Quick, stylish and very capable in all departments, the newly launched 16 valve derivative of Renault's 19 seems likely to become yet another in a long succession of classic performance saloons.

Building on the success of the stunningly fast 5 turbo and the 21 turbo, the 19 16 valve is offered in both hatch and saloon body styles and has recently been joined in the performance pantheon by the Clio 16 valve, itself a worthy replacement for the 5 turbo. The 16 valve, being based on the 19 body, offers a level of space and creature comfort which set it into a different market sector than the smaller Clio and both, I predict, are likely to sell in large numbers, representing impressive performance levels for their list prices.

All who have already written about the car have praised the 19's near perfect chassis for the poise and balance that it displays and I would not disagree, the car handles extremely well no matter how hard it is provoked, a feature which is ably supported by the engine and gearbox and an overall level of refinement which is second to none in it's chosen market sector.

I have previously written of the other 19's that they are very well and solidly built and the new 16 valve is no exception, Renault confidently offering an 8 year anti-perforation warranty.

A stylish design with good aerodynamics the car looks even more muscular in it's be-spoilered guise, the difference between Clark Kent and his alter ego, Superman.

Light and spacious in the cabin, visibility is generally good, if a bit restricted low down at the rear although the rear spoiler acts as a good parking marker.

The seating is simply excellent, the front seats are very supportive, with a huge range of adjustment and are probably the best road car seats I have ever sat in. Rear set head and legroom is also surprisingly ample.

The neat leather wheel is height adjustable so a perfect driving position can easily be achieved and the pedal positions are also well set for comfortable long distance cruising.

The dash is user friendly with good, solid, controls all well within reach although I found the orange on black instrumentation a little garish and would have preferred something a little more classic.

As befits a performance saloon the standard list of equipment is extensive with power steering, sunroof, windows and large, clear, power mirrors. A high quality stereo is fitted, as is usual for Renault high up in the dash and easily visible, controlled from a stalk on the steering column. Remote central locking is standard as is a good alarm system, front fog lights and a catalytic converter.

The 1764 cc injected 16 valve engine pumps out a very solid 137 bhp for very impressive performance, in fact the car feels considerably quicker than Renault's claimed figures and revs freely, feeling more impressive the faster it goes. Higher speeds give rise to little increase in engine noise, wind noise also being very low thanks to the good aerodynamics although the very low profile, 50 ratio, tyres are inevitably a bit noisy on some surfaces.

Drive is via a slick 5 speed gearbox, notchy and very precise, the action falling ideally to the driver's hand.

Handling is quite simply superb, the car always feels taut, fully in control of the situation and communicating well with the keen driver, from the precision of the power steering - very direct and sure footed, in part due to the tremendous grip afforded by the wide low profile tyres - to the minimal body roll and great stability from the very stiff and well controlled suspension setup.

The ride always inspires confidence in the cars abilities, the quicker it goes the more fluid it feels, all credit to the suspension engineers at Renault who have even made torque steer notable by it's absence.

Very positive braking is available from the all disc system -vented at the front - and ABS is offered as a worthwhile £770 extra.

A very enjoyable car then for the keen driver, a car which has many abilities which are slowly revealed in a continuing succession of delights, perhaps a bit like the dance of the 19 veils, most certainly a car which grows on you.


  • PRICE £13,225
  • TOP SPEED 132 M.P.H.
  • 0-60 8.5 SECOND

First Published 1992 - Article © Graham Benge 2007

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