Back in the mid-90s, the giant French manufacturer Renault was in need of a hit that didn’t look like a minivan. It thus invested heavily (mostly pride) in the development of the 1996 Renault Sport Spider. On the surface, the car was a great success; it hard sharp design, nice handling and was relatively fast. When you took a step back and compared it with the competition, chinks started to appear it its cleverly constructed image. Designed to compete with the Caterham and Lotus Elise two-seaters, it proved quickly it wasn’t in the same league, and was more expensive, to boot! The Sport Spider had no roof (not even available) and no heater, and compared to the others, its steering was vague and handling sluggish. When it comes to speed, the meanest Caterham Seven could run circles around it.
The Sport Spider’s motor and transmission were based on the Clio Williams, a 2-liter, 16-valve inline four-cylinder engine that developed 150 horsepower, paired with a five-speed manual transmission. This allowed for a top speed of 132 miles an hour, and a 0-60 acceleration time of 6.7 seconds. While those numbers are pretty good seen in a vacuum, when compared to the desired competition, they are embarrassing, as are the lack of weather cover and heater. Who doesn’t have a heater?
As an exercise in style and design, the 1996 Renault Sport Spider was an unmitigated success, but when it comes to road and track performance… not quite.