If I had to cover Renault products in a very few words I would say that they make cars with comfortable seats, lots of loading area, and which are more than normally durable. The new 20TS is in this tradition, and much more besides. Those who ride in it comment on the comfort of its cloth-upholstered seats, the folding arrangements of which, in conjunction with the lift-up, fifth-door tailgate, maintains the Billancourt carrying-capacity reputation, and the 20TS feels as if it will live up to Renault’s reliability record; even if someone did mention a small patch of rust somewhere under the tailgate, in less than 7,000 or so miles.
The single-overhead-camshaft, light-alloy engine of 88 x 82 mm. (1,995 c.c.), known as the Type 829, has excellent low-speed torque. It is unfortunately noisy, in an irritating rather than a loud manner, and the performance it gives is not exactly outstanding, nor is its fuel consumption exceptional. But is feels in practice a very willing performer, it starts easily, and it runs smoothly. With a 9.2-to-1 compression ratio it produces 110 DIN b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m. and the tachometer shows just over 3,600 r.p.m. at an indicated 70 m.p.h. The gearbox has a spring-loaded to the o/s lever, nicely to hand, as they used to say, that controls a good if not outstanding gear change. Reverse is easy to find, back beyond the 2nd gear position. all-independent suspension by coil springs and double wishbones ensures a comfortable ride, with only a minimal amount of the one-time Renault rock-and-roll, and the ground clearance is such that this is a useful off-road car, although on a fast ordinary road a culvert will ground the back-end.
The power-steering is quite heavy when the front-wheel-drive pulls under power and not particularly sensitive, and its wheel is thick-rimmed. To power-steering are added such luxury devices as central door-locking of all but the tailgate (a button on the console gives instant locking from within), and the electric front windows (which need the ignition key to power their circuit). The facia has four same-size dials on a single r.h. panel, comprising the combined fuel, heat and battery-condition gauges, Jaeger 140 m.p.h. speedometer, tachometer, and quartz clock, with warning lights liberally besprinkled in the end pair of dials, these including brake-pad-wear and brake-fluid warnings. The centre facia panel takes the window-lift press switches, emergency warning flashers, and rear-window-demisting switch, the three heater levers, and a horizontal knob for the noisy fan rheostat. Facia lighting is also rheostat controlled. The fuel gauge is at times difficult to read and somewhat vague and there did not seem to be a warning light.
I was interested to borrow this 20TS, as it has the new Douvrin-built engine which is to be developed for racing and on which Renault have had first-option, before Volvo and Peugeot, the other joint-owners. But I realised after reading the publicity blurb that I was an odd-bod in this bulky-looking but handsome Renault, not being a Company buyer (52 per cent of whom are expected to purchase a 20TS), nor am I exactly a private motorist (48 per cent), can hardly be reckoned to be in an “AB” social group (75 per cent), and, alas, am no longer in the 35-54 age-group, although it is true that I am of the male sex (some 96 per cent). This did not prevent me from enjoying the lively, sure-foote 20TS, apart from a few very minor reservations, after I had got used to the hiss of the engine or transmission developing into a mild power-roar at speed, compared to the quiet running of the admittedly-more-costly Rover 3500 I had been driving, and the heavier steering. The reservations concern a lamps-stalk which could plunge you into darkness if you moved it upwards too ambitiously (and a downward action is more natural), a Renault bush-button radio which suffered from at times ignition interference, a drop stowage-bin before the front passenger which needed a twist of its release knob before it would stay shut, and a wiper stalk-control set too close to the ignition key. Small criticisms.
The engine feels very nice indeed, although it does not have true hemispherical combustion chambers as some writers have stated (the valves are at just over 30 deg. Included-angle), but it is a very clever power unit, design-wise, with a toothed-belt camshaft drive it gave 26.9 m.p.g. in average usage, 23.2 m.p.g. under country-lane driving, an average of 25 m.p.g. of 4-star, and it used no oil in more than 700 miles. The somewhat squeaky disc/drum servo brakes functioned nicely, but the handbrake needed a hefty tug. The front doors have rigid pockets, to supplement the aforesaid drop-tray, and a centre open cubby, and there was no denying the usefulness of the self-equipped tailgate, which however needs a firm slam to shut it properly; it can be key-locked if desired. The front-seat squab adjusts by using a big knob with finger-grips but stiff to turn until weight is taken off the squab to a restful driving for beam-angle under varying loads, and the front-hinged, self-supporting bonnet, quickly opened from a flat lever beneath the steering column, covers ample space round the power unit, an accessible dipstick, etc.; but I would not like to have to change the sparking-plugs.
The 20TS may be lacking in certain aspects, having not intermittent or single-wipe action of its screenwipers, which sweep as for a l.h.d. car, a fuel filler under a flap but which cannot be locked, and 0-60 m.p.h. in 12.2 seconds and 104 m.p.h. top-speed may not seem very impressive, on paper. In fact, this Renault 20TS Michelin XZX-shod hatchback proved to be a fine touring car, with a range of some 350 miles or more on a tankful of petrol, and although it tends to mild oversteer it is a happy car to drive, which I thought very good value, at £4,960. Notable for a good top-gear performance; maybe a Saab all-chain drive would cure some of the cacophony? Automatic transmission and a sunroof are available. W.B.
Loughborough University Car Maintenance Course
A seven day course entitled “Car Maintenance II” will be held at Loughborough University from July 30th to August 5th. It is designed for those already familiar with basic car maintenance and it will cover the complete service procedure, detailed fault diagnosis, electronic tuning, carburettor adjustment and so on. The course will be just one of fifty offered as part of the University’s Summer Programme. If you’re interested in the course, then write now to Mrs. L. Marshall, Summer Programme Secretary, Centre for Extension Studies, Loughborough University of Technology, Loughborough, Leicestershire and you will be furnished with full details and a brochure.
Full Calendar for MG Car Club
The festival of Motoring, Silverstone (May 27th/28th), the Baeulieu Concours (August 13th) and the Brands Hatch race meeting (September 17th) are just three dates that MG enthusiasts everywhere might like to note. These dates are taken form the extensive 1978 events calendar compiled by the MG Car Club. The full list of dates can be seen in the March edition of the Club’s monthly magazine and regulations for would-be competitors can be obtained from P.O Box 126, Brentwood, Essex, CM15 8RP, should you send a 9 in. x 4 in. stamped addressed envelope.