Renault 16

Renault 16

Renault 16 TL
Manufacturer Renault
Also called Renault R16 [1]
Production 1965–1980
Assembly Sandouville, France[2]
Flins, France[2]
West Heidelberg, Australia[3]
Designer Gaston Juchet[4][5][6]
Body and chassis
Class Large family car (D)
Body style 5-door hatchback
Layout MF layout
Engine A-Type 1.4 L I4
A-Type 1.5 L I4
A-Type 1.6 L I4
Transmission 4-speed manual
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
Wheelbase Left: 2,720 mm (107.1 in)
Right: 2,650 mm (104.3 in)
Length 4,240 mm (166.9 in)
Width 1,628 mm (64.1 in)
Height 1,450 mm (57.1 in)
Curb weight 980 kg (2,160 lb)-1,060 kg (2,340 lb)
Predecessor Renault Frégate
Successor Renault 20/30
1968–1970 Renault 16 TS
Post-1975 Renault 16, featuring the black plastic grille

The Renault 16 (R16) is a large family hatchback produced by French automaker Renault between 1965 and 1980 in Le Havre, France.

Market Placement

In the early 1960s Renault was building a series of small cars, like the hatchback Renault 4 and rear engine Renault Dauphine [7] and aimed to replace its larger family car, the Renault Frégate model (1951–1960) which had managed a modest production total of 163,383 units.[8]

The R16 was a great success, with 1,845,959 R16s produced during a production run of 15 years. The car sold well in most of Europe, winning praise for its spacious and comfortable interior. It was marketed in the United States, but was not successful and only a few were sold.[9]

Interestingly, Citroën was designing an extremely similar car in the early 1960s (Projet F), to bridge their own enormous market gap between the tiny 2CV and luxury DS models. When Citroën realized that Renault was introducing the R16, they took the unusual step of canceling Projet F.[10] Due to the similarity of construction, rumours of Renault conducting industrial espionage abounded, but were never proven.


Under the skin, the layout of the R16 is similar to the Citroën Traction Avantfront-wheel drive, engine mounted inline behind the transmission. torsion bar suspension, and column mounted shift.[11][12] In addition the car had an aluminum engine and an electric cooling fan, both technical innovations.[13]

The big innovation was the modern, practical body style – introducing the hatchback to the mid-size family segment. This allowed the interior to be immensely flexible, and could be configured in seven different ways.[14] This body style is halfway between a saloon and an estate, and, before the term hatchback was coined, journalists struggled to describe it. A review in the English Motoring Illustrated in May 1965 stated: "The Renault Sixteen can thus be described as a large family car but one that is neither a four door saloon and nor is it quite an estate. But, importantly, it is a little different."[15]

One peculiarity of the R16, and later Renault 5, design is that the two back wheel axle shafts are not in-line. The left wheelbase is 70 mm (2.76 in) longer than the right wheelbase, to accommodate the torsion bar suspension. This and the soft front seats gives the car a particularly smooth ride even over big bumps.[16] The suspension has the longest travel on a car of this size; if the handbrake is applied and reverse gear engaged, the rear bumper will raise about one foot.

The engine was mounted north-south in the front, behind the gearbox/transaxle. This contributed to the handling and balance of this car by keeping the weight closer to the centre of the car. Traditional front drive layouts are either east-west or in some cases north-south but with the engine in front of the transmission.[17] Although this north-south/forward gearbox layout gave excellent handling, servicing access to the engine was so difficult that the R16's successor, the Renault 20, kept the north-south layout but put the engine ahead of the gearbox.

Gear changing was performed by means of a column-mounted lever which allowed for a more spacious front cabin,.[18] The column-mounted gear change (required by the position of the transmission in front of the engine) was rare in West European markets.

Model history

Series production started in March 1965 at the company's recently completed Sandouville plant, a few kilometers to the east of Le Havre.[19] The car had its formal launch in March 1965 at the Geneva Motor Show, and was made available for sale to the public during June 1965.[20]

Equipment levels were high for the price. Initially, Renault sold the R16 with just a 1.4 L gasoline engine in GL specification for which 55 PS (40 kW; 54 hp) was claimed;[19] in March 1968 there appeared at the Geneva Motor Show the 1.6 L I4 TS[19] which could top 100 mph (160 km/h). An automatic transmission version, designated the Renault 16 TA, was introduced at the Geneva Motor Show early in 1969.[21] The top-line model was the TX, launched at the Paris Motor Show in October 1973, featuring a 5-speed manual transmission.[19] Equipment included power windows for the front doors and central door locking, one of the first family cars in Europe to feature such equipment.

