2009 Renault Laguna Estate – First Steer
– by Matt Brogan
Renault first launched the Laguna in 1994, though it wasn’t until 2002 that we saw the nameplate in Australia.
It’s been a popular car for the French brand globally selling some 2.3 million examples in the past 15 years. Though here down-under, sales have been, well… a little slow.
So will the launch of an Estate – or wagon – variant improve sales for the Laguna model? Or maybe it will be the introduction of a petrol variant to the range that will finally see Renault win some sales from the brand’s jaggernaut competitor Passat?
If yesterday’s drive is anything to go by then the answer is indeed a complex one.
Perhaps by means of an explanation it is best to take a moment to understand where the brand is coming from.
Selling relatively small numbers in Australia each year leaves a manufacturer with only a certain amount of leverage in specifying what combination of model, engine, transmission and equipment it can order – especially in a RHD country such as ours.
And when you compare the annual quantities that Laguna’s nearest competitor would sell in a few months, it isn’t hard to see how getting this combination just right can play havoc when trying to reach a wider audience.
So, does that mean Renault has been doing things wrong in past? Does it mean the cars weren’t any good? Or does it mean our wants as consumers are too specific? Well it means none of these.
As I see it, a lot comes back to an individual’s perception of the brand – which is quite often a misconceived one. If you’re able to break away from past thoughts of quirky French engineering and convince yourself to jump in the driver’s seat, a lot may change your mind about the product as a whole.
But what about the Laguna Estate specifically?
This is were things start to get interesting, for on the whole the car is a terrific package.
With 120 prototypes preceding Laguna Estate’s manufacture, and over six-million kilometres of testing (30,000km of which was carried out in Australia), it’s not hard to see the car as a well put together kit.
Of course there’s Renault’s commitment to safety, which, like almost its entire range, sees the Laguna with a five-star European NCAP rating – a feat the nameplate was first to achieve in 2001 – scoring 36 from a possible 37 points.
There’s ESP, Traction Control, ABS, EBA, EBD and eight airbags standard across the line-up. Laguna also offers new generation side-impact sensors which deploy the side airbags in around half the time of other systems.
But with so many rivals able to almost match Laguna’s safety credentials, what else does the car have going for it?
Renault’s Managing Director, Rudi Koenig summed it up as follows:
“In addition to extremely high standards of safety and excellent equipment levels the Laguna range now offers even more value for money,” Mr Koenig said. “In a market where many vehicles are becoming expensive, the Laguna range offers the best in European technology at a very affordable price. The increase in warranty to include unlimited kilometres, over a three year period, shows just how robust the car is.”
So we have a safe car backed by a decent warranty, but what about the all important question of what’s under the bonnet.
Laguna offers a choice of two engines in both its Estate and now in its Hatch models.
Firstly, and the engine I believe to be the pick of the pair, the existing 2.0-litre turbo diesel – or dCi – four-cylinder engine which produces a maximum power output of 110kW @ 4000rpm and a comfortable 340Nm from 2000rpm.
Matched to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission the dCi model manages a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 6.0-litres per 100km (158g/km of CO2) for the manual variant and 7.0-litres per 100km (185g/km of CO2) for the automatic.
Incidentally this engine also meets Euro V emission standards, two years ahead of their formal introduction.
In listening to what Australian consumers want, Renault now offers a Laguna in a petrol variant.
This 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol (16 valve) engine manages 125kW at 5000rpm and an ample 270Nm from 3250rpm.
It’s mated exclusively to the ‘Pro-Active’ six-speed automatic transmission which is capable of producing fuel economy returns of 8.9-litres per 100km (210g/km of CO2) on the combined cycle.
To better achieve the posted fuel economy returns, manual variants of the Laguna are equipped with a dash-mounted ‘Eco-Shift’ light to advise when best to change gear for optimum fuel efficiency.
Roll on acceleration is good at speed though slower maneuvering, such as roundabouts, does see both engines suffer a little from turbo lag. The only downside to an otherwise smooth and capable powertrain line-up.
Both engines now offer 15,000km service intervals.
Externally the car is one that I believe will strike a love/hate accord with potential buyers, if only from a visual standpoint, and I’ve got to say at this point I believe the Estate to be far more attractive proportionally than the Hatch.
Fluid lines, a long sloping bonnet, large low-mounted intake grille, plunging shoulderlines and a crease mid-way through the tailgate make the Laguna Estate quite handsome, particularly in the Dynamique (upper-spec) models with chrome highlights around the glass and larger diametre alloy wheels.
Inside too the cabin compliments the car’s exterior form in providing a smooth and ergonomic feel as well as a blend of textures and tones – even if the lower spec model (not shown) is a little gloomy in colour.
It is however a comfortable and rather spacious cabin with seating for five and the usual run of options (refer below). Of one small bother though, I did find the brake pedal to sit a little too far aftward for comfortable positioning.
The features line-up is as follows:
Expression (Hatch & Estate):
16-inch alloy wheels; dusk sensing headlamps; rain sensing wipers; “see me home” headlamps; cruise control with speed limiter function; automatic electric park brake; leather steering wheel and gear knob; integrated rear door sunblinds; dual-zone climate control; cloth trim; power windows and mirrors; smart card entry (key); and a single CD tuner (no iPod / auxiliary plug-in available).
Available in Hatch as a diesel manual, diesel auto & petrol auto or in Estate as a diesel auto or petrol auto.
Dynamique (Estate only):
As above but with 17-inch alloy wheels; rear parking sensors; tyre pressure monitors; chrome window surrounds; auto-folding wing mirrors; leather/cloth blend upholstery and aluminium dash and steering wheel inlays.
Available in Estate only as a diesel auto.
Privilege (Hatch only):
As above but with 18-inch alloy wheels; leather upolstery; eletrically adjustable heated front seats; auto-dimming rear view mirror; auto-directional xenon headlamps and a six CD tuner.
Available in Hatch only as a petrol or diesel auto.
Of note, the Laguna is not available with factory iPod/auxiliary connectivity, Bluetooth mobile phone interface or satellite navigation.
In terms of how the car drives, the Laguna is a bit of a mixed bag and will appeal to some more than others.
The handling for example is superb and with the steering ratio reduced from the previous model it means less work for the driver and more time to enjoy the car’s dynamics – which are well above ordinary.
A responsive chassis offers excellent grip for a front-wheel drive though the ride is a little firm, especially on Dynamic and Expression models where the subtle ride and lack of road noise suffers at the hands of larger diametre rims and low profile tyres.
Aside from that the car is settled on the open road and manages to cruise very comfortably provided the roads are well sealed.
Up the back the Laguna Estate offers 501-litres of cargo space with the seats up (loaded to window height) which can be expanded at the flick of a lever to 1593 litres.
With the recent changes in legislation regarding vehicle pricing it’s very hard for Renault and indeed CarAdvice to provide you with an accurate figure for your exact location.
But if we take the example of a Victorian buyer living in an urban centre then the Laguna recommended drive-away pricing is as follows:
CarAdvice will follow-up with a full review of the new Laguna Estate in the coming weeks.
In the mean time, a review of the Laguna dCi Hatch can be found by clicking here.