The Renault 16 was the first popular family car with a hatchback, although, contrary to common folklore, it wasn't the first ever hatchback. At its introduction it was considered ahead of its time and even when production ended 15 years later it had few competitors that could match it's practicality.
Being French it unsurprisingly came with some quirky details, such as the 70mm different wheelbases left and right, necessitated by the staggered transverse torsion bars of the rear suspension. Whether intended or not, this provided a fabulous ride comfort, since the rear wheels 'stepped' over ruts.
The unsual layout with the engine mounted longitudinally behind the gearbox required column change, which never was very popular in Europe and considered anachronistic even in the mid Sixties. The R-16 stubbornly retained it until production ended in 1980 but owners seemed to condone it, likely because the overall progressiveness of the car way outweighed this detail.
Having a very soft all independent torsion bar suspension with long suspension travel, the R-16 didn't lend itself to spirited driving anyway, however, it could shift surprisingly well if asked to. Numerous French flic flicks contain testimony to that, R-16s were often thrashed around mercilessly in those. Its surefootedness and comparatively high degree of passive safety obviously made it a popular choice for stunt drivers, hooning them through corners with grotesque body lean.
With almost 1.9 million examples produced, the R-16 is considered a major success by its maker. Sadly the attrition rate is high due to the R-16's achilles heel - structural rust.
With the newest examples approaching 40 years of age, they became so rare, that most people have no idea what car it is, which is amazing, since in their heyday, they were extremely popular throughout Europe.
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