Currently reading: New Renault 4 to be "Swiss army knife" of small SUVs
Practicality-focused electric crossover will ride higher and have softer suspension than Renault 5

When Renault’s new 4 crossover hits the market in a year’s time, its look and driving characteristics will be “quite different” from the new 5 revealed at Geneva last week, according to its chief engineer, even though it will use the same wheelbase and EV-dedicated platform.

The 4 and 5 are the first of four recipients of the Ampr Small platform, a new design that uses the frontal structure of Renault’s familiar CMF-B platform but has an all-new, highly versatile layout behind the firewall to accommodate different wheelbases and batteries of varying sizes. 

According to Vittorio d’Arienzo, chief engineer of the Renault Group’s small EVs, the platform will eventually be made in three wheelbases – one shared by the 4 and 5, a slightly longer one for a larger vehicle not yet identified and one for the low-priced Twingo, an innovative budget model that may yet be shared with Volkswagen, if a deal currently under discussion is eventually inked. 

The 4, whose styling takes the same 'retro-futuristic' tack as the 5, is considerably taller than its sibling, with higher seating, greater ground clearance and probably a softer ride. Renault is calling it the “Swiss army knife” of the B-segment. D’Arienzo said his engineers are still in the final stages of configuring the Renault 4’s dynamics, but acknowledged that the car is likely to have a considerably softer ride than its sibling. 

Renault 4 prototype testing – side

Ironically, one important reason for the differences in road behaviour is that the pair share a versatile, high-tech multi-link rear suspension design, which d’Arienzo described as “the best tech on the market”. It is compact, saves weight and space compared with a twist-beam set-up – good news for battery capacity – and allows excellent wheel control in different applications and ride heights.

But d’Arienzo has warned customers not to expect the “funny French” ultra-low-rate ride and prodigious wheel travel of the legendary original Renault 4, on sale for more than 30 years from 1961. “With an EV, the situation is different,” he said. “You have to be careful about wheel travel because you have to protect the battery under the car. And you have to cope with the torque of the powertrain, which is so much greater than the original R4."

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While the new 4 E-Tech is likely to ride softly, it won’t have to cope with the extremes of body roll of the legendary original, engineers say. Today’s sophisticated suspension – and especially the new multi-link rear suspension – means you can now have one without the other.

The 4 is expected to share the 5’s three single-motor, front-driven powertrain options, but Autocar understands that the new platform could accommodate a second motor at the rear – potentially paving the way for a four-wheel-drive version of the 4.

Renault 4 prototype testing – rear

The 4 is due to hit showrooms in 2025 as an evolution of 2022's chunky, Dakar-inspired 4Ever Trophy concept.

It was recently pictured for the first time in winter testing, revealing a much higher ride than the new 5, as well as the distinctive slanted C-pillar from the original 4. 

Retro lighting designs at each end, and no doubt a smattering of 1960s-themed trim details inside and out, will enhance its retro appeal.

These early images also provide a first look at the 4's cabin – an obvious visual departure from its Mégane and Scenic range-mates, but still centred around the latest generation of Renault's infotainment system. 

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Renault 4 prototype testing – interior

The 4Ever Trophy concept's more outlandish off-road-inspired design elements – its heavily flared wings and prominent plastic skirts – have been removed for the production car, which will be rather more overtly positioned as an urban-focused compact crossover, while adopting a few rugged cues that nod to the nameplate's utilitarian origins.

The concept's designer, Sandeep Bhambra, previously told Autocar that the original 4 "was a car you could drive in the countryside, you could drive off road, you could drive in the city. 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."

It is expected, nonetheless, to be offered exclusively with front-wheel drive, like the 5, and to major on in-town manoeuvrability and refinement.

Renault has not said when it plans to reveal the new 4, but a likely venue would be the Paris motor show in October, which in 2022 hosted the unveiling of the concept. 

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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FastRenaultFan 22 February 2024
I see Renault in the not far of future being cars for people who want to have cars from before their time or to relive old memories in new cars as well as being a maker of classy cars like the Mègane E-Tech, Scenic and Rafale.
Marc 29 February 2024
Certainly gets my attention because of that. Learnt to drive in a 4 and first car was a early 80's 5.