Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime

| 1 Mar 2024
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime

Why you’d want a Renault Avantime

Full marks for bravery.

Renault led the world with its Matra-conceived Espace in the 1980s, and hoped the Matra-conceived Avantime would create a fresh class of spacious luxury car for the new millennium.

The styling was by Patrick le Quément, known for bold designs such as the Ford Sierra and Renault Twingo.

The Avantime was based on the outgoing Espace platform, with a galvanised-steel floorpan, aluminium body frame (bonded and bolted to the steel) and glassfibre panels.

It featured frameless side windows with no B-pillar to give fully open pillarless capability: super-stylish, but super-hard to seal, especially with such large doors (they are 1.4m long and weigh 55kg each, and have parallelogram hinges to improve access in tight car parks).

The sunroof was the largest opening glass ceiling of its time.

Autocar felt that the Avantime was confused: it tried to be highly comfortable but still give sporting handling, and fell short on both.

The dash looked stunning but was ergonomically flawed, and the seating suffered from a lack of adjustability – and legroom in the rear cabin.

Autocar concluded: ʻBold thinking, poor execution – its appeal is almost solely visual.ʼ

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime

Renault offered three engines from launch: a turbocharged 2-litre petrol ʻfourʼ with 162bhp, capable of 126mph; a heavier 2.2 turbodiesel with 236lb ft and a six-speed manual ʼbox for 121mph; or a 3-litre V6 with 210bhp and either a six-speed manual or five-speed auto, giving 137 or 134mph respectively (although Autocar only managed 128mph with the auto).

The range of engines with little between them in terms of performance baffled buyers, but the UK never saw the diesel and right-hand-drive cars had only two trim options: second-tier Dynamique on the 2.0, and top-level Privilège on the 3.0 with full leather, a heated ʼscreen and more.

In LHD, the base trim was Helios, then Expression, Dynamique and Privilège, with all offered on 2.0s and 2.2s, and the top three on the V6.

Tragically for Matra, which would abandon car production in 2003 as a result, sales didnʼt come, and the Renault Avantime was axed after only 8557 were built (445 for the UK, 207 more in RHD for Japan).

Two decades on, survivors are seen as intriguing modern classics with rarity and unique conceptuality in their favour, but parts availability is a significant concern.

Images: James Mann

Renault Avantime: what to look for

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime

Trouble spots

Please see above for what to check for before you look at any Renault Avantime cars for sale.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime


Renault Espace-derived engine options were the iron-block 2-litre turbo and all-alloy 3-litre V6 petrol (as here) in the UK.

Both are widely used in Renault’s range so easy to service.

Regular cambelt changes are vital, as are auxiliary belts.

Ethanol worries mean E5 is required for the 2.0, although the 3.0 should cope with E10.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime


This is a paint reaction rather than rust.

The body and roof are aluminium, so it’s a common issue that can be rectified by a localised stripping and respray.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime


The automatic gearbox is prone to jolting on take-off; check reverse, too.

On manuals, verify clutch operation: DMFs aren’t available; and hydraulic parts are tricky to source.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime


The Renault Avantime is opulent but weak inside: check operation of all heating elements and chair recline/tip handles.

Inspect the seat squab material, which can split.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime


Rear wheel bearings are prone to failure and alloys can corrode: check the centre caps are present, because these are scarce now.

The handbrake gets weak.

Renault Avantime: before you buy

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime

With such a vast range of options and low production, Renault Avantimes were bespoke cars with almost no two exactly the same.

Left-hand-drive cars also had the (rarely specified) options of a five-speed auto on the 2-litre and an opaque fixed roof instead of the opening sunroof.

There were 13 different paint colours, seven dash/door-trim specs, nine leather and one cloth seat choices, five wheel options and much more.

There was even a Sports kit with front, rear and side skirts.

The options list was massive and many combinations were inevitably unique.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime

The engines were widely used across the Renault range and capable of high mileages without problems, if well maintained.

Most important is a cambelt replacement every five years or 72,000 miles on the V6, and the auxiliary belt and pulleys must be kept in good condition.

The 2-litre turbo needs E5 super-unleaded fuel; the 3-litre can tolerate E10.

Electronics are complex and prone to failure, so test everything thoroughly.

Check for two working keys; the long sunroof can become juddery (lubricate it) or suffer stripped gears (expensive); door windows should drop on opening each door and go up/down smoothly; headlight levelling fails; the airbag warning light stays on (usually due to connections under the seat); the heater-blower resistor can break; windscreen heating on 3.0s fails (windscreens are expensive to replace and hard to source); seat-heating elements can fail; rear washer feeds split; and CD autochangers rarely work.

