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Renault says "bonjour" to Australia

Red hot: The Clio Renault Sport is the performance leader.

The waiting is over, Renault is back on sale across the country

Renault logo25 May 2001

RENAULT, one of Australia's and indeed the world's oldest automotive nameplates, has returned Down Under. And it plans to be the top selling European brand sold here by the end of the decade.

Officially due to go on sale through a new national dealer network on Monday, May 28, the new four-car Renault Australia range is the first since the brand's demise here a little more than five years ago.

The French marque's Australian relaunch is the result of a two-year planning process by Nissan Australia, whose parent company is owned by Renault, and was facilitated by the Renault-Nissan alliance that in 1998 targeted more than eight million sales worldwide by 2010.

"Today is a really satisfying day," said Nissan Australian managing director Leon Daphne at Thursday's press launch.

"Around 20 months ago (Renault Australia director) Richard Wilson and I had a kind of skunkworks meeting to propose to Renault that we distribute the brand here. And today it's great to see to fruition a plan that's been a dream of ours for some time.

"We think Renault is perceived as innovating and daring in design, and the brand should be very well received here. Make no mistake: Renault is committed to Australia." Renault Australia announced the appointment of 13 dealers in March, many of which will be officially opened over the next two weeks, and is currently negotiating with a further six metropolitan dealers, with provincial dealers to be announced before the end of this year.

ADR compliance for the initial range of four cars is complete and distribution to dealers of the first batch of 480 cars began this week.

A further 400 cars are on the water and due for imminent distribution, but there have been some changes to the pricing and specification structures previously announced.

Originally launched in Europe in 1996, Renault says the Megane Scenic was the compact, versatile mono-space vehicle that started the small people-mover craze worldwide. It expected between 45,000 and 50,000 Scenic sales initially, but last year sold more than 300,000 and expects total production to exceed two million in 2002.

Said to best express the Renault tradition of design innovation, the "big on the inside" Scenic will compete with the likes of Mazda's Premacy, Kia's Carens, the Daewoo Tacuma and Holden's forthcoming Zafira.

It will be available in three levels of specification, starting at $25,878 for the 1.6-litre manual only Expression featuring 79kW of power, air-conditioning, remote central locking, power windows/mirrors, trip computer, ABS anti-lock brakes, twin front and side airbags, five lap-sash seatbelts and an immobiliser.

Next is the 2.0-litre Dynamique, which is priced at $27,878 in manual guise and adds climate control air-conditioning, an in-dash CD player, partial leather seat trim, front armrest, leather steering wheel, floor mats, vanity mirrors and, externally, alloy wheels, front and rear fog lights and a full (tailgate mounted) spare wheel hood.

The highest specified Scenic is the Privilege which at $28,878 also gets the 101kW, 2.0-litre engine, plus a rear sun shade and centre rear armrest. Add $2000 for an automatic transmission in both Dynamique and Privilege.

Renault Australia's volume seller will be the Scenic RX4, which is expected to comprise about 1600 units of the predicted 3500 Renault sales for the remainder of 2001. It will enter Australia's fastest growing segment, the compact four-wheel drive market, as a rival for Honda's successful CR-V, Subaru's Forester and Toyota's RAV4.

Manual-only models, both the $31,150 Expression and the $33,250 Privilege, feature the Scenic's 101kW 16-valve 2.0-litre four. The Privilege improves on the Expression's equipment level by featuring climate control air-conditioning, in-dash CD player, vanity mirrors, a front armrest, alloy wheels and a full spare wheel hood.

Based on the same platform, the Megane Cabriolet is available in 1.6-litre Expression form only, the automatic version again adding $2000 to the manual's $39,985 pricetag.

The "image" vehicle of the Renault line-up, the Megane cabrio lays claim to be the best value four-seater convertible on the local market, which includes Peugeot's 306 Cabriolet and VW's Golf Cabriolet. It gets an electrically operated folding fabric roof, air-conditioning, CD player, power windows, alloy wheels and fog lights.

Finally, the Renault Clio Sport is the performance flagship of the four-car range. Its 124kW, 2.0-litre powerplant is said to propel the hot three-door hatch to 220km/h, and 100km/h in just 7.3 seconds.

A fierce rival for Peugeot's stylish (and $1000 cheaper) 206 GTi and Proton's Satria GTi, the sole Clio to be sold here initially is priced at $30,990 and features 15-inch alloys, fog lights, remote central locking, CD player, power windows, sports seats and drilled aluminium pedals.

Sadly, the original shipment of 85 cars is spoken for and new customers will need to wait until a facelifted Clio range arrives in September - just before the larger Laguna range and possibly the mid-engined V6 Clio arrive late this year.

All Australian Renaults will feature two front and two seat-mounted side airbags (plus two side curtain bags for Scenic and RX4), lap-sash seatbelts for all seats, immobilisers, ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution and four wheel disc brakes.

Metallic paint is a $450 option across the range while a luxury pack comprising full leather trim, twin sunroofs and roof rails will be available for the Scenic Dynamique and Privilege and the Scenic RX4 Privilege for $4250.

A roof pack, comprising twin sunroofs and roof rails, is on offer with the Scenic Dynamique and Privilege and the Scenic RX4 Privilege for $2000.

PRICING:
Clio Renault Sport $30,990
Megane Expression Cabriolet $39,985
Megane Expression Cabriolet auto $41,985
Scenic Expression 1.6 $25,878
Scenic Dynamique 2.0 $27,878
Scenic Dynamique 2.0 auto $29,878
Scenic Privilege 2.0 $28,778
Scenic Privilege 2.0 auto $30,778
Scenic RX4 Expression $31,150
Scenic RX4 Privilege $33,250 Read our drive impressions of the range, also in the New Models section

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