Our Cars : Renault 18 joins the fleet

Keith Adams

Renault 18 (1)
First day in the AROnline fleet, and it’s off for a date with a Citroen BX 16 Valve.

One of the perks of writing about cars for a living is that I do get access to all manner of new ones to test and review. But despite the new metal that comes and goes in my life, I still enjoy owning and maintaining my own cars – and that’s why, when I passed my Citroen Xantia on to Mike Humble (oh, he got a bargain there), it was so I could get something older and more needy to replace it.

When I was shopping for a replacement for the Xantia, I certainly wasn’t looking for a Renault 18. I had about Β£500 to play with, and what I really wanted on my drive was a 1970s saloon – something I could jump in, largely keep up with the cut and thrust of modern traffic, but not get hung up about leaving it on the street outside the house, or in Waitrose car park. On the top of my list was a Vauxhall Cavalier Mk1 – and after that, a Marina/Ital or Talbot Solara.

So, you get the picture – something old, vaguely classic, and reasonably practical. In short, a ’70s repmobile.

After a couple of weeks of searching the usual places, I failed to spot any Cavaliers at all, and as for Marinas – they seem to have driven out of budget (I guess because they’re now thin on the ground, and demand is beginning to outstrip supply). My searches started to widen, but the Renault 18 was a bit of a random stumble on eBay, as the seller had it listed as a MΓ©gane.

It looked like it could tick the boxes – it was a 1647cc 18TS, with seven months’ of MoT left on it, and was clearly being sold by an enthusiast. So far, so good. A quick call to him, ascertained that it was sound enough, and he was selling for all the right reasons. As per usual it was located 200 miles from home (who’d have thought that being in central England constantly finds me so far away from all the best cars?), but a viewing rapidly followed.

A couple of days later, and a sunny Saturday morning drive had be face to face with the Renault and its seller. A quick scan around it saw it was exactly as described, and a brief drive left me pretty impressed. A deal was struck, a hefty deposit paid, and a delivery date cooked up between us. Martin even changed a few bits and pieces, and put it in for an MoT test (it passed). If at this point, it sounds like I wasn’t exactly excited by the prospect of Renault ownership, you’re probably not a million miles away.

As a kid growing up, who’s main source of information was What Car? magazine, the Renault 18 was a bit of a nearly car. It took part in a number of group tests, and as far as I can recall, it never won a single one. But it usually came second – a clear ‘nearly’ car. With lowish expectations, my first drive of the car was a bit of a revelation – the steering, critcised in contemporary tests feels precise and not-too-heavy, while there’s plenty of grip in corners. Even the body roll doesn’t bother me too much, because it’s well-damped. In short, it steers like a soft Audi 80.

As for the ride quality, it’s soft and compliant in a way that you just haven’t been able to encounter in a family car since the end of the 1980s. And the seats are even softer. It’s probably a recipe for long-distance car sickness and backache, but for what I have in mind for it, this is just about perfect.

Renault 18 (1)
Basic interior, and but ergonomics are sound.

Now I’ve been driving it for a few days, there’s so much to like about the Renault 18. Being a TS (rather than the then top-of-the-range GTS) mean it’s lightly equipped. There’s no electric windows or central locking; I have only one door mirror, and the switchgear on the centre console is limited to a heated rear window and hazard warning switch. And the gearbox is limited to four-speeds. So, it’s basic.

And as for performance, the bald specs from contemporary road say 0-60mph in 13.8 seconds, and a maximum speed of 97mph. I’ll not be trying to match those figures, but I will say that it’s more than adequate for England’s choked roads. It’s quaintly undergeared, but without a rev counter I can’t quite say precisely how busy the engine is on the motorway, but it’s probably turning at around 4000rpm at 70mph.

Thankfully, the engine is smooth, and feels like it would be capable of running at these speeds all day long. Would I want to? Probably not. Another aspect of the Renault 18 that has surprised me is the general feeling of quality and dependability. The doors thunk shut satisfyingly, the interior is solid, and once underway, there’s little wind and road noise.

There are a few bits of crustiness around the edges which I’d like to attend to now, before they take hold, and then give it a thorough service, and new set of tyres. And then enjoy my rolling memorial to late-1970s motorway life. Do I like it so far? Yes.

