Originally conceived by Renault and its partner, Matra, the first Espace appeared in 1984 and was initially greeted with a combination of intrigue and scepticism - nothing like Espace had ever been seen before. Flying in the face of accepted wisdom, the Espace epitomised Renault’s desire to push the boundaries of conventional design and create a car which met the changing needs of a rapidly evolving society.
Espace I was unveiled to the Press in April 1984 as a 110hp 2.0 litre petrol model, this first version being joined the end of 1984 with an 88hp turbo-charged diesel model. On sale in France from July 1984, sales at the start were slow as people struggled to appreciate the look of a high roof ‘one box’ car. Sales climbed in 1985, and demand soon outstripped production at the Matra Romorantin plant, leading to the need for extra manufacturing capacity at the Renault Dieppe plant in 1987.
With sales topping 192,000, the first-generation Espace underwent a major facelift in January 1988; all versions had fresh frontal styling, and a Quadra version was introduced with four-wheel drive.