When a really good idea is born, plenty of people want to claim it as their own. Although French engineering company Matra did claim that the Espace concept a car which it also build, came from its drawing boards, British stylist Geoff Mathews reckoned the idea originated with his period at the old Peugeot Talbot studios in the UK. Despite Mathews’ fine conceptual efforts, the tall car concept had been around since Giugiaro’s 1978 Megagamma concept, and three Japanese makers had tried to take advantages of the idea, none of with much success. The Espace concept, though, was a rather cleverer attempt and took the Megagamma idea a crucial stage further. Despite not being longer than an ordinary family car, the Espace could carry a total of up to seven passengers by creating three rows of seats. But the key difference was the articulation of the seats, rows two and three could be swiveled around, the backs folded to create a table top, or they could be removed altogether for van like carrying capacity.
But it was the Espace’s ability to, in the words of one Renault engineer at the launch in 1984, combine the carrying capacity of a van with spaciousness of a minibus and the road manner of an estate that really set it apart from lesser vehicles. The popularity of the Espcae grew steadily throughout the rest of the 1980s, but it remained a niche product until the early 1990s. Like the range Rover before it, the Espcae defined a new genre and then dominated it. The term eventually coined to describe the concept, Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV) summed the car up well.