Now for the million euro question: how does it compare with AROnline‘s favourite ’70s repmobile, the Vauxhall Cavalier Mk1? It’s a bit early to say, but the Gallic repmobile does have a certain number of advantages, such as the driving position and general overall refinement. We’ll see in the coming months…

At the car wash after delivery - there was lots of grime to remove!
At the car wash after delivery – there was lots of grime to remove!
Keith Adams


  1. Mudflaps all round, plastic door protectors, and even a 1980s AA sticker still on the rear screen…
    ..by no means a gurantee, but little things like these usually suggest a well cared for example.

  2. I’ve never so much as ridden in an 18, but I’ve had an inexplicable soft spot for them ever since I spotted and spent my pocket money on a Majorette die-cast example towing a caravan, way back in 1984. It’s a nice looking car that has aged well.

    I still have that little Majorette, by the way, in perfect condition.

  3. My Dad had a navy blue V reg one 1980-83, with the same 3 stud steel wheels.

    It’s quite rare to see any R18s around, even the later examples.

  4. Havent seen one of these in years and this one looks surprisingly tidy. I remember when they were fairly common on UK roads and took a bit of the Cavalier/Cortina market. As such they managed to gain, dare I say, a “unique” image.

    I think the TS was next model up from the TL entry car. Everyone’s favourite was the 18 Turbo – wasn’t it? Anyway good luck with it Keith, sounds like a good start.

  5. Looks very tidy Keith – especially the interior. Back in the day, I was always a bit confused as to the relationship between the 9 and the 18. They looked very similar in size. But then I guess BL had the Marina/Ital, Princess and Triumph 2000…

  6. An almost forgotten car, but from an era when Renaults were good. I think for the ultimate forgotten car and a real rarity, a five speed Talbot Solara should be on the list. Fair does they can rust and the trim is a bit loose, but quite a good family car, good on juice and well equipped.

  7. Impressed, thought they were all gone. That one looks quite tidy. Wish you well with it. Amazing what can be bought if you put your mind to it.

  8. My Dad had mixed feelings about his, while it drove alright the feel of it was a bit tinny & the trim was getting worn after 3 years.

    It wasn’t too good starting in cold or damp conditions, my Dad struggled to get it started the day he was changing it for a Mk2 Cavalier.

  9. The bottom two photos have got that 70s sepia tone perfectly recreated.

    Oh and well done on finding such a clean example of an endangered species. Although come to think of it the entire genus of large French family cars is dying out.

  10. I’d forgotten what a nice old thing the 18 was. Sadly, my opinion of French cars has been coloured by bad experiences of fleet Lagunas, Challenger Vans and 406s to the extent that I would rather be found dead in a ditch than drive a modern French car.

    BUT!! Your 18 has reminded me of the days when I drove a Simca 1100 and lusted after Renault 17s and Fuegos. Ahh the memories.

  11. Just look at it compared to the silver Kia fridge freezer in the background. The Renner has way more style and class

  12. I had a ts estate for a few years and it was a great banger. I still remember the ventilation and and heating as some of the best I’ve known. One had to lope along, not hurry and that suits a banger.It got scrapped when the front cross member became perforated and the engine became a tad insecure. I’ve still got the plug I turned to set the points. This is getting sad!

  13. Nice, looks in great condition. These used to be everywhere, now rare as hens teeth. Probably as rare as a Fiat Regata.

    French family cars are a dying breed. In the UK you can no longer buy a Laguna or a Fluence with an internal combustion engine. The C5 is surviving on a thread with the ‘premium’ DS5 crossover thing, and the 508 looks to have no platform for a replacement, since PSA-GM tieup didn’t include the 508/Insignia.

  14. @ Will M:

    “French family cars are a dying breed.”

    I was thinking that just the other day when watching A View To A Kill and spotting a rather stylish Renault Fuego Turbo being driven by one of the secondary characters. I haven’t seen a Fuego for many years and used to have a soft spot for them, particularly the Turbo version with its fancy lattice-style alloy wheels and graphics along the bottom of the doors. From memory, I think it shared much of the running gear and components such as headlamps and interior trim with the Renault 18.

  15. @David 3500

    The Aston-Martin-like Laguna coupe was probably the closest to a modern successor to the Fuego.

