A girlfriend of mine owned a light blue Renault Alliance, which she named “Pierre.”
“Driver appeal and room for five.”
Renault’s Alliance sedan debuted in 1983. Based on the Renault 9 and 11, the Alliance was re-engineered for the North American market and built in AMC’s Kenosha, WI assembly plant—the first front-wheel-drive car built there. The Alliance was available in four-door sedan and two-door coupe versions.
The Alliance’s only engine was Renault’s Cléon-Fonte 64 bhp 1.4 liter/85 ci inline four with Bendix central fuel injection, already over two decades old in its basic design. Transmissions for the sedan varied depending on equipment level; the L (there was no absolutely base sedan—only a coupe) came standard with a four-speed manual, while the better equipped DL and Limited came with a five-speed manual. All three models could be ordered with an automatic ($420 for an L/$325 for others).
Despite a curb weight of around 2,000 pounds, the Alliance was not a fast car. 0-60 times ranged between 15 and 17 seconds depending on transmission. On the other hand, fuel mileage ratings were impressive: the four-speed manual returned 37 city/54 highway by the standards of the day. Of course, applying modern standards lowers the numbers, but what would now be 29 city/37 highway still isn’t that bad. Interestingly, the five-speed manual didn’t do any better, despite the extra gear (it did help a little bit with acceleration and lowered noise at highway speeds). Even the automatic was reasonably efficient at 29 city/38 highway. With a 12.4-gallon gas tank, a new Alliance owner could expect a range of between 370 and 505 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.
Standard equipment on the $6,270 Alliance L (about $16,500 in today’s dollars or about what a 2020 Toyota Yaris sedan goes for) included front-wheel-drive, rack-and-pinion steering, power-assisted front disc/rear drum brakes, and 155/80GR13 tires (a size still available thanks to Kumho) on 13-inch wheels. Inside, vinyl bucket seats, a soft-feel steering wheel, a day/night mirror, and a trip odometer were included.
Moving up to the $6,905 DL added tinted glass, a dual-note horn, and 175/70SR13 tires (still readily available) with wheel trim rings. Inside, DL buyers got Deluxe six-way cloth reclining bucket seats, a color-keyed remote left mirror, a soft-hub steering wheel, a tachometer, and a digital clock.
The top-of-the-line Limited ($7,470) included halogen headlamps and Luxury wheel covers. Inside, Light Group, Visibility Group (dual remote mirrors, lighted visor mirror, and intermittent wipers), textured cloth reclining bucket seats, a rear center armrest, and luxury door panels were included.
Individual exterior and mechanical options for the Alliance included two-tone paint ($199) and power steering ($199). Inside, power door locks ($170), speed control ($170), rear defroster ($130), air conditioning ($630), and a variety of radios were available. Leather bucket seats were available for the Limited only and set the buyer back $413.
Early on, the Alliance received many good reviews—in fact, it was Motor Trend‘s Car of the Year for 1983. Obtaining this particular plaudit led Renault to (really!) build an MT special edition for the Alliance late in the model year. MT-specific equipment included charcoal gray metallic paint, a decklid luggage rack, painted aluminum wheels, and a right-hand remote mirror. Inside, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and an electronic-tuning stereo radio with six speakers were included.
Those initial positive reviews of the Alliance have not aged well, and many disparaging articles have been written about MT‘s choice. They were not alone—Car and Driver included the Alliance on their 1983 “10 Best” list (26 years later they apologized). Perhaps reviewers of the day wanted the idea of the Alliance to work so much that it clouded their judgment of the actual product delivered.
I have not seen an Alliance in over a decade. Alliances rarely show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—in fact, they seem to have virtually vanished, despite the 623,573 made between the 1983 and 1987 model years.