Renault 5 Turbo GT (1987 - 1991) review

BY JONATHAN CROUCH

Introduction

An affordable pocket rocket classic, the Renault 5 GT Turbo is one of the cheapest automotive ways of bringing a smile to your face this side of a go kart. Around £2,000 buys you a good one and for that, you get a car that will show most of today's hot hatches the way home round any country lane you care to name.

Models

Models Covered: Three Door hatch: Turbo GT

History

Back in July 1987 when Renault was looking to translate some of its Formula One success to its road cars, the little 5 Turbo GT was born. Instantly, it made obviously competitors - Ford's Escort XR3i, Vauxhall's Astra GTE and VW's Golf GTi - look pathetic in the performance stakes. From an engine of just 1.4-litres in size, Renault had managed to wring out an amazing 120bhp and in a car this light, that felt quick - very quick. There was a minor facelift a couple of years later and a special edition Raider model at the end with a fancy blue paintjob and an RDS stereo (it's worth no more) but otherwise, the car remained pretty much unchanged throughout its production life. Eventually, it was replaced by the Clio 16v.

What You Get

A cheap but frantically fast runabout with Renault 5 practicality and ease of maintenance. The Turbo GT had genuine racing pedigree, endearing it to real enthusiasts - there was a successful racing series operated by the importers for the car for many years. Indeed, it is still enthusiastically raced up and down the country.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

Despite Renault's best efforts, the hot starting problems that plagued the car from the very beginning were never eradicated. Stammering was also common, caused by fuel vaporization due to turbo heat. Beware of worn turbos and tired engines. Also get the electrics checked and look out for damaged panels (the body kit was fragile). Obviously, since most cars will have been thrashed, beware of accident damage and bodged repairs. Look closely for signs of theft, too. Steer clear of extra lurid body kits or paint jobs. Particularly avoid 'tweaked' examples, however tempted you are by the extra performance. Try to buy a 1988 model onwards; the exhaust system was revised and improved at the end of 1987.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a post-1987 model ex Vat) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly will be around £105 and front brake pads are around £25 whilst the rear cost £32 a set. A replacement headlamp is close to £55 and a full exhaust is about £185. A starter motor is about £100, a radiator can be up to £150 and an alternator around £120.

On the Road

Glorious reserves of performance are on offer, with rest to 60 taking just over seven seconds. It's the mid-range punch that is most impressive however. When the turbo cuts in, you can't help smiling. On a twisty road, it sticks like glue too.

Overall

Fans cite it as a future classic - and they could be right. But who cares? Find a good one and enjoy it...