    Keith had a Fuego once, but sadly I don’t think he was impressed.

  16. That’s a lovely old thing! A nice sight in a day of bland Euro/Jap/Korean blobs. Great visibility out with the slim pillars and big windows, decent sized boot and the interior is a model of simplicity and clarity. Just needs a 5th gear…

    That is a seriously useable classic motor which will be perfectly at home on todays roads if not terribly quick on the motorway. Should give you great satisfaction pottering about.

    #20: I have lusted after a Fuego for many years which is basically the same underpinnings as the 18 with the lovely coupe body.

  17. I have never driven one myself, but the old man had one back in the early 80s,I’m sure a GTS as it was well equiped. Very comfortabe and reliable car.

    An earlier poster mentioned the Fuego and R17, I also lusted after both of those. It is just such a shame that mainstream manufacturers don’t make coupes anymore -except Hyundai & Toyota I guess with the GT86 (?)- I guess the market has just died since the death of the wonderful Fiat Coupe and Alfa GT.

  18. Nice, and this is an ex. Practical Classics car, glad it’s gone to a good home. It’s future prospects were vague when it left the mag.

    PS – I presently have a 17TS…

    The wife’s tagline after driving it:

    “Renault: Nearly everything is in the wrong place”!!

  19. @23

    Hyundai’s modern coupe the Veloster unfortunately has more of a squashed hatchback look than their previous attractive coupe.

    The Alfa GT and Brera were nice, and saloon car derived. Shame Alfa now only sell a couple of hatchbacks.
    My 96 GTV had a timeless design, similar to the Fiat coupe.

    Peugeot sell the RCZ, but other than that and the GT86 I can’t think of many modern (non premium) coupes, much less car-derived as per Fuego.
    The motoring press keep hinting that an Insignia based Calibra is on it’s way, and that Ford are going to officially introduce the next Mustang into Europe.

  20. @24 You lucky man,I’ve never actually even travelled in a R17..but as I said I always wanted one when I was growing up in the 70s

    @25 Yes I forget about the RCZ, nice looking car but it doesn’t seem to be quite the same sort of idea as the Capri/Fuego/Manta/Lancia HPE type concept.

    I hope you are enjoying your GTV, I had one and loved it, bought an Alfa GT after that which was equally as good in a slightly different way. But as was said Alfa just don’t make interesting cars at the moment, hopefully the 4C and the new Spider will tempt me back….

  21. @20 David… yes, the Fuego is one of those forgotten cars. A neighbour in our street had one from new in a nice turquoise blue metallic. At the time I regarded it as very modern looking (in the style of Capri MK2)and more up to date than BL’s offerings.

  22. Congrats, the new ride is in great shape! How many of those are left on the UK’s roads? I don’t know the last day I saw one.

  23. I do feel that this car is a win. I know what Keith was on about with mk1 Cavs, they are now going for insane money, and all the good ones seem to be in Northern Ireland as well. Going ‘left field’ meant he picked up a bargain. Even rough Fords and Marinas are going daft now. The 18 will stand out from the crowd. Happy Motoring Mr Keef!

  24. @Yorkie

    If you ever need a hand picking a car up from N.Ireland, or even a lift from the airport, give me a shout.

  25. I had an 18 GTL (1650 engine had just been introduced) as a company car and was not looking forward to it. In fact, I loved it, especially the wonderful seats, five gears, electric front windows and central locking. My partner later had a Savannah, which was a let-down after the 18, particularly the seats.

  26. My brother had one in 1980 as a reps car in the same colour. I remember how comfortable it was and the lovely velour seats and door trims. Seemed a world away from an Ital. 5 Speed box and electric windows – quite something then. They rusted away of course but a true Renault worth owning. Well done for finding one.

  27. The 12 and 18 were the last great Renaults for me, nicely made, good looking, comfortable and with durable and economical engines. Yes they could rust, but so could any car then, and it was a case of making sure they were undersealed and looked after.
    Also Mr Adams fancies a Solara, this would be a real treat and actually like the Renault 18 a useable classic, capable of 100 mph and with a five speed gearbox, a fairly economical and quiet cruiser. ( Some people still will only have sixties cars as classics, but compared to a car from the late seventies/early eighties, they fall way behind in terms of performance, refinement and driving ability). Also if there are any left, a Peugeot 504 is worth a look.

