Car reviews - Renault - Laguna - 2.2dCi
13 Nov 2006
By CHRIS HARRIS
RENAULT has turned turbo-diesel.
The return of its mid-size Laguna hatch – this time as a turbo-diesel – will spearhead a diesel lineup that will be expanded next year with the arrival of the Megane and Scenic, to join their petrol siblings.
Based on the experiences of Peugeot and Volkswagen, Renault believes that diesel passenger cars could eventually make up 25 per cent of total sales locally.
As a brand, Renault is still a small player in Australia as its petrol models have struggled to find footing in an increasingly competitive and segmented market.
The days of lofty sales foSrecasts by the French car-maker have diminished and the company now admits that it has more "realistic prospects" of growth in the ultra-competitive Aussie market.
This will mean an expected sales rate of close to 3000 cars in Australia this year, with the volume selling being the Megane, followed by the Kangoo light commercial.
By adding turbo-diesels across its passenger car range the company hopes to exceed 3000 sales by a significant margin next year.
Previously the Laguna was offered in both four cylinder and V6 petrol guises but poor sales saw it quietly retired from the market early this year.
This time around the Laguna – as a 2.2-litre common-rail turbo-diesel – will be offered in one spec for $46,990.
Like the first-generation Laguna, the MkII has high safety levels with a five-star EuroNCAP crash rating but also gains the latest-generation ESP system with understeer control.
Visually the car gets a freshened front and rear with new grille, 17-inch alloys and a host of equipment upgrades, including additional noise deadening, electronic park brake, upgraded Renault "start" card, dual-zone climate control and automatic headlights and windscreen wipers.
Safety equipment includes six airbags, ABS, ESP with understeer control, seatbelt pretensioners, anti-submarining seats, brake assist and collapsible brake pedal and large-diameter ventilated 308mm front disc brakes and 274mm discs at the rear.
The Laguna’s suspension remains MacPherson-type front suspension and an H-shaped torsion beam at the rear.
But some changes have been made to the anti-roll bars and damper settings to improve body control and ride comfort on poorly sealed roads.
At the heart of the Laguna is the latest-generation direct-injection common-rail turbo-diesel.
The Laguna shares its 2.2dCi 16-valve four with the Espace people mover and in the hatch develops 102kW at 4000rpm and 320Nm at 1750rpm.
It has a variable-quantity injection pump that delivers only the fuel quantity actually needed with an injection pressure of 1350 bar.
The turbocharger has the latest ‘multi-vane’ variable geometry for better low-speed response.
The engine is mated to a five-speed sequential automatic that helps deliver a claimed combined fuel economy cycle of 7.7L/100km, allowing a touring range of more than 1000km on its 68-litre tank.
Inside, Renault claims the cabin and build quality has improved with the use of richer materials and a new, easier to read dashboard with user-friendly controls.
Renault says the dashboard is 70 per cent new. The radio is better integrated, and has more flush-fitting installation and the steering wheel is new.
The luggage capacity remains 430 litres with the split-fold rear seats up and 1340 litres with the seats folded.
Renault Australia is pitching the Laguna against both French and German turbo-diesels but the car must also compete against the cheaper Mazda6 diesel, which is available as both a hatch and wagon.
Renault Australia’s director, marketing and product planning, Christophe di-Perna, said the latest-generation diesels were changing people’s perceptions of these engines, buoyed by the fact that more than 1500 Australians had experienced modern turbo-diesels through Renault’s EuroDrive rental program.
"And their perceptions have changed," he said.
A diesel Laguna was not offered earlier because it was unavailable with an automatic transmission.
"We had a diesel manual but no auto, and that’s important in a market that is 60 per cent automatic," he said.
Renault also wanted to wait for the MkII Laguna upgrades, he said.
Inside the cabin, the addition of the electronic park brake has also freed up more storage room in the console.
The brake itself is similar to other top-end European offerings.
It is automatically applied when the engine is switched off and automatically released as soon as the accelerator is pushed.
A manual selector, situated to the right of the dashboard, provides all the functions of a conventional handbrake.
It can be used to hold the car on a slope without switching off the engine.
The upgraded Renault "smart" card also allows for the automatic locking and unlocking of the doors and keyless start.
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