An Enjoyable Way of Saving Petrol
It was fortunate that a Renault 5GTL came up for road-test over the Brooklands Reunion week-end, in view of the panic over petrol supplies. It took me home from Acton to Wales in a creditably short time, proving able to cruise along with the rest of the traffic on the M40, when it has a low-cacophony-factor for a 1.3-litre car. The Renault 5 – “Le Car” – is fun, but also very practical, with its three-door body and folding back seat. The seats are exceedingly comfortable, the torsion-bar suspension soaks up bad roads (and ground clearance is excellent), yet it allows quick cornering under controlled roll, from not over-light but very taut rack-and-pinion steering and the disc/drum brakes are more than adequate, as I found in a frontal country-lane emergency. Controls are simple, the somewhat notchy but conveniently long gear lever now growing out of the floor. The clutch is light. The two-speed wipers functioning independently of the ignition. One odd item is that once the passenger’s door has been locked it remains so until unlocked externally with the key. There is no lockable oddments storage but the front doors have deep bins. Heating, de-misting and cold-air feed gain high marks.
I suppose you could persuade the GTL up to over 80 mph. but it isn’t really that kind of car. More important, it accelerates adequately, especially considering its deliberately long-legged gearing. In conjunction with a detuned version of the Renault 5 push-rod-o.h.v., five-bearing engine, of 73 x 77 mm. (1,289 c.c.), this is to give economy of fuel, the topic of the moment. The GTL engine gives 42 b.h.p. at 5,000 r.p.m., compared to 64 b.h.p. at 6,000 r.p.m. from the 5TS, and this 42 b.h.p. is two less than the 956 c.c. 5TL develops. The GTL also has final drive gearing and the bigger tyres that represent 19.6 m.p.h. per 1.000 r.p.m. in top cog, against figures of 17.2 for the TS and 14.7 for the TL. Even so, it pulls away from 30 mph in top. The carburetter is a Solex SE1 single-choke, instead of the TS’ twin-choke Weber. But the c.r. is 9.5 to 1, as for the TS. All this adds up to very real petrol-thrift.
Ever since I had the 5GTL I have been rechecking the m.p.g. figures I obtained, they are so impressive. Overall, coasting a bit downhill to help matters, I got an astonishing 48+ m.p.g. The worst was 41.8 m.p.g. and the average, over varied driving conditions, was 46 m.p,g., on threestar, moreover. As the tank holds 8.3 gallons, if you can fill it up, you can cover some 360 or more miles without anxiety. Useful! No oil was consumed in 800 miles but to remove the dip-stick I had to remove the spare wheel.
“Le Car” is too well known and established for me to say more. I suppose you could argue whether the ideal small car is to be found among the Renault 5 range, or whether the Ford Fiesta, VW Polo or VW Golf offer more, or seem more like real cars of conventional appearance. But from the viewpoint of the fun factor, and taking account of its modest price, its good bad-road ride, its ruggedness, and its unruffled performance, apart altogether from its extraordinarily good fuel-conservation, this Renault 5GTL„ the front-driven car with the in-line engine, a style that obviates off-set pedals at the expense of nowhere to park one’s right foot except under the clutch pedal, has a great deal going for it. The present price is £3,184.35 and a “greaseless” chassis, 10,000 mile servicing intervals, and a 12-month unlimited mileage warranty represent additional economy factors. — W.B.