  28. @8, the 18 was an upmarket R12, tl-gtl with 1,4L engine(later 1647 for gtl with 5 speed) to replace the 12, then to replace the old R16 the ts-gts with 1647cc, 4 or 5 speed or auto3, turbo 1565cc, 110 or 125 bhp, diesel/td with new 2.1L derived from the 2L petrol found on all big French cars (CX, R20 or Pug 505)This found in the R18 tx/gtx manual or auto. Some of the “break”-that’s estate, had 4X4 options on the 2L and td.(some would say that the R20 was the spiritual successor for R16 because of the hatchback…other argue it was much more expensive and bigger)
    the 9/11 duo replaced the R14, are same size as a Meastro (4-4,10m), the R18 was near 4,40. They had wizzy 1,1L or 1,4 in different tuning- up to 105bhp in Turbo, a small 1,6L diesel and the last ones had 1,7l that found their way in the R19/clio/volvo360-440…
    Now Keith, just need to find a 5 speed gearbox…
    She looks very neat for a Renault of this vintage, I hope you will enjoy its comfortable seats and suspension.

  29. I know an unloved Fuego (2-litre non-Turbo but) sitting on a driveway, unused and slowly growing tattier. Perhaps I should go and twist the owner’s arm? The only problem is, I can barely keep up with my Rovers. I’m not sure I need another project…

  30. Yes, I used to quite like the 18, along with most Renaults of this era. Had a mk1 5 as my first car and almost replaced it with a higher spec Fuego – not everyone’s cup of tea by any means!

  31. The 9 was a replacement for the 12, being a Ford Orion sized saloon with ultra conservative styling. These are rare now as they were never favoured by collectors and had a reputation for being very boring to drive, unless you bought a top of the range one, and having poor quality, my sister had one which broke down almost every week and was terrible to drive.
    To me the classic Renaults to have are the 12, 18 and 20, all worthy Ford competitors and the 20, now extremely rare, was a very capable big hatchback.

  32. Here’s my Renault 18. It’s missing its little yellow wind deflector, but it’s only a problem when it rains, and the car is probably more complete than most 1984 Renaults.

  33. @ Warren L:

    “Here’s my Renault 18. It’s missing its little yellow wind deflector, but it’s only a problem when it rains, and the car is probably more complete than most 1984 Renaults.”

    That looks like a Majorette model; itself a French manufacturer.

  34. The 9-11 were something of a French Maestro-Montego.

    Used to love Majorette models when I was a kid.
    Corgi were great for British models, Matchbox were starting to go a bit American, Majorette focused on European models like you would see on the street.

    Remember the majo-kit street set you could buy? Unlike most which focused on building the road, this focused on building the footpaths / signage / buildings in typical gallic style. Had a few sets of this too.

  35. I always considered the 18 as rather boring when it came out, as Renault’s mid range saloons (12 then 18) were deliberately more conservative than some of their hatchbacks (e.g. 18, 5, 14), with the replacement 21 even worse!

    In retrospect of course, it seems quite interesting, as the 70s was a time when family car design hadn’t settled down, and there was genuine choice in terms of body styles, and engineering layouts!

  36. PS – I have that exact model, bought from a petrol station on the way to the South of France when I was about 9. (Mine still has the yellow wind-deflector…!!)

    The tow-hooks on Majorette models often lacked a rubber flap that went over the top of th hook to stop the caravan from bouncing off when enthusiastically driven along the carpet!

  37. Warren – I had that but the Caravan was white not yellow, and the Renault Yellow not blue. Its somewhere in Canada now as my cousins took it with them when they emigrated.

    My mate Wayne’s dad had a GTS R18 which I though was the nuts – far nicer than my dads Cortina Mk5.

  38. I used to have some Majo-kit which was fun to snap together to create streets for my toy cars.

    It might still be in my parents attic, though a lot of my toys have gone to charity.

  39. I used to have an olive green 1.6,a very likable car,a bloke had a mark 2-remember those? it was the fastest diesel taxi i had been in at the time!

