The reborn Renault 4 is a retro-styled electric crossover primed to become the French brand's best-selling EV when it launches in 2025.
Twinned with the lower-slung and similarly nostalgic 2024 Renault 5 supermini, it will be the second car to use Renault's compact CMF-BEV architecture and will be built alongside the 5 at Renault's new ElectriCity production hub in northern France.
The 4 has appeared for the first time in concept form at the Paris motor show, wearing an outlandish off-road-themed bodykit in reference to the modified Renault 4s that take part in the yearly 4L Trophy rally across the Moroccan desert.
The original 4 – variously referred to as the world's first mass-production hatchback, MPV and crossover – was a hugely important car for Renault and sold more than eight million units across a three-decade production run. In reviving its name and some of its defining design cues, Renault is hinting at similar volume aspirations for the electric second coming.
"It was a car you could drive in the countryside, you could drive off road, you could drive in the city," designer Sandeep Bhambra told Autocar. "So that versatility was part of the brief: we wanted to make the 4 the most versatile car in the segment, whereas the 5 is more of an urban city car."
So while the production-spec 4 will lose the '4Ever Trophy' concept's more rugged cues and sit slightly closer to the ground (Bhambra said: "Whatever you see in the body colour is very, very close to production"), the focus on practicality and utility will remain.
Measuring 4060mm long and with a wheelbase of 2570mm, the concept is slightly smaller than the Captur but a tad larger than the Clio. With the lack of a combustion motor up front, and with no transmission tunnel running through the cabin, it should offer an overall boost in space and functionality. Renault has yet to show the interior of the 4 or 5, but a reveal is expected next year.
Product boss Laure Gregoire gave Autocar an idea of the differences in priority between the 4 and 5: "In the B-SUV segment, one customer out of two uses it as their main car and 50% as a second car, so you have a bigger scope of usage than on the B-hatch [Renault 5] which is more specialised.
"On this one, we need more roominess, more practicality. This is where the Renault 4 will separate itself from the 5. This is what we are working on."
The 4 will draw its power from a 42kWh nickel-cobalt-manganese battery mounted under the floor and expected to give a range of around 250 miles. It will be propelled by a 134bhp synchronous motor on the front axle, which should enable a 0-62mph time of less than 9.0sec mark. These figures will position the crossover as a rival to the Vauxhall Mokka Electric and MG ZS EV.
Renault bosses would not be drawn on the potential for more powerful or four-wheel-drive variants at this early stage, but sibling performance brand Alpine will launch a 215bhp hot version of the 5 in 2024, so a technically identical 4 would not be an impossibility.
There is also no suggestion the 4 is in line for a hydrogen-assisted powertrain, as previewed by the recent Scenic Vision concept. "Hydrogen is another topic for another project," said Gregoire, citing the company's ambition for pure-EVs to account for 65% of its sales by 2025, and 90% by 2030.
But just as important as the car itself is the way Renault will sell it. Gregoire told Autocar: "It's a new product, but it's also a new business that we have to invent, of course, to keep it as accessible and affordable as possible for the customers". She referenced the roughly 90% of cars in France that are leased and suggested that the 4 has been conceived partly with a focus on subscription services. Notably, the Renault Group's newly hived-off mobility sub-brand, Mobilize, which operates on a subscription model, is expected to account for 30% of the company's total revenues by 2030 - a push in which the 4 could play a core role.
But a headline on-the-road price of around £25,000 for private customers looks likely, based on earlier suggestions that the 4 will command a premium over the 5, which bosses are keen to launch at sub-£20k.
New 4 not a 4x4
Underneath the Dakar-flavoured bodykit, Renault's new EV crossover is an urban-focused proposition, so the production car won't have...
A carbonfibre roof rack complete with huge spare tyre and emergency shovel
100mm-thick arch cladding on each side and 19in wheels wrapped in 30in tyres
Reinforced protective plating running underneath the floor-mounted battery
Air compressors mounted within the rims to quickly change the tyre pressures