Production of the R16 continued until 1980, five years after the arrival of its successor, the larger Renault 20, with the Renault 18 saloon and estates continuing as Renault's only offering of this size in Europe. By the time the R16 ceased production most other European manufacturers had at least one hatchback on sale, although most cars of the R16's size were still sold as saloons or estates; the exceptions were the Austin Maxi, Talbot Alpine (previously sold as a Chrysler or Simca) and Volkswagen Passat. Renault did not build a hatchback of this size until the hatchback version of the Renault 21 was launched in 1989.

The 16 had no major competitors until the arrival of the Alec Issigonis designed Austin Maxi in 1969, but the Austin Maxi was almost unknown outside of the UK.[22]


In 1970, racing driver Stirling Moss exclaimed: "There is no doubt that the Renault 16 is the most intelligently engineered automobile I have ever encountered and I think that each British motorcar manufacturer would do well to purchase one just to see how it is put together".[23]

Retired Renault styling chief Patrick le Quément made no secret of his admiration for the R16 — and incorporated a subtle tribute to its "bird-beak" grille in the corporate look he devised for models such as the Laguna, Mégane and Scénic that the company launched in the 1990s.

Pre-launch publicity was extensive, with semi-authorized media leaks.[20] L'Auto-Journal reported details of the car, at this stage in an exclusive report, towards the end of 1963.[20] During October 1964, timed to coincide with the Paris Motor Show, Renault distributed photographs of its innovative new family car, still at this stage described simply as the forthcoming "Renault 1500", for publication as "scoop" pictures in various magazines.[20] It was only two months later that the car, now officially named a "Renault 16", was approved for sale by the French homologation authorities.[20]


The Renault 16 was voted European Car of the Year by a board of European motoring journalists in 1966. It was the third year of the accolade's existence, and the Renault 16 was the first French winner of the award.[24]

By 1976, Renault had six hatchbacks in production; the R4, R5, R6, R14, R20 and R30.



Wikimedia Commons has media related to Renault 16.
  1. The Observer's Book of Automobiles, Eleventh Edition, 1965, page 218
  2. 1 2 "Sharing the Community spirit". Autocar. Vol. 136 (nbr 3967). 27 April 1972. pp. 51–52 9.
  3. Renault 16, Unique Cars, Issue 323, Apr 13 – May 13, 2011, page 116
  4. Ciferri, Luca (7 May 2001). "Who designed important cars in history?". Automotive News Europoe. Crain Communications.
  5. "Mezzo secolo di Renault 16" [Half a century for the Renault 16]. (in Italian). Gruppo Editoriale L’Espresso. 26 May 2015.
  6. "Renault family cars: Fifty years of history since the Renault 16". Renault. 3 February 2015.
  8. Bellu, René (2002). "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1959 (salon Paris Oct 1958). Paris. 21: 57.
  9. Murilee Martin,Possibly the Only 1969 Renault 16 in America, Jalopnik, (retrieved 7 August 2015)
  15. Motoring Illustrated, May 1965
  17. "". Retrieved January 8, 2008.
  18. "Motor Brief Test: Renault 16TL". Motor. No. Nbr 3581. 20 February 1971. pp. 9–14.
  19. 1 2 3 4 "Nicht nor eine grosse Klappe: Erfolgreiche Autos (1): die Geschichte des seit 12 Jahren gebauten Renault 16". Auto, Motor und Sport. Vol. Heft 12 1977. 8 June 1977. pp. 102–111.
  20. 1 2 3 4 5 Bellu, René (2003). "Toutes les voitures françaises 1965 (salon Paris, Oct 1964)". Automobilia. Paris: Histoire &collections. 25: 70–75.
  21. "Renault 16 Automatic on the road". Autocar. Vol. 130 (nbr 3815). 27 March 1969. p. 12.
  24. "Previous winners". Car of the year. Retrieved 2010-09-18.
  25. Simon Fitzpatrick, Renault in Australia, Retrieved 5 December 2015
  26. "1965 Renault 16 review | CAR Magazine Online". Retrieved 2010-09-18.
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