The new electric version of the Renault 5 is currently making waves. That's hardly surprising, given that the soon-to-be-released 5 E-Tech Electric is keen to quote its own past. But while the company is showcasing the original 1972 version, the second generation of the little car is being forgotten, and that's just when the 'Supercinq' will be celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2024.

Back in 1984, the Renault 5 had already been on the market for twelve years and more than five million vehicles had been sold, but the competition was not sleeping. In 1981 the second generation Volkswagen Polo appeared, in 1982 the Opel-Vauxhall Corsa and finally in 1983 the new Peugeot 205 and the Fiat Uno. Both hit the market like a bombshell, forcing Renault to react.

Gallery: Renault 5 (1984-1996)

In fact, the new Renault 5 was not due to appear until the 1986 model year, but the brakes were put on. The "Supercinq", the unofficial name used to distinguish it from its predecessor, dominated the 1984 Paris Motor Show. Quite literally, as a gigantic Supercinq model took pride of place in the Renault hall.

New technology with a familiar look

The 1984 model year marked the end of the career of the first-generation Renault 5. After 5,544,695 vehicles had been produced in 13 years, the "Supercinq" ("Super 5") was once again an entirely new successor. In Germany, the car is simply called "der neue Renault 5" (the new Renault 5).

Continuity also reigns in terms of design, which is strongly inspired by its predecessor, but which appears smoother and more mature overall. Responsibility for this lies with star designer Marcello Gandini, who openly admits that he couldn't think of a better shape. In length, the 5 Series is 8.5 centimetres longer at 3.59 metres, and 3.5 centimetres wider at 1.58 metres. From the outset, Renault also offered a four-door version of the Supercinq, which was extended by a further six centimetres to 3.65 metres.

Renault 5 (1984-1996)

Renault Supercinq (front) and the old Renault 5

Despite its outward resemblance to the family, a glance beneath the sheet metal shows that this is an entirely new vehicle. The Supercinq's platform is now derived from the Renault 9. As a result, the engines are now mounted transversely in front of the front axle rather than longitudinally behind it, for greater interior space. The chassis has also been fundamentally reworked and improved. The front axle is now fitted with McPherson struts, while longitudinal arms and torsion bars guide the rear wheels with independent suspension.

The new Renault 5 starts its career with a much wider range of engines than its predecessor. In addition to the basic 1.0-litre unit with 41 PS, a 1.1-litre engine with 45 PS and a 1.4-litre engine with 59 PS and 71 PS respectively are available. But these units are not new, as grey cast iron blocks have already been around for 20 years at Renault. The fact remains that these Cléon-Fonte engines are reputed to be almost indestructible.

Renault 5 (1984-1996)

Renault 5 GT Turbo

That's not quite the case with the top-of-the-range version, the GT Turbo. Its supercharged 1.4-litre engine develops 115 PS, propels the dynamic compact from 0 to 62 mph in just 8.0 seconds and enables it to reach a top speed of 124 mph. Starting price: DM 19,295.

The boyfriend

Shortly after its premiere, the magazine "auto, motor und sport" tested the new Renault 5 in GTL version with 59 PS for 13,490 marks. The powerful engine and comfortable chassis were praised, as were the handling and good visibility. However, there were complaints about the awkward recessed door handles on the three-door, the overall quality and the obsolete belt whips. At least the boot holds 233 litres. The assessment of the colleagues remains mixed, we recognise the progress, but we regret a certain originality.  

In the German advert, the Supercinq is cleverly presented as a 'little friend' who comes to the aid of its owners or those interested in buying it. An example: "Do something crazy? Come on, says the boyfriend". Between the end of 1986 and the beginning of 1991, the Belgian company EBS also produced a cabriolet version, 1400 examples in all, including 14 in GT Turbo.

Renault 5 (1984-1996)

Very rare indeed: The Renault 5 Cabrio from EBS

In 1986, the first variants equipped with a three-way catalytic converter regulated by lambda according to the American standard - the ultimate in pollution control at the time - were launched. Renault thus played a pioneering role throughout the market. Just three years later, all petrol engines for the German market were fitted with catalytic converters.

It was also in 1986 that diesel made its debut under the bonnet of the 5 Series: the Renault 5 TD (three-door) and GTD (four-door) with 1.6 litres of displacement developed 55 PS and were among the most economical models on the market at the time, with a fuel consumption of 5.1 litres per 100 kilometres in the third-party mix of the time.

Clio and Twingo, heirs to the 5

Thanks to its successful technical base and meticulous model maintenance, the Renault 5 remained at the cutting edge right up to the end of its production period. In 1990, Renault gave it a designated successor, the Clio, which arrived in Germany a year later. But that didn't mean the end of the much-loved 5 Series.

Renault 5 (1984-1996)

Renault 5 (1984-1996)

The two popular models were built in parallel. The 5 was joined by the Twingo in 1993, and the Supercinq rolled off the production lines in Slovenia until 1996. Then, after 24 years and a total of 9,008,912 examples of the two series, it was time to say goodbye to this enduring success. The Supercinq has around 3.4 million units.

Decades later, this means a good spare parts situation and a number of surviving vehicles. Thanks also to much better rust prevention than for the first generation of the 5. Will second-hand prices for the little car rise in the wake of its electric successor? We'll be keeping an eye on that.