Monday 27 February 2017

Now we're sucking diesel

RENAULT
LAGUNA 2.0 dCI: RATING 77/100
RENAULT LAGUNA 2.0 dCI: RATING 77/100

I am putting my hand out for trouble this week. What else is new? Look, I have had a problem with Lagunas for quite a while. Grand cars to look at, okay to drive but between poor second-hand values and a smattering of difficulties with electrics over the years, I have steered people toward other purchases.

The last Laguna was to be the bees knees and carried a three-year warranty -- a sign of how intent they were on getting over the reliability issue.

There was nothing wrong with it really but, after an initial flourish, it didn't sparkle, it didn't inspire enough confidence and, despite being packed with all sorts of equipment, it just didn't catch on.

So they've gone back to basics again with this heavily revised new entrant to see if they can breathe new life into a car that should do an awful lot better.

And this is where I put my hand out for trouble from those who accuse me of being anti-Renault. Because this is easily the best they've managed to date. I'm only too glad to say that.

However, whether this incarnation is overwhelmingly good enough to win over, and back, those in the market for a large family/fleet hatchback is another question entirely.

Credit where it is due, nonetheless. They have managed to make this really feel like a big, powerful driver with a lot of space in what is a classy cabin.

And there's a boot to match the best of the rivals (well, maybe not all).

In went all sorts of stuff for another sortie to the old home (steadily becoming jammed now) and off we went.

It was a fair old barnstormer on the motorway but, more importantly, better set up to cope and deal with the poorer roads and their surfaces. The contrast is ever more sharply drawn these days between the smooth tarmac of the motorways and the often deteriorating condition of secondary roads.

I wouldn't go mad extolling the Laguna's virtues but my passengers liked the cabin a lot and felt it was one of the most comfortable cars they'd sat in for some time.

Yes, there was a feeling of real substance to the car and handling -- sloppy enough in the old one -- felt better.

And no doubt about it, that diesel engine had plenty of low-rev pulling power as well as a decent kick for overtaking.

It may sound repetitive but it is only when you are out driving that you truly appreciate such matters. They can sound almost trite in print, yet they are the cornerstone of a car's driving credentials.

I was not impressed with one aspect of my test car. It had miles per hour as the main menu on the odometer. It is hard enough to stay clear of the speed detectors when you can instantly see what you're doing in kilometres. I am assured it will be kilometres for you should you decide to buy.

Last time I had a Renault I got my fingers tied up in knots trying to find radio stations and all that. I think I'm more accustomed to the system now but still feel it can be unnecessarily complicated.

None of it bothered me much, to be honest, because I had company of one sort or other a fair bit of the time and was listening to Premier League football at other times.

Like all revamps, the main visual improvements stem from the front where they have done a fine job. This is a smart-looking hatch now and looks the part.

Unfortunately, the same could have been, and indeed was, said about predecessors only for them to flatter to deceive.

So only time will tell if this Laguna has the long-term attributes to change minds.

Don't forget that a critical element of any car is what the people in the motor trade think of it as a secondhand entity. And their thinking is entirely shaped by how reliable and desirable a car turns out to be over the first two or three years of its life.

It is alright for me to say this is a big improvement -- and I stand over that claim completely. It is another thing entirely for those at the mechanical and financial coalfaces across the industry to coldly calculate that progress and accord it higher trade-in values.

I think it is so far, so good for this Laguna but there's a fair bit of a journey still awaiting it.

ecunningham@independent.ie

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