The stylish Renault Fuego joined the massed ranks of well-equipped, moderately priced sports coupes available on the British market a couple of years ago, its distinctive profile gaining ready acceptance amongst those who wanted an essentially practical, yet distinctively styled machine with sporting pretensions. It wasn’t electrifying in terms of performance, although it was quite adequate, so it was hardly unexpected when the French manufacturer produced a turbocharged version at the end of 1983.
Built at Renault’s Mauberge factory close to the Belgian border, this latest Fuego derivative is powered by the 77 x 84 mm, 1,565 cc turbocharged engine developed from the unit employed in the successful Renault 18 Turbo saloon. Developing 132 bhp at 5,500 rpm, this is sufficient to propel the French coupe smoothly up to about 123 mph with a 0-60 mph time of 9.1 sec. The Type A5L D 70 engine which is used in this turbocharged Fuego represents a bias towards performance that the combination of performance and economy intended by the Renault 18 turbo. Thus a higher 8.0:1 compression ratio is employed, allowing the engine to use a higher turbocharger boost pressure than on the saloon: the Fuego turbo runs as high as 11 psi whereas the 18 turbo never exceeds nine psi. Other under-bonnet refinements include an electronic ignition system, revised carburation and a pressure switch operated electric fan which comes on automatically to cool the engine compartment, particularly round the carburettor, so as to ensure ease of starting even when the engine is hot. This latter development has been the subject of a Renault patent application, incidentally.
As always, the interior of any Renault is most inviting from the point of view of driver comfort and the Fuego turbo is certainly no exception to that rule. The notably accommodating individual front seats are attractively trimmed in pinstriped velour. As an extra cost option, leather hide trim is also available at a cost of £577 including tax and VAT. Although a little restricted on leg room, rear seat occupants are also catered for with a high standard of comfort and more than adequate headroom for all but the tallest passengers. If the back seats are not needed, then either or both fold forward to provide a large luggage carrying area, although it must be said that the rear wheel arches intrude quite noticably. The driving position is pleasantly versatile and most people should have no difficulty getting comfortable behind the thick-rimmed, fabric covered four-spoke steering wheel. Immediately in front of the driver a wide hooded fascia panel contains clearly legible instrumention including a 140 mph speedometer and matching rev counter, the latter red lined from 5,500 rpm. Oil pressure, water temperature and fuel contents gauges are positioned between the two major dials while on the outer flanks one finds press button controls for the hazard warning lights, fog lights, heated rear screen, rear window wash wipe etc. Steering column stalks provide the master controls for the lights and windscreen wiper / washers in typical Renault style. In the centre of the fascia, to the left of an apparently accurate digital clock, the turbo boost gauge tells its own story as the revs rise and the Fuego turbo bursts into energetic life. The turbocharger chimes in progressively and smoothly, with no sudden “thump”, and the overall impression is of a tractable and flexible, very refined machine. The combination of nicely weighted power steering and, by Renault standards, pretty firm suspension, by means of double wishbones at the front with a dead axle and twin trailing arms working in conjunction with coil springs at the rear, offers the enthusiastic driver a nice balance between comfortable ride and secure handling. In fact, I have to confess that this was the first Renault I’ve driven for a long time in which the softness of the ride didn’t prove slightly disconcerting.
During the week the Fuego turbo was in our hands it returned a commendable 31.4 mpg, endearing itself to us as a willing, well finished and charming car in typically Gallic style. Furthermore it is notably well equipped, featuring such refinements as alloy wheels, windscreen wipe / washers, electric windows, central locking and twin electrically adjustable door mirrors in its £8,700 tax paid price tag. Certainly worth considering! — A. H .