First Drive: 2009 Renault Megane R26.R

Mark Fagelson

Renault in America: More Than Le Car
-Robert Cumberford

Renault was one of the first postwar car importers, bringing the tiny 4CV sedan to America before Volkswagens were officially distributed here. The disastrously unreliable Dauphine established a reputation that Renault never overcame, even when quite good cars were on offer. Here are three notable Renaults sold in America:

Renault Caravelle - 1960-67
Embodying Bardot-era French chic, the stylish convertible was embraced on both coasts, but sluggish performance, with an 845-cc engine and a three-speed gearbox (later 1108 cc with four speeds) and fragile build quality made it a tough sell for anyone who wanted to use it as an everyday car.

Renault 16 - 1969-72
Certainly cutting a unique profile, the 16 was light, well-balanced, and provided clever seating arrangements. It was decent looking, spacious, and helped establish front-wheel drive and a rear hatch as a family-car norm. Its mostly aluminum engine was used by Lotus and Alpine for sports cars.

Renault 5 (Le Car) - 1976-83
The underpinnings were old (1946 engine, 1961 front-wheel-drive layout), but brilliant styling made it the first popular French car widely admired for its appearance. The in-house design job was good enough that the transverse-engine Supercinq successor was essentially the same, just a bit bigger.

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