Renault's Grand revival
Whether you are undecided about this mercurial marque, a true fan, or simply bargain hunting, you'll find immense value here, writes Campbell Spray
I am going to be driving an awful lot of Renaults over the next few months. It will either convince me or kill me.
The marque has given the appearance of being very uncertain over its role in the past couple of years, but has come back with a vengeance in a massively strong marketing and pricing campaign which both pre-dated and then built upon the Government's scrappage scheme.
In fact, the Renault offers have been truly outstanding and have pushed the brand into fourth place with a 9.26 per cent share among overall car sales for the first month of the year -- a position they have not attained for many years.
The interest in Renault has spread both among aficionados of the French marque and the many, many people who have been waiting for a great bargain to come by.
In a number of letters and emails, I have been asked if I would recommend people to go for a Renault. Usually they get a bit of fence-sitting in reply. Whether it is a Scenic, Clio or Megane, and irrespective of the scrappage scheme, Renault are offering a lot of car for relatively little money. And they are now backing this up with a five-year warranty scheme that is the second best -- after Kia's seven years -- in the market.
So why the doubts?
Well, firstly, I don't really know the people who are running Renault now. That will change; but for the moment, with the exception of seeing them to be out-and-out marketing people who are there to secure a massive share of the pie at all costs, I know little.
Some people's view of the marque may be coloured by what they think of Bill Cullen, who ran the franchise for many years and still owns a number of showrooms. He does colour my view but then I'm just a bad apple.
My experiences with Renault go back a couple of generations. In 1960, I crashed a Renault Gordini into a holly-tree when I was still in short pants and my father was trying to teach me to drive. Some 12 years later, I had a Renault 4, which was a lot of fun as it bobbled along with the most extraordinary suspension around. But then it went off to the scrapyard when the sliding windows fell out after rust struck with a vengeance.
Since then, with few exceptions -- one of which was the great Espace -- I haven't been enamoured of the brand. The smaller cars like the Clio, Twingo and Kangoo have had a bit of appeal but I could really take or leave their family and executive -- especially the Laguna -- models, although they would usually have a very high spec.
I was in the new Grand Megane last weekend and it did offer amazing value, especially as part of the scrappage scheme and Renault's own finance package. It is a very competent estate and, courtesy of a tie-up with Tom-Tom, it comes equipped with a really good built-in sat-nav.
With all the Renault deals in place, plus the scrappage allowance, the Grand Megane comes down from €21,100 to a starting price of €14,800.
Even the very well-equipped version I was driving comes in at €17,300 rather than the previous €23,600. It is a very satisfying car to drive with all the space that even a family of five would need.
There is also a nice French touch of style about the whole package which makes it far classier than many of its rivals. The issue, as always, is the Renault name itself and the great divide it conjures up. However I do suggest you give it a try. The value is immense.