  40. @40: Correct David, it is a Majorette. I’ve owned it since new, in 1984. I can even recall buying it. I don’t know when the deflector vanished, but I suspect my younger brothers might have had a hand in that. It has been very reliable for a French car, although of course I don’t drive it every day.

  41. My first car ever was a 1979 12TL saloon and whilst working at a dealership in Leicester that used to have the Renault franchise we still serviced and repaired many of the range.I used to drool over any 18 that came in and promised myself and upgrade one day.I remember all Renaults of the day being so comfy from the 4,5,6,14,16,20 and 30.

  42. Does the 18 mist up twice as badly as the 9? As for the unmatched (since the 80s) softness of the ride, surely the 90s and noughties Xantia has just as soft a ride? The Pug 406 can’t be far off or the revamped C5 or the Rover 75.

    To me 70s and 80s Renaults just felt tinny and poorly made. I love a soft ride but with Renaults it also often meant next-to-no damping and terrible chassis dynamics when the body movements started to get out of control. An Austin Princess of the era would have been just as soft but would have handled tidily enough when you needed it to.

  43. I’m also glad to see this car has gone to a good home. I’ve seen it on e-bay a couple of times after its time in Practical Classics. It apparently went to a teacher who runs car maintenance courses after the magazine (they were using it a a project car according to the e-bay ad) and then onto a Renault enthusiast. So it’s good to see it again on here.

    I was always a fan of the Renault 18 after reading the ‘Edinburgh on a Monkey’ article in Car magazine in the early 90s, where 2 staffers had to buy a car each for ‘a monkey’ in London and drive it to Edinburgh, first one there won. The R18 actually won the ‘race’ – so maybe there was a magazine feature won by the 18 there Keith!

    As an Audi 80 B2 owner I also like the description of the 18 being a soft Audi 80. I’ve never driven an 18, but think I know where you’re coming from, having experienced other older French cars on the past.

    Good luck with the car & look forward to seeing more if it on here.

  44. I remember Car magazine having a go at banger racing with one of them in the early 90s.
    The images of it getting hit caused the driver seat to break and they were out the running in a short space of time also other images of Cortina,s mk4/5 and Mayhem the Farina.

    A friends mum and dad owned one from the 80s to the 90s, it was a A-Plate two tone dark blue/silver American 2 edition and all of a sudden the black/silver American 1’s became a common sight on the roads like Vauxhalls white Club edition cars of the time.

  45. @52 Yes, that was the same car, if I recall correctly. They couldn’t sell it after the Edinburgh trip, so a year later decided to go banger racing. Like you say, they weren’t very successful – didn’t it manage less than a lap?!

  46. @Will101,

    The American was a really decent limited edition- far more than just a fleet special with a pop-up sunroof added (as my last limited edition Escort Serenade was).

    Fortunately it was American in name only- and didn’t commmit the unspeakable Crimes against Taste that were done to ‘Renault Alliance’ cars stateside…

  47. And for those who can’t abide Flickr (like me) πŸ™‚

    I have to say that’s a beauty. I’d love an earlier B2 like yours (I had a couple of CD5Es in my time) as well as later facelift cars (there’s a pic on the site somewhere).

    It would be an interesting comparison – mine has 79bhp and four speeds. Yours has 85bhp and five? πŸ™‚

  48. Thanks Keith. I’ve been gradually improving its general condition over the last five years. It’s looking much better now, but still a work in progress!

    I’d like to try a CD5E at some point, as I’ve only ever driven the 1600s before. I know the 5 cylinder makes a great sound too!

    My Audi has 75bhp (and yes a 5 speed ‘box), so they’re very close indeed.

  49. I should dig out a picture of my wheels from 1996ish, a 1985 Audi 90 Quattro in dark metallic black.

  50. Great to see another Renault 18 that still made it through the century! I have a Renault 18 GTS (model 1979, license plates of 1980) in the exact same color, with that fifth gear (which was considered worth advertising on the back of a car by placing “5 vitesses” label on it) as electric windows and central locking. I own the car since 1998, drove it outside of the winter for leisure and recently started restoring it. Despite of the low mileage it ran (currently about 90.000km) some parts were quite deteriorated by corrosion. Currently it awaits painting, but I still drive it regularly during the summer (when it is not raining)

    I love the handling of the car, however due to the fact the car is not equipped with heat-resistant glass the interior can heat up quite a bit. In the manual it mentions that A/C was an option…wish this one had it! Parallel parking can be tough due to fact it has no power steering, but driving longer distances isn’t that bad actually. Love the car, and wish you a lot of fun driving yours!

