Estate

Renault Laguna Review

HATCH

For those of you thinking hmmm interesting a