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Old 08-26-2007, 01:00 PM
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Arrow Renault Laguna

Renault Laguna Coup?©

A few years ago a friend was bursting to tell me about his Italian holiday. It wasn??™t the beautiful Tuscan villa he wanted to rave about, but the Renault Laguna he??™d hired. Or rather, the Renault Lagunas. And a Fiat.

The first Laguna went catatonic outside the villa, its electrics plunging into a coma from which they could not be roused, while the second, delivered on a truck to replace the first, went down in sympathy two days later.

The tranquillity of the villa was soon rent with ranting, the hire company unable to provide anything more sizeable than a Fiat Panda, which nevertheless charmed my friend by working.

It??™s not often that a manufacturer owns up to making an unreliable car, but so widespread have the Laguna??™s troubles been that Renault has come clean, describing its career as ???a difficult period in terms of quality???. Not the wording my friend might have used, but it??™s an admission nonetheless.

Electrical troubles, poor finish and fiddly faults have undermined the life of this car and its owners, and that??™s a particular pity given its handsome styling. But this is why Renault??™s boss, the charismatic Carlos Ghosn, has declared the new Laguna will appear among the top three cars in its class not only for quality but customer service. Although a puff to win back buyers, the declaration has also been an instruction to his staff to deliver a car that works.

Whether they have been successful will be discovered only by those who dare to buy this third-generation Laguna, which, like the last model, is available as either a five-door hatchback or an estate called Sport Tourer. And first impressions are good, even if its styling is not as pleasing as the previous model??™s.

The bodywork feels robust and looks tightly assembled, the cabin wears an almost Teutonic aura of precision, and there??™s much talk of high quality manufacturing processes. That Renault has adopted systems from its Japanese sister company Nissan is cause for hope, as is the claim that no significant faults emerged during 3.5m miles of extreme testing. As proof of confidence, the company is providing a three-year 100,000-mile warranty, while other Renaults make do with 60,000-mile cover.

Reliability should be a given these days, and if this Laguna proves trouble free that will merely get it to the starting line ??“ it needs to offer a lot more to challenge the excellent Ford Mondeo and the temptingly classy Volkswagen Passat.

It scores instantly with a well-finished interior that looks particularly pleasing when part-trimmed with Alcantara. True, the material is an option, but it looks good in combination with the attractively stitched part-leather finish that comes as standard with the bestselling Dynamique specification.

Soft-feel high quality dashboard mouldings, plastics and splashes of aluminium provide the interior with a well-crafted look, and happily this isn??™t undermined when you touch it: the fittings feeling robust and solidly attached.

That??™s an impression borne out on the road, the test car producing none of the creaks, squeaks or irritating chafings that could spoil the last Laguna.

Sensibly placed controls, attractive dashboard architecture and easy to use air-conditioning ??“ it can provide a stiff blast, gentle ventilation or something in between ??“ heighten the impression of thoughtful design, as do clear instruments and the softly positive movements of the switchgear.

One of the few faults was a sharp edge under the front seat we found while grubbing about for its adjuster. The new 3-D colour-screen sat nav is a pleasure to look at ??“ it also includes a stereo upgrade and Bluetooth ??“ and refreshingly straightforward to use, though it??™s pricey at ??1,750. A less elaborate system can be had for ??975. As before, you can have Renault??™s card-key starting system ??“ and this time it should be trouble-free.

The 150bhp 2.0 dCi turbodiesel that Renault expects to be the bestseller sounds unmistakably diesel-like when you start it, but its activities are well muffled and intrude little, even when the engine is stretched. Not that you need rev it hard. Maximum tug is delivered from just 2000rpm; trying to extract brisk acceleration below these revs can prompt a long wait. The gearchange is a little willowy in action and less positive than a Mondeo??™s.

On the whole, though, the Laguna is an easy car to drive, and a relaxing one with this effortlessly potent engine, especially on the motorway where the soothing hush of its progress is impressive ??“ and at speeds well past the legal. Those condemned to ply Britain??™s motorways will appreciate this, as well as a quality stereo and the promise of strong economy.

They should also feel reassured by the Laguna??™s safety credentials, a major asset of the previous model that??™s been further burnished with upgraded brakes to shorten stopping distances, a stronger passenger cell ??“ particularly in side impacts ??“ and antiwhiplash front head restraints.

This car has the potential, if you spend enough, to feel complete and provides a standard of finish not far adrift of what you??™ll enjoy if you buy a BMW or an Audi. Against much of the ageing opposition from mainstream manufacturers such as Vauxhall and Toyota this Laguna makes a strong case for itself. It??™s spacious, comfortable and easy to live with.

What it lacks, though, is the draw of the Passat??™s classier reputation, or the driving pleasure provided by the Mondeo, whose crisper handling makes it the best choice for the keen driver. The Laguna is good to sit and ride in; it just lacks that final flourish.

Engine type 1995cc, four cylinders, turbodiesel

Power/torque 150bhp @ 4000rpm / 251 lb ft @ 2000rpm

Transmission Six-speed manual

Fuel/CO2 47.1mpg (combined cycle) / 158g/km

Performance 0-62mph: 9.5sec / Top speed: 131mph

Price ??18,400

Verdict Better made, quiet, comfortable, but bland


Release date October 19, 2007


Model Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 140 Zetec ??18,395

For All-rounder, good to drive

Against Big, less frugal than Laguna

Model Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI 140 Sport, ??20,407

For Roomy, handsome, frugal

Against Very big, dull to drive

Source: [url=http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/driving/new_car_reviews/article2320504.ece]Times Online[/url]
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