  51. What a lovely bit of kit, superb cars these. I grew up with a Dad who managed a Renault dealership here in the South West so had the pleasure of these things hanging around when I was younger, sadly I wasn’t old enough to drive at the time! I have particularly fond memories of the Turbo and the rest of the late 70’s and 80’s range had fun interesting things too, like the 25 with voice synthesiser that wouldn’t shut up even when brand new in the showroom!

    We had an 18 TS Mark 2 for a while which whilst still short on kit (still no electrics etc) did have a much more powerful version of the 1647cc lump complete with twin choke Webber carb and crossflow head from the 16TS – If I recall correctly it had around 92bhp and a rev counter and was a decent performer, more fun than the lazy 2 litres were! The Mark 2 had a much more modern dashboard too. That was a ‘B’ reg so around 1984. It was well made and they stood up OK in accidents too. Much better than the 5!

    Would love to get an 18 but that’s looking increasingly unlikely now… a 9 Turbo would be a rare stealth machine too! πŸ™‚

  52. The 18 was in the top ten best sellers in 1980. It was the thinking man’s Cortina and most likely bought by private buyers who didn’t have a Cortina as a company car and probably didn’t want one. Like the Cortina, the 18 was a handsome saloon and estate and had a reputation for being fairly reliable and cheap to run, but unlike the Cortina, had a much more cossetting ride, fwd for snow and rain events, armchair like seats and a top of the range model with electric windows and a five speed transmission. I can see someone weighing up a Cortina 1.6 GL against a Renault 18 GTL and opting to spend their 4-5 k in 1980 on the Renault; I know I would, as German cars were still too expensive for middle England then.

  53. My Dad chose an 18 for a company car in 1980, based on how many Mum’s Renault 12 had given good service for a few years.

    He felt a little let down unfortunately, as the 18 felt a little tinny & one of the door pockets eventually started to come lose due to the plastic being brittle. Also the wipers were positioned for LHD & didn’t cover the screen very well on the right side of the screen.

    Cold starting was another shortcoming, & he struggled to start it on the day it was due to be handed back to be replaced by a Mk2 Vauxhall Cavalier which was a lot better but not perfect.

  54. The 18 was a lot better than the 21 which replaced it that seemed to be prone to numerous faults and developed a reputation for poor reliability, a shame as the 12 and 18, while not perfect, were quite dependable cars. I think Renault’s problem was they could design a great looking and dependable car like the 12 and 18, then introduce a much poorer car like the 14 or 9, that could drag their reputation down. Also the update of the 5 in the eighties did nothing to hide this was an ageing car and it had to soldier on until the Clio replaces it.

    • The supercinq was an almost new design with transverse engines & a cut down 9 floorpan.

      It wasn’t up to the standard of the Peugeot 205 launched a year earlier, though the hot versions were well regarded.

      Renault’s 1980s range was a mixed bag, thought most models seemed to suffer from electrics that caused trouble, along with interiors that wore out after a few years. Oddly most 1980s French & Italian cars seemed to suffer from similar issues, even after Fiat started chassis galvanising to do away with their rusting image.

  55. Another Renault that gets little mention now was the Fuego coupe (Capri copy?). I thought it was a decent looker especially in a turquoise blue. A neighbour had one. I still prefer the Capri though!

    • Quite a quirky design from what I remember, based on the 18 floorpan & probably quick with the 2 litre turbo engine. Most I remember had semi-metallic dark blue paint.

    • The Fuego was the first Renault I can rememnber that had a name not a number, looked quite radical, but never seemed to sell very well and was forgotten by the nineties. Probably as there were hot versions of the 11 and 18, and the coupe market was dominated by the Capri, Manta and Scirocco in Europe, the Fuego was just unlucky and like the Capri, had a lame basic model.

      • The thing I remember about the Fuego was that it didn’t really have a rear hatch; it was more an opening rear window, which meant that to load anything, you had to lift it to waist height.

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