I’ve had this feeling in spades this week, in which I’ve spent quite a lot of the time bombing about the lanes in a 44-year-old Renault 5. Not, I should mention, an Alpine, Gordini or Turbo, let alone anything with its engine where its rear seats should be, but an everyday, ho-hum, common-or-garden Renault 5TL. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the carfolio.com website, but for me it’s the go-to source for statistical information on almost all mainstream old cars about which I wish to find out more. And it states that a 5TL has a 1,108cc, four-cylinder pushrod motor pumping out a not very awesome 45PS (34kW). This was enough for it to hit 60mph from rest in a stately 16 seconds and top out at a mighty 89mph which, to be honest, is quite a lot faster than I expected.
So it’s not very fast. Who cares? It’s brilliant. There is so much to love here and the looks are only the start. One of the first compact hatchbacks, it is fabulously space efficient with room for four in a car so startlingly small you might think there is barely space for two. But I bet the internal dimensions would compare favourably with a modern Clio despite it being over half a metre longer and a quarter of a metre wider.
And the old R5 is superb to drive. The French just did these cars better than anyone else because they understood that if a car is light, so long as it is also well conceived and laid out, it doesn’t need hard suspension to handle well. Let ‘em roll is the philosophy and it works absolutely: with independent suspension at all four corners – unlike any modern small hatchback I can think of – the angles it can adopt mid corner might make an outsider gasp in shock, but inside all you’ll hear are hoots of laughter from you and your passengers.