In the world of weird cars, vehicles that seem to stand out above the others are strange combinations of automotive ideas — like, for instance, the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, which was part-SUV and part-convertible. But in the 2000s, Renault created an even stranger combination: a minivan that was also a coupe. I’m serious.
It was called the Renault Avantime, and yes, it was a minivan with a “sleek” coupe body. I saw the one pictured above when I was in Amsterdam a few weeks ago, and I decided North America needed to know the story of this vehicle, which has (up until now) merely been a laughingstock for car enthusiasts in Europe.
So here’s the situation. The Avantime was sold new from 2001 to 2003, and the idea was — I am completely serious — that they wanted to capture buyers whose kids had grown up and left home, but who still were comfortable driving a minivan. So they debuted a car with a minivan seating position and yet a sleeker look with only two doors. It was even based on the platform of Renault’s popular minivan, the Espace, with the same front-wheel-drive layout and engines.
Inside, however, things were very different from a typical minivan. Of course, it only had two doors — two massive doors. It also had a very gradual windshield with a base about 3 feet in front of the driver. But the issue was in back: You were driving a minivan with minivan dimensions and small, hard-to-reach rear seats.
Naturally, this was a ridiculous and horrible idea, and it didn’t sell at all: Wikipedia says Renault sold just 8,557 units from 2001 to 2003, before the whole thing was shelved in favor of whatever bizarre project they were cooking up next. In several trips to Europe, I’ve only seen two of these in my life — and I was highly excited to see this one, as I know I may never again gaze at the glory of the Avantime. Find a minivan for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.