This roadtest was in Auto Express issue 710 dated 26/6/02. It is their First drive of the Renault Avantime 2.0T

Ever get the feeling your'e being watched? You will in the Renault Avantime, because no other car on sale has quite the visual impact of the the French firm's bizarre coupe-cabriolet-MPV. Even in base 2.0-litre form, the wacky newcomer draws attention, and that's the whole point of this car. But do its bizzarre looks mean an equally unusual driving experience, or is the 165bhp machine a lot more sensible at heart?
If you like to be thrilled, then the only kick you'll get out of the Avantime is in its styling. Dynamically, it feels similar to the Espace - not surprising when you consider they share a platform - and while it corners with little drama, it doesn't feel rewarding.
But when it comes to cruising, the Avantime gives a much better account of itself. The engine might not have the same smoothness of tractability as the 3.0-litre V6, but it still offers lively performance, with 0-60mph in 9.9 seconds and no turbo lag. The six-speed box has a slick change, and keeps engine noise to a minimum at motorway speeds. Unfortunately, we found the lever was too far to the left.
If you try to find the Avantime's raison d'etre, chances are you'll give up. But as a completely unworldly alternative to more conventional executive choices, it's certainly the artistic option. View it as a spaceship with wheels.

Auto Express First opinion
The entry level Avantime offers as much visual impact as the top spec V6 but for a lot less cash. An odd driving position and average dynamics will put off enthusiasts, but if you've got to have the funkiest looks in town, the radical Renault can't be beaten.
At a glance
  • Avantime 2.0T Dynamique, on salen now priced £24,050
  • Part leather, climate control and CD changer are standard fit

Words by Craig Cheetham