Thursday January 16, 2020
Forty years ago, a new Fuego would have provoked second glances.
It is not just that it looked so different to the 15 and 17 that it replaced; it is also that the Renault appeared to hail from another age in comparison with the Ford Capri Mk. III or the Opel Manta B.
The Fuego’s looks were as up to the minute as one of those new Acorn Atom home computers and the coachwork was created under the auspices of the great Robert Opron.
It was also one of the first mass-produced four-seat coupes to be designed in a wind tunnel.
Just as the 15/17 were derived from the Renault 12, the Fuego was based on the 18. For the junior executive, there was the lowly 1.4-litre TL, and by 1981 the flagship was the 2-0-litre GTX.
The engine was the 1995cc unit from the 20 and electric front windows and height-adjustable steering as standard– luxuries not even found on the Capri Ghia.
Autocar thought ‘If you enjoy the undeniable punch of 2-Litres, and also value economy, then the Renault is certainly a very desirable machine; it does go excellently although we would prefer more refinement, at any rate going by the test car’.
With a top speed of 113 mph, the Fuego was seven mph faster than the Capri 2000S Mk. III, but the Renault was probably aimed at motorists who favoured the VW Scirocco GTi, which at £6,475 was both £175 cheaper than the French car and slightly faster.
In the following year Car evaluated the GTX opposite the Volkswagen and the Lancia Beta 2000 Coupe and praised its spaciousness – ‘a genuine four-seater’ – and how ‘it handles very well’.
For the buyer in search of ‘generous and luxurious accommodation’ the Fuego was ‘your car’.
The 1983 model year saw the upmarket versions of the Fuego equipped with remote control central locking – this was a major gimmick in the early 1980s – and in the following year, Renault introduced the Turbo.
To emphasise the near 122 mph top speed the word “TURBO” was emblazoned on the doors in large helpful letters. Despite such decorations, Motor Sport was very taken with the new Fuego – ‘a willing, well finished and charming car in typically Gallic style’.
At £8,700 the Turbo was just £47 more expensive than the Capri Injection (although it was not as rapid) and Motor regarded it as ‘arguably the most fun to drive’ of any production Renault.
They also lauded how it did not ‘trade outright performance for refinement and economy’.
Meanwhile, Car tested the Fuego opposite the Volkswagen Scirocco GTX and the Nissan Silvia ZX Turbo, rating the VW top but praising how the Renault was ‘fun to drive with its Turbo urge’.
French production ceased as early as 1985, although Renault continued to build the Fuego at their Spanish plants for another year and their Argentinian factory until as recently as 1992.
No less a scribe than L J K Setright thought the Fuego was ‘blessed with a body which is not only roomy and aerodynamically efficient but is also beautiful’.
Until 1982 it was the best-selling coupé in Europe – but today they almost as rare a sight as a Facel Vega…
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