It was a revolution in family car design - and still cuts a dash today...
The Renault 16, in many ways, was the template for the modern car - and it's hard to believe when looking at it that it celebrated its 50th birthday in 2015. But with front-wheeled drive, and a five-door hatchback layout, it could do the same job as your Mondeo - but with added flair and panache. It is both roomy and good to drive, and as long as you find a good example, you'll be rewarded with a classic car that turns heads, and rewards keen drivers who value comfort and tenacious handling as a priority.
The Gallic equivalent to the Austin Maxi is not without its faults, though - and certainly new drivers will take time to acclimatise to its generous body roll in bends and that idiosyncratic dash-mounted gearchange. But once mastered, anyone who loves cars will not fail to fall for this forward-thinking family car.
Being a Renault, parts and specialist support is less straightforward than, say, an MG or Triumph, but with a great owners' club, and an enthusiastic band of specialists who deal with them, you'll get what you need in the worst case scenario - eventually. So, buy a rust-free example, enjoy classic driving with a modern twist - and bask in the joy of not seeing another at a classic car event.
Torque: 95lb ft@4000rpm
Maximum speed: 110mph
Fuel consumption: 26-30mpg
Transmission: FWD, five-spd manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Put your structure first
The number one priority in any potential Renault 16 purchase is the condition of its body. Never, ever underestimate this car's ability to rot - and just about anywhere. Although it's a relatively sturdy structure, serious rust can take its toll in all places - so have a good poke in the engine bay, especially the inner wings. Then, examine the inner and outer sills, A-posts, the area around the jacking points, and finally, the structure around the rear suspension mounts and the rear inner hweel arches, as this is crucially important to the car's continued survival and viability as a restoration project - repairs in this area are very much a complex specialist job.
Now check the outers
Once you've ascertained that the structure is sound, and won't bend at the first sign of a pothole, take a close look at the bvase of the front wings (not easy to get hold of), and the door bottoms. Then, check the front and rear valance - these are cosmetic repairs, but hard to do well.
Running gear pointers
After all that corrosion-based horror, the good news is that the engine and running gear are very sturdy indeed. The 1470, 1565 and 1647cc all-alloy overhead valve engines were shared with a number of other Renaults, so basic parts availability is good. Some model-specific items can be hard to track down - don't under-estimate minor failures, such as condensers or points. Also, headgasket replacement is an involved job, so make sure any car you look at is running well and doesn't pressure up.
Generally easy to sort - and not trouble-free, but the TX's electric windows can be troublesome to keep operating smoothly. Other than that, watch for bad earths causing lighting and general operational problems.
Unsurprisingly, minor trim items are tough to find, so make sure it's complete and in good order. The vinyl interiors are long-lived and rugged, but cloth seats are a real pain to repair if damaged, and aren't very durable.
Why do you want one? Because you're an individualist, and want to drive a car that is more clever than the obvious classic choices. There are many Renault 16 variants to choose from, and all will cut a dash wherever you take them. The original 1965 1470cc versions are capable and economical, but the TS from 1968, with the more powerful 1565cc engine offers plenty more entertainment. We'd go for the fabulous R16 TX, the ultimate version, which was sold between 1973 and 1980 - it sports 93bhp, a five-speed gearbox, and sprints to 110mph. It's practically a hot hatch, but a wonderfully comfortable one at that.