MOTOR SPORT has reviewed many Renault models in recent months, including the more sporting turbo models and the top-of-the-range, very covetable 25. But the less costly cars from the Regie Renault must not be overshadowed, so the other day I found myself exchanging temporarily the Editorial Alfa 6 for an 11 GTL, the four-cylinder 1,400 cc front-drive five-door Renault Hatchback selling for £5,250. Coming off the sure-footed Italian car to the Renault at first felt like trying to play croquet or balance on a rubber ball. However, when in a hurry one can get most things to corner fast and it wasn’t long before I discovered that this Renault 11 would corner quite effectively without much of the former extreme roll-angles expected from the marque and with but mild understeer. What is more, comfort is this car’s key factor. No matter how much the road wheels are pattering over undulations hardly any shock is imparted to the occupants of the supple, snug “solid foam” seats (of “monotrace” or single-track type). Couple this with the most generous size of the body on what is an under-1½-litre car, enhanced by the area of window glass and the big bubble-type convex window in the hatchback panel, and you have a car that is pleasant to use no matter how long the journey.
I also found this Renault 11 GTL a very convenient car. It may not possess much driving-character but it certainly has sensible arranged controls. For instance, the five-speed gearbox functions nicely, although getting reverse from rest, involving lifting a collar round the lever over to the left, sometimes gives pause, and both clutch and disc / drum brakes worked so well that I gave them no thought. The two stalk-levers, lh for lights and turn-indicators, right one for wipe / wash, are straight forward and the instruments are easily read. The Renault 11 GTL, not being a “racer”, eschews a tachometer but the petrol gauge is so steady-reading that it is calibrated in actual litres of fuel remaining, from 47, down in increments of 30, 20, and 10, to zero, instead of the usual 0, 1/2, F, a splendid idea, using a very clear dial, except that it was inaccurate as the level dropped; but there is a warning light. The oil-gauge, too, is unusual, consisting simply of a needle that moves out of sight as soon as the engine has been started if the sump level is in order. It is matched by a similar ¼-dial temperature gauge. Those, and a Veglia trip / total speedometer, are the only dials, other indications being conveyed by neatly located warning lights, while if the lamps are left on with a door open, a subdued tinkle-note is sounded. All very simple and, as I have said, convenient. The press-button switch-gear is likewise well contrived.
The fascia surrounds are essentially “plasticky”, the doors, with convenient “press under and up” exterior handles, close tinnily, and the shape, seen from the back, is a thought ungainly. But the things that matter — good dip and full beams from the dual Cibie quartz headlamps, all manner of useful stowage areas, including a big cubby and front-door bins, two external rear-view mirrors (externally adjustable though), the easily folding rear seat for converting this Renault into a small lorry, the very good heating and ventilation system with three-speed fan, and easily understood controls.— compensate, and although on the car tested the price had been kept competitive by using such items as manual window lifts, individual door-locking, no sunroof, etc, there are many delectable extras available. The remote central-door-locking by infra-red action, as on the luxury Renault 25, sounds like one of the better gimmicks . . . (available on the Automatic GTL only, however). The test-car had a Philips stereo / radio and so cosmopolitan are manufacturers these days that this French car was on Pirelli P4 155 R13 tyres. The aforesaid fine ride is accomplished with all-round independent suspension, coil spring strut at the front, trailing-arm torsion-bar at the back, and there is slightly vague rack-and-pinion steering. The engine drives through a normal gearbox, so that almost all the transmission whine of the old Renault 14 is obviated. Main service intervals come every 10,000 miles and Renault claim great attention to anti-rusting precautions.
Apart from the comfort and convenience of this Renault 11 GTL, it is most economical. The engine gives 60 (DIN) bhp at 5,250 rpm, against the 68 bhp of the Automatic GTL and 72 bhp of the TSE model. The fuel tank, with lock in the flap-covered filler, holds 10.3 gallons and as the overall consumption worked out at a remarkable and truly commendable 39.5 mpg, falling to around 35 mpg on fast runs, the range of the GTL is another handy feature.
Renault use Zenith, Solex and Weber carburetters, and the Solex 32BIS on the GTL, with manual choke, gave instant cold starts, but at times there was a very slight flat-spot effect when accelerating, of no real moment. On the matter of this car’s notable fuel conservation, these days even transversely-mounted four-cylinder engines are so supple that the fifth speed can be made frequent use of above 30 mph town speed limits, contributing to economy. Other likeable features are the front and rear spoilers, wrap-round polyester bumpers, side bumper shields and recessed anti-dazzle visors (as on Rovers), but the Veglia quartz clock could be slightly better placed.
Nor should it be thought that this is a sluggish car. The Renault 11 GTL will do 97 mph, aided by a drag-co-efficient of 0.35, go from 0 to 62 mph (100 kph) in 15 sec, and it cruises at 70 or 80 mph with little intrusion of engine or wind noise. At engine idle there was some exhaust tail-pipe rattle.
Renault have long had a reputation of building cars somewhat out of the common rut and their best-selling Eleven continues this tradition. — W.B.