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Click to view road test review picture galleryRenaults new family
  car, the five-door
  Laguna, is one very
  sharp looker that
  promises much.
  And, to make sure
  you don
t miss out
  on a ‘sure thing
,
  Renault will even
  deliver one to your
  door for a test-drive...”


RENAULT BEGAN 2008 WITH LOTS OF NEW MODELS to suit a wide range of customers. Twingo, Modus, Grand Modus, Laguna five-door Hatchback and Laguna Sport Tourer estates have all come to market in recent months and are now joined by the new Laguna 'family car' that will be competing against the likes of the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Vectra, VW Passat, Honda Accord, Peugeot 407, Citroen C5 and Toyota Avensis.

Renault's five-door hatchback line-up is by far the best-selling body style for family cars of this size, although some of these customers look upon a 'hatchback' as being more suited to a smaller class of vehicle — and for them the Sport Tourer estate variant is more appealing. During 2008 Renault will be expanding the Laguna line-up even further, with four-wheel-steering performance models and a Coupe as well as further engine options for the range.

'Going-with-the flow' of the majority of sales, my new Laguna test model was a five-door hatchback — a 2.0-litre Dynamique dCi 150 costing 18,400. Laguna hatchback prices start from 15,990 and rise to 23,400. Sport Tourer estate variants are priced from 16,940 and rise to 24,350.

Diesel-powered models of both the hatchback and Sports Tourer line-ups are the most popular, mainly because of their appeal to high-mileage business users. The Laguna range offers the choice of two petrol and three diesel engines, three of which are new — the 2.0-litre petrol 140bhp, and the 110bhp 1.5 dCi and 130bhp 2.0 dCi turbodiesel units. The small 1.5-litre dCi unit — with 130g/km CO2 emissions — will appeal particularly to heavily taxed company car users. The 2.0-litre 170bhp turbocharged petrol and 150bhp 2.0-litre dCi turbodiesel engines are carried over from the previous generation of Laguna models.

Renault say they have placed significant focus on giving the new Laguna models improved driving pleasure, improved steering, ride and handling. A new three-year/100,000-mile warranty is standard for all models and they have achieved a Euro NCAP five-star rating, with one of the highest ever scores recorded: 36 points out of 37. The Laguna has six airbags as standard, plus new thorax airbags as an option. An Electronic Stability Programme is standard on all models as are anti-lock brakes, air conditioning, alloy wheels, electric door mirrors, electric windows front and rear, traction control and high specification CD and stereo radio.

There are four trim levels available for both hatchback and Tourer models: Expression, Dynamique, Dynamique S and Initiale, plus a wide range of single options and three-option packs.

I think customers will be, most of all, impressed by the sharp new styling of the latest Laguna. It is a significantly larger car in keeping with the general move by most mainstream manufacturers in this sector to provide more space and better equipment at more or less
the same price as the smaller models they replace. The Laguna looks elegant and imposing, with significant road presence — in fact, it's
now a more desirable and expensive vehicle edging towards the premium brands in this sector on offer from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

However, the long, sleek bonnet and low roofline do eat into the interior space. The new Laguna might be 4,695mm long, 1,811mm wide and 1,445mm high but it isn't as roomy as the latest Mondeo. There is enough shoulder room front and rear with good front legroom. But in the rear, legroom is tight and headroom suffers somewhat because of the sloping roof. The low body waistline allows for large glass areas so visibility to the front and sides is good, and the cabin has an airy feel. The Laguna's steeply-racked rear tailgate and the design of the rear window restrict rear visibility a little. Boot space, at 462 litres, is reasonable — but again not as large as that of the new Mondeo. The rear seat backs fold down to increase the load space further — to 1,377 litres — with a near-flat load floor.

The layout of the dashboard and centre console is neat, with easy to find and use controls and the trim surfaces look high quality. It takes
a while to get used to the offset pedals — a usual complaint for most Renault right-hand drive models. Leather and cloth upholstery is stan-dard on this particular model, which makes for a pleasant ambience for both driver and passengers.

I'm not going to dwell too much on the performance of the 2.0-litre 150bhp, 251lb ft turbodiesel engine, which is already well known: it pulls strongly under acceleration, is very quiet for a diesel although not very flexible due, in part, to the high fifth and sixth gear ratios and consequently it requires considerable use of the gearbox. Official performance figures show the Laguna to have a top speed of 130mph and 0-62mph is covered in 9.5 seconds. In the combined cycle this Laguna is supposed to return 47.1mpg but my test car got nowhere near that at only 37.1mpg. CO2 emissions are 158g/km giving it a Vehicle Excise Duty rating of Band D — that's 140 road tax for the year. The insurance group rating is 9E.

In true French style the suspension is configured to give ride-comfort rather than sharp and responsive handling. This is ideal on motorways but the ride soon becomes unsettled and the suspension does not easily absorb the bumps, ripples and potholes commonplace on our British roads. Noise intrusion into the car from both wind and tyres is relatively low, so the being a passenger is generally a pleasurable experience.

The new Laguna hatchback has much going for it — particularly its looks and quality. It does fall short in a few areas to some of its very good rivals in this sector, the worst of which is that it is not as frugal on fuel as official figures would suggest. It also lacks sharp handling and exhibits an unsettled ride over many road surfaces. On the plus side it offers smart styling, is very well equipped, of excellent quality and overall refinement is very good. It's also very safe and appealing
to own — owning-up to driving a Laguna might, for some, be infinitely preferable to admitting "I'm a Mondeo man" (or woman!).

Renault has now made it even easier for you to try before you buy. Simply visit www.drivelaguna.co.uk and in just three simple steps,
a test-drive of New Laguna can be arranged. Customers are able to select the date of their choice — which can be a Monday evening
to a Tuesday evening, Wednesday to Thursday or Friday evening until Monday morning — and, in conjunction with Avis, a New Laguna will
be delivered to either their work or home address.

Initial customer feedback shows that 99 per cent found it very easy/ easy to navigate through the booking process, whilst 95 per cent found it very easy/easy to book Laguna on the date they wanted. Customers were also impressed with the quality of the new Laguna.
Of those questioned, 93 per cent thought the interior quality was excellent/good. Build quality and overall finish also impressed, with 92 per cent rating Laguna as excellent/good. Obviously you get a much better idea of a car if you can borrow it for 24 hours and drive on
a variety of different roads. The only problem is that you may not
want to give it back! — David Miles

Renault Laguna Dynamique 5-door 2.0 dCi 150 | 18,400
Maximum speed: 130mph | 0-62mph: 9.5 seconds
Overall test MPG: 37.1mpg | Power: 150bhp | Torque: 251lb ft

CO2 158g/km | VED Band D 140 | Insurance group 11E

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