The 20 variant won 1978 What Car? "Car of the Year".
Launched in March 1975, the Renault 30 TS was the first Renault with an engine having more than four cylinders since before World War II. It was one of the first cars (the other two being the Peugeot 604 and Volvo 264) to use the then newly introduced 2664 cc PRV V6 engine, which was developed jointly between Peugeot, Renault and Volvo; the PRV produced 130 PS (96 kW) and could power the R30 to a top speed of 185 km/h (115 mph). The vehicle's hatchback styling was derivative of the extremely successful Renault 16.
The more affordable Renault 20, which was presented at the Paris Salon in November 1975 (exactly eight months after the Renault 30 TS) and used the same hatchback body styling as the R30 but with two rectangular headlights instead of the R30's quadruple round lights. The Renault 20 was essentially a replacement for the discontinued Renault 16, albeit in a rather larger body shell. Under the bonnet, the R20 had the smaller four-cylinder 1647 cc engine (from the Renault 16 TX) rated at 90 PS (66 kW). Other technical differences between the 20 and 30 were that 20 used drum brakes at the rear wheels, 13 inch wheel rims, and a smaller 60-litre fuel tank. The 20 came in three different trim variations: L, TL and GTL. The two cars were effectively two 'badge engineered' versions of the same car with separate numeric classification. The R20 received an all-new 2068 cc diesel engine in November 1979, Renault's first diesel automobile.
Both the 20 and 30 were advanced in terms of safety, featuring front and rear crumple zones as well as side impact protection.
Reliability issues, such as niggling mechanical faults (which sometimes proved expensive to fix) plagued both cars throughout their lifetimes. Rust was another major concern (in a Belgian owner referendum 70% of owners named it as the car's biggest problem); as a response Renault improved rust protection and began offering a five-year warranty against rust on 1 January 1982. Shortly after their introduction, it soon became quite clear that the Renault 20 was too underpowered to cope with the overall size and weight of the car and that the Renault 30 was seen as too expensive for what was effectively the same car. In response to this, the R20TS was introduced, and used a new four-cylinder 1995 cc overhead camshaft engine rated at 109 PS (80 kW) (which was shared with the Citroën CX and later the Peugeot 505). The new 2.0-litre engine was universally regarded as a big improvement. The following year (October 1978) saw the introduction of the R30 TX, a more luxurious fuel-injected version of the R30 TS, then the R20 Diesel in late 1979. By late 1981, all 1.6-litre R20s were discontinued, leaving the LS 2.0 as the smallest model in the range.
In 1980 the NG1 five-speed transmission was switched for the longer-geared and smoother shifting 395 unit. In July 1980, the 2.2-litre fuel-injected R20 TX was added to the range, followed by the R30 Turbo Diesel one year later. The R30 Diesel Turbo has the trim of the R30 TX, albeit with unique alloys, with an engine delivering 85 PS (63 kW) derived from the naturally aspirated diesel engine. In a few markets this engine was also available as an R20. The range was facelifted for the 1981 model year. Production of the 20 and 30 ceased on 16 October 1983 to make way for the Renault 25.
In the early 1980s, the then state-owned Romanian manufacturer Dacia produced a small number of Renault 20s under the name Dacia 2000, reserved entirely for the dignitaries and secret police of the Communist government led by Nicolae Ceauşescu.