Renault Avantime price guide


  • 2.0 Turbo: £1200/5000/10,000*
  • 3.0 V6: £1500/6500/12,000*

V6 manuals are most collectible so tend to command a premium. LHD cars on the Continent can fetch up to twice the prices achieved for similar RHD cars in the UK

*Prices correct at date of original publication

Renault Avantime history

1995 Initiale concept shown

1999 Concept launched at Geneva in March; production version unveiled later in the year at the Frankfurt show

2001 Launch: 2.0 turbo petrol, 162bhp, 184lb ft; 3.0 V6, 210bhp, 207lb ft

2002 Auto option added on V6 only; 2.2 turbodiesel added in LHD only, with 148bhp and 236lb ft

2003 Avantime canned, and Matra abandons car production

The owner’s view

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime

Johnny Essex has owned his Renault Avantime V6 Privilège automatic for 15 years.

“I saw one in London in 2008 and thought ‘what a stunning machine’ – so I bought this one and used to commute in it from Essex to Kent.

“It jiggles about at low speeds, but it’s a lovely high-speed cruiser and the automatic gearbox suits the car.

“I’ve done 66,000 miles in it, so I’ve seen a few of the problems they are prone to, including the ignition coils on the V6 failing, stretchy handbrake cables, a fuel leak from the top of the tank and a failed starter. I’ve bought a registration number to suit the car, too.

“I’m the registrar for Avantime Owners UK, and we have details of 96% of the UK cars now.

“People are very enthusiastic about them: one is building a collection of every colour sold in the UK.

“I look at mine on the drive and it puts a  smile on my face – people come up to me at petrol stations to admire it.”

Also consider

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime

The Volvo C70 (left) and the Peugeot 406 are alternative buys


Handsome coupé and convertible designed by Ian Callum and developed by TWR with potent five-cylinder petrols, from 168bhp to 242bhp. Check for coolant/oil mixing and neglect.

Sold 1996-2005 • No. built 76,809 • Price now £600-5000*


Sleek Pininfarina-designed and built Coupé with similar engines (although non-turbo 2.0) and lots of trim options. Conventional looks proved popular. Cheap, but check electrics and rust.

Sold 1997-2004 • No. built 107,631 • Price now £500-5000*

*Prices correct at date of original publication

Renault Avantime: the Classic & Sports Car verdict

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Renault Avantime

The Renault Avantime fulfils all the criteria of classic status: survivors are now being restored and enthusiasts are making parts they can’t buy.

Prices are healthy, with a very low-mileage example selling for €28,600 a year ago.

Bargains still exist, but check potential purchases carefully, because there are many possible pitfalls.

A few faults are inevitable, but walk away if there are too many.



  • The Avantime has achieved classic status early, and there’s an enthusiastic club
  • It remains a usable and enjoyable car to drive



  • Complexity and a growing number of unavailable parts will handicap ownership as secondhand parts supply dries up

Renault Avantime specifications

  • Sold/number built 2001-’03/8557
  • Construction galvanised steel platform and aluminium body frame, with unstressed glassfibre panels
  • Engine iron-block, alloy-head, dohc, 16v 2188cc turbodiesel ‘four’ with direct fuel injection; dohc, 16v 1998cc turbocharged petrol ‘four’, direct fuel injection; or all-alloy, dohc-per-bank, 24v 2946cc V6 with sequential multi-point fuel injection
  • Max power 148bhp @ 4000rpm to 210bhp @ 6000rpm
  • Max torque 184lb ft @ 2000rpm to 236lb ft @ 1750rpm
  • Transmission six-speed manual or five-speed auto, FWD with traction control
  • Suspension independent, at front by MacPherson struts rear torsion beam, coil springs, anti-roll bar f/r; ESP stability control
  • Steering power-assisted rack and pinion
  • Brakes discs, with servo, ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD)
  • Length 15ft 2¾in (4642mm)
  • Width 6ft ¼in (1834mm)
  • Height 5ft 4in (1627mm)
  • Wheelbase 8ft 10½in (2702mm)
  • Weight 3610-3874lb (1641-1761kg)
  • 0-60mph 8.8-11.4 secs
  • Top speed 121-128mph
  • Mpg 22-40
  • Price new £24,050 (2.0)/£2 7,050 (3.0)


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