When Renault reimagined the Espace as an SUV after five model generations as a minivan, it was an acknowledgement that a once-iconic segment had truly run its course.
Minivans -- compact and midsize -- have been declining in popularity since the early 2010s, replaced by crossovers and SUVs, as well as small passenger vans with more and more features. Dataforce, which tracks sales by model and segment, no longer has a minivan category, but instead combines passenger van versions of light-commercial vans with the few remaining minivans on the market.
The first-generation Espace, developed from the Matra P23 prototype, was the first minivan in Europe when it was launched in 1984. (Chrysler Corp.’s minivans, the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, were launched in the U.S. nearly concurrently.) The Espace featured plastic composite body panels and seven seats that could be arranged like a living room, with the front seats able to swivel, and was just 4250 mm long.