Road impressions - The Renault 14TL

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Introduced to the British market several months ago with a at if Bruce Forsyth hoo-ha on theatre stage’s across the land, Renault’s 1.2-litre. five-door, front-wheel-drive 14TL slots between the three-door Renault 5 and the five-door 16. It is an addition to the range rather than a replacement for the 12, which continues in production. Renault claim that it will tilt at models diverse as the Allegro. Golf, Alpine, Citroen GS and even the Austin Maxi, a sort of all things to all men car with more generous internal dimensions than its fractionally over 13 ft. length suggests.

Its French styling is a matter of taste: I find it rather aptly frog-like and less chic than say the Renault 5. The rear seat is of that most-useful Renault fold-down type, backed up by a particularly large wraparound sell-supporting tail-gate, giving access to an area expandable from 11.8 to 34 1/2 cu. ft.

This intriguing new Renault incorporates not a version of the 12 engine, as its 1.2-litres might suggest. but a transversely-mounted (for the first time in a Renault) 1.218 c.c., 57 b.h.p. at 6,000 r.p.m. four-cylinder engine, a product of the Renault-Peugeot-Volvo, association. This single-overhead-camshaft engine, in unit with a four-speed all-synchromesh gearbox is canted backwards at an angle of 72 degrees. The alloy cylinder is cross-flow with bi-hemispherical combustion chambers, the block has removable wet liners, the crankshaft runs in five main bearings and the cylinder dimensions are well over square, with a bore of 75 mm and a 69 mm. stroke. The overhead camshaft is chain-driven. A Solex 32 SHA carburetter it fed from a mechanical pump driven by the camshaft, as the distributor—directly from its end.

Like all Renaults, the 14 is particularly comfortable, the cloth-trimmed seats soft and cosseting, those at the fatal having reclining backrests. It has full carpeting and an attractive, basket-weave roof lining. Driver considerations are well contrived: a 100 m.p.h Veglia speedometer, with trip and secondary k.p.h. markings, battery condition indicator and fuel gauge and ten warning lights lie behind a single-pane glass sheet in a big, rectangular instrument nacelle, in the left hand edge of which are the convenient heater controls and, in the right, switches for the heated rear screen and hazard warning lights. Two-speed wipers and the electric washers are controlled by a left-hand steering column stalk, a long switch on the right looks after all light functions and a short stalk controls the winkers. The excellent heater benefits from an infinitely variable fan speed and side-window demister vents in the facia extremities. A large and very effective central fresh vent breaks the monotony of it vast expanse of plastic facia. There are armrests on all four doors, but an in the rear seat, a glove box under the facia on the passenger side lacks a lid and only the driver’s door has a pocket. The centre console has a useful tray. An annoying feature is that the front doors can only be locked by key from the outside and the passenger door lock can only be de-activated by the key, so that the lock remains in operation after the door has been opened from the inside, if you see what I mean.

True to Renault tradition the 14 has, extraordinarily supple suspension, so that hard cornering becomes a real door-handling job but undulations and bumpy roads are treated with disdain. Yet while the McPherson front and torsion bar rear suspension glued the test car’s Michelin ZXs to the tarmac in the dry, though it jumped and thumped across potholes, it was far effective in the wet, this little saloon sliding all over the place if hard pushed. The small four -spoke steering wheel has a thick, padded rim tor good grip, of necessity, for a lot of steering effort is required on the rack and pinion system, particularly when driving hard or parking. The inside wheel picks up easily round tight corners and there is a lot of torque reaction through the steering. Understeer is very much the order of the day. The suspension operates noisily, with a lot of thumping from the front particularly.

The screeching disc/drum brakes are light and excellent and the clutch light too. Gear-changing is positive but clonky and the synchromesh powerful. The ratios are sensibly matched to the engine too, but peculiar grating machinations from the innards stem one of the road-test 14’s more annoying features.

Performance, is nippy, the o.h.c engine smooth and willing and not, too noisy the heart isn’t being revved out of it. Indeed, apart from the gearbox grindings this is a very quiet little car on smooth roads. It cruises happily and comfortably at anything up to eighty though anything above that, up to its 90-m.p.h. maximum is harder work. Seventy miles per hour motorway/main road cruising is this £2,829 cars real forte, comfort and lack of noise in these conditions being exceptional for a small car. In town it is less satisfactory, rather contradicting its purpose; heavy steering and too much roll make for hard work. Fuel consumption averaged around the 31 mark.

All in all a less inspiring car than Renault publicity would have its believe.—C.R.