The Renault 16 is a large family car with an at first unusual hatchback body, produced by French automaker Renault between 1965 and 1980 in Le Havre, France.
The R16 was voted European Car of the Year by a board of European motoring journalists in 1966. Over 1,845,959 R16s were produced during the model's lifetime.
It sold well in most of Europe, winning praise for its spacious and comfortable interior. Equipment levels were also high for the price. Initially, Renault sold the R16 with just a 1.4 L gasoline engine in GL specification; then followed the 1.6 L I4 TS which could top . The top-line model was the TX, which was launched in 1973 and had a 5-speed manual transmission. Equipment included power windows and central door locking, features previously unknown on family cars in Europe.
Production of the Renault 16 lasted until 1980 when it was finally replaced by the less successful Renault 20. Even by this stage, when it was nearly 15 years old, the Renault 16 was still one of the most popular and highly rated family cars on sale in Europe. Current Renault styling chief Patrick le Quément has made no secret his admiration for the R16 — and incorporated a subtle tribute to its "bird-beak" grille in the corporate look he devised for many of the models (Laguna, Mégane, Scénic) that the company launched in the 1990s.
By the time the Renault 16 ceased production most other European manufacturers had at least one hatchback on sale. At the time Renault had six hatchbacks on sale, the R4, R5, R6, R14, R20 and R30.
One peculiarity of the R16 design is that the two back wheel shafts were not in-line. The left wheelbase was 60 mm (2.3 in) longer than the right wheelbase, to accommodate the torsion bar suspension.
A second peculiarity was that the engine was mounted north-south in the front, behind the gearbox/transaxle. This contributed to the excellent handling and balance of this car by keeping the weight closer to the centre of the car. Traditional front drive layouts are either east-west or in some cases north-south but with the engine to the front.
The rear seat could be reconfigured into several positions, or removed completely.
- August 1964 - First official pictures of the R16 are released to the media.
- December 2, 1964 - The first R16 is completed at the factory in Sandouville, near Le Havre, a facility purpose-built for the R16.
- January 5, 1965 - The Renault 16 is introduced to the world and the press in a presentation on the Côte-d'Azur.
- April 1965 - The R16 is made available to the public, in two specifications: Grand Luxe and Super, both powered by a 1470 cc engine
- 1967 - Ventilation and heating are both improved, and the dashboard is redesigned. An automatically operated choke is also made available.
- 1968 - The 16 TS is introduced. It features a new 1565 cc engine, an all-new instrument panel that includes a tachometer and water temperature gauge, and many other new features including two-speed windscreen wipers, rear defroster, passenger reading light, and optional powered windows.
- 1969 - The other R16 models get the wheels and brakes of the TS. Reverse lights are installed as standard on the TS, placed under the taillights (they are optional on other models).
- 1969 - The R16 TA, with an automatic transmission, is introduced. The TA is effectively a R16 Super with some features from the TS.
- 1970 - Front seatbelts are installed on all R16s.
- 1971 - The R16 undergoes a mild revamp. Among the most obvious changes are new rectangular taillights. The Grand Luxe and Super are replaced by the L and TL specifications, and a version of the TS's 1565 cc engine (with the cylinder head from the 1470 cc) is installed on both. The TA is discontinued and an automatic transmission is made available as an option across the whole R16 range.
- 1973 - An upmarket 16 TX model is introduced at the Paris Motor Show, equipped with a 1647 cc engine (an enlarged version of the TS engine) and a five-speed manual transmission. The TX was distinguishable from other R16s on the exterior by its four rectangular headlights with large turn signal lights underneath. Among the other features available on the TX were Gordini wheels, a rear spoiler, a rear windscreen wiper, a laminated windscreen, automatic seatbelts, power windows, central locking and optional air conditioning.
- 1974 - The aluminium grille on L, TL and TS is replaced by a black plastic grille.
- 1976 - The automatic transmission ceased to be available as an option on the L, TL and TS; however, a TL Automatic model was launched.
- 1977 - The L and TS are discontinued.
- 1978 - Reverse lights are installed as standard on all models.
- 1979 - Rear three-point seatbelts are made standard on all models. The TL Automatic is discontinued.
- January 1980 - R16 production ends.