Words & snaps by Ben
Welcome to L'Atelier Renault, the 4th stop in our visit to Paris' concept dealerships!
So far, the trip had been rather disappointing, with Citroën showcasing their 30 years old (and older) models, Mercedes living in a fairy tale, and Peugeot exploring a culinary road.
I still had 2 stops planned - Renault and Nissan, and I was hoping to see at least a handful of cool cars, but my hopes were rather low after the previous 3 visits.
Until I stepped inside the Atelier (read: "workshop", in French), where I finally found what I was looking for - behold, the long awaited, first concept car of my Paris trip - the Renault Dezir.
It's easy to find where they derived the name of this gorgeous concept from: Désir, meaning desire in French, but with a "z", 'cause it's more hip.
The car is how we like concepts to be - sexy with organic lines, slapped with big wheels on all 4 corners.
The inside, glimpsed through the gullwing door revealed some rather funky-looking seat that Captain Picard would love to have in the Enterprise.
The steering wheel too looks pretty forward-looking, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who wanted to grab it and take the electric-powered concept for a spin.
Then it showed us its booty, which featured a big array of vents (or new-age diffusers?), and the charging port, right underneath where the back window was missing. Who cares, it's a concept car! It'll probably have an array of cameras linked to a holographic projector in the car, or maybe a couple of laser beams that zap anything you could run into. I love concept cars!
Then I looked behind me and saw the Renault Captur. This time they removed the "e" at the end, 'cause it's more hip.
As I gazed further in the Atelier, Renault was showcasing another 2 Capturs, both sporting the same colour and trim as the one near the entrance.
And then there were even more Capturs. They were everywhere. Renault seemed to be in a craze about their new crossover. They seemed to be so excited about it that they could have pinned it on the wall. Well, they actually did.
On one side they were showcasing the heart of the Captur - a 3 cylinder engine.
And guess what? There was a Captur parked next to it, just in case if we were wondering which car this motor would be fitted in.
One the side, a station showed the extent of customisation you could bring to the Captur. A cute little console allowed you to select your favourite body colour, roof colour, rims and interior trim, and would render the results on its screen.
I think it was a great move by Renault to have this console, otherwise I would think that it only ever came in orange, with a unique interior and a single set or rims, as showcased on the 5 examples that were spread out everywhere around.
Then I discovered a small passageway, out on one side, that led to another room. Were they hiding their more precious prototypes over there?
No, of course not, that would be too easy. All they had back there were their electric cars, starting with the Zoe. This is Renault's electric city car, also known as the Leaf on Nissan's side of the Renault-Nissan partnership. The two brands use these models to spearhead the growing electric car movement.
The second and last road-ready electric vehicle featured at the Atelier was the Twizy. With a name that sounds like a popular chocolate snack bar, 'cause it's more hip, this weird contraption is like a four-wheeled scooter, a sort of quad if you want. It can carry up to 2 people and is made for the youngsters.
In France, teenagers are allowed to pass a special license at the age of 14, which only requires a basic theory test and allows them to drive a scooter up to 50cc. The Twizy and its 5hp fits in this category, which surely delights parents, as they'll feel it's safer to let their kids go about on 4 wheels instead of 2, and with a roof over their head in case of rain. Understandable.
The Twizy is not really a novelty since it has been on sale since March 2012, but it's electric, so it still had its place there. Come to think about it, the Zoe has also been in production since 2012, so Renault wasn't showing any groundbreaking stuff there.
And that concluded the tour of the Atelier Renault. Next up, the final showroom: Nissan!