Car reviews - Renault - Laguna - range
Comfort, style, unique styling, great highway abilities
Room for improvement
Parts can be scarce and costly
25 Jun 2003
RENAULT'S Laguna was launched in May, 1995, about the same time French President Jacques Chirac launched his nuclear assault on the Pacific. They both bombed as far as Australians were concerned.
The ensuing consumer boycott of French products meant Renault suffered a devastating sales blow.
Volvo Car Australia, which had taken over distribution rights in 1991 in anticipation of an aborted Volvo/Renault merger, pulled the plug on Renault in July, 1996, after just 349 Laguna sales.
Two Laguna models were imported - the four-cylinder RXE and the pricier, more luxurious Laguna V6.
The V6 adds more power but also more weight and suspension settings, which were too soft.
Today the Laguna RXE is a sought-after rarity with a resale value that is surprisingly firm.
Perhaps the Laguna's beautifully proportioned and still contemporary styling gives it a lasting appeal.
Bold details mixed with a soft organic shape lends the hatchback Laguna an air of elegance and charm.
The sumptuous, inviting interior builds on this theme with soft, enveloping velour cushions that feel superb at first but lack support on longer journeys.
Rear passengers fare well with shapely seats, a lap/sash centre seatbelt and a hatch blind for protection from the sun. The understated dashboard is executed with flair.
The quality of fit and finish is excellent with materials that look and feel good. And the ergonomics are faultless.
Renault was a pioneer of remote audio adjustments, remote central locking and multi-function computer displays - and Laguna has them all.
A disembodied voice politely reminds you (in English) when the lights are on, doors are open or keys are left in the ignition.
The accommodating Laguna is a five-seater, thanks to the usual French habit of building space-liberating, long-wheelbase cars.
The roomy cabin allows even tall passengers to sit behind bean- pole drivers, so legroom is no problem. But those thick pillars can block vision and the funky fastback styling restricts rear headroom.
Under that big rear hatch lurks a spacious 452-litre boot. It is what's under the bonnet that disappoints: the 83kW, 2.0- litre, four-cylinder engine's power output is below the class average.
Drive the car in isolation and the performance may seem reasonable. The long-stroke engine is designed to produce a fairly even spread of torque throughout the rev range. But the Laguna's substantial weight blunts the performance potential.
For instance, the 2.0-litre Peugeot 405 pumps out 92kW of power yet has to carry only 1150kg. The 405 is far zippier.
On the other hand, good aerodynamics contribute to fast, quiet and fuel-efficient touring capabilities.
Laguna continues the French tradition of outstanding chassis dynamics with a ride that is supple and absorbent, even over quite large pot-holes.
The impressive ride does not mean sacrifices in handling or roadholding.
Though the Laguna leans a little in corners, it eagerly goes where it is pointed with a level of responsiveness that borders on the sporty.
The clutch and five-speed manual gearbox mate well and are light and easy to use while the smooth four-speed automatic saps even more performance.
Volvo Car Australia continues to service and supply spare parts for the Laguna. Volvo dealers have the Renault sign up.
Many Lagunas will still be with their first, probably enthusiastic and caring owners and so should be in good condition. Demand proof of regular servicing.
If neglected, the automatic transmission can be troublesome. Repairs can cost thousands of dollars because there are no serviceable parts, meaning it has to be sent away, resulting in delays.
Make sure the automatic has been serviced every 70,000km.
Also beware of Lagunas with a tow-bar. The automatic is prone to greater wear and tear if the car does a lot of towing.
In the 1997 European front and side impact protection crash tests, Laguna beat Audi's A4 and the Mercedes C-class.
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