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CCotW: Renault BeBop MPV & SUV (2003)

14 September 2018 | by Karl Smith

Introduced at the 2003 Frankfurt show, the Renault BeBop MPV and SUV were twin concepts that explored new ideas in packaging, graphics and interiors.

The proud parents of the BeBop twins were the previous year’s Ellypse concept with the Koleos concept of 2000. As we will see, the interior of the BeBop cars resembled the Ellypse, while the Koleos lent its exterior profile and graphics to the twin concepts.


Meet the parents: The Koleos (top) and Ellypse

Both these vehicles follow on from our previous concept cars, illustrating inside and out a desire to take our signature design concept to its full expression through the notions of charm and sensuality,” explained Patrick le Quement, then Senior Vice President of Renault Corporate Design.


Not since the Ford Megastar had there been such a dramatic side graphic on a concept car

The BeBop Sport was a compact MPV with a rounded shape for improved aerodynamics. Underscoring the aerodynamic theme was a large teardrop-shaped glasshouse graphic at the side of the car, and a continuous windscreen that vaulted up over the cabin. “The water droplet is a superb symbol of aerodynamic purity,” explained Michel Jardin, then Director of Concept Car Design.


The BeBop’s MPV mass was offset by lots of glass

The BeBop MPV was meant as a sports tourer, with a bright yellow hue and a powerful 225bhp turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The available power was certainly impressive, although we are not sure how that tall mass would handle on a twisting country road.


The BeBop MPV Sport was meant to be a sports tourer. Impressive power, too

The yellow and dark glass combination would have certainly lent itself to a “bumblebee” theme – nice for a family MPV, and even suggested in the name (BEE-bop, geddit?). But Renault positioned this concept as a sporty alternative to the traditional boxy MPV format.


The SUV version was the same basic layout, but different engine and stance. Same panoramic views however

The BeBop SUV was a virtual twin of its sibling, though with a higher ground clearance (210 mm) and impressive 21-inch wheels, designed by Denis Falck. “We want the prototypes to look as avant-garde and appealing as possible, and by exaggerating the dimension of the wheels we get a good deal of this futuristic look,” he noted at the time.

Not as impressive was the engine and transaxle setup, borrowed from the Mégane and only producing 111 hp. Still, the BeBop SUV was a working test vehicle and members of the press were given limited driving privileges at a test track.


The SUV had a higher stance and 21 inch wheels. Note streamlined underbody, just barely showing in this photo

The exterior of the SUV variant used 50 percent of the same body panels and components as its MPV, leading observers to play a game of Spot the Difference. The fronts of both were mildly different and some of the interior pieces, but the drivetrains were where most of the differences lay.

The SUV was silver, or a “blue-tinted steel” colour, to use Renault’s press release terms. The silver made the side graphics a bit less striking, but also less potential fun than the yellow/black of the MPV Sport. Like the MPV the overall profile was a curved two-box architecture with all the arching lines and surfaces resolved into a V-shaped tailgate that spoke of Renault styling.


The SUV variant had a friendlier interior colour that better displayed the many clever features of the cabin

Access to the interior of both cars was through conventional doors, but hinged at front and rear – with no intervening B-pillar – to create a cavernous entry opening. The seats were suspended from the central tunnel, leaving the floor clear, enhancing the sense of openness. The windscreen transitioned into a broad glazed roof on both cars, giving a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.


The BeBop MPV was a study in black. The gray central tunnel and armrests seemed a missed opportunity; yellow seemed to fit in better with the sporty theme

The interior of the MPV was black, with reinforced seats, and meant for sports driving. The SUV interior was friendlier in character, and with khaki and orange earth tones, was meant to suggest a connection with nature. The interior connected with the camera as well. Renault released a lot of photos of the interior of the SUV, not so many of the MPV.


Rear seats could fold over on themselves and under the front ones. Ingenious

Renault’s press release described the interior of the SUV like this:

The two rear-hinged doors open to reveal an original and elegant interior. The seats are anchored to a central arch which frees up floor space to create a sensation of spaciousness. This arch also forms a link between front and rear occupants to reinforce the interior’s friendly spirit. Two side arches stretch the length of the doors for passengers to rest their arms. The polished aluminium gear lever rises over the central arch, which houses all the other main controls such as heating, air-conditioning, navigation and music. A chrome-finish clock sits at the end of the arch in full view of both passenger and driver.


Clever storage at centre tunnel and doors gave more cargo hauling options

Clever storage compartments hidden in the doors and arching centre console bar anticipated the need for place for laptops and tablets. The rear seats in the SUV folded over themselves and them could slide under the front seats, an ingenious idea to free up space in the interior.


The rear hatch split into two parts: the tailgate folded down with an extendable shelf and the glass liftgate lifted over the roof

The BeBop twins were never headed for production, but the research done in their creation would influence design in future models. The BeBop name would return in 2009 as a variant of Renault’s Kangoo CUV.


The IP was a pair of screens floating over a curved dash. In 2018 these could easily be plug in tablets or smartphones

Looking back on the BeBop from today’s emerging electric cars fleets and re-imagined packaging, one can easily see how the BeBop could be instructive in product planning for a compact MPV/CUV. Not everyone would be thrilled with the name, and the regulators might not be thrilled with all that glass, but it is still fun to imagine the kind of free spirit and joie de vivre that created these twins.

It would be great to capture that again in a new BeBop for a new era.