesla-style skateboard platform, giving the driver the benefit of a low centre of gravity combined with the instant-on power delivery only an EV gives you. You know it makes sense.
Anyway, those are my thoughts – I’d love to hear yours. Comment, as always, below!