GENEVA – Renault SA unveils its long-awaited J77 supermini minivan, dubbed Modus, at the auto show here.

With the Twingo, Espace and Scenic, Renault was the founder of new monospace segments. But in this small car/van segment, the Opel Meriva and Ford Fusion have a head start in providing families with more space, and Lancia is launching its Musa model to compete for customers at this same show.

Renault Modus

The Modus has a chance to take over the market leadership, says Georges Douin, Renault’s executive vice-president, although he does not reveal the company’s sales goals. The car will be built at the Valladolid, Spain, plant.

The Modus goes on sale this fall as the first Renault using the Renault-Nissan Platform B. As such, says Douin, it shares about 70% of its components with the Nissan March, Micra and Cube.

Next year, Renault will replace the Clio using this platform, and later the Twingo.

With the new silhouette, Renault expects to increase its sales of small cars by 25%, Douin says.

The car shown at Geneva is technically a concept, “very close” to the production version, says Rene Deconinck, vice president-product planning. The concept version has a panoramic glass roof that will be a large sunroof in production, as well as unique headlamps and taillights. The interior fabric, reproducing photographs of mountains, also is for the show car only.

The gimmicks that will reach production include a rear hatch that opens two ways, a sliding rear seat that can fit two adults or three children and an optional bike rack mounting below the bumper. The last item was conceived by Douin, who enjoys mountain biking.

The Modus is 149.2 ins. (379 cm) long, compared with the Clio’s 148.8 ins. (378 cm). It will be positioned slightly above the Clio, meaning some well-equipped Clios can cost more than some basic Moduses.

The car will be offered with a variety of engines, including the 115-hp 1.6L gasoline engine in the concept.

Douin says Renault’s approach to the B-segment, which accounts for 30% of Europe’s sales, is to emphasize design and dynamic performance in the Clio, and family versatility with the Modus.

Modus was designed to get a 5-star crash safety rating from EuroNCAP, although it hasn’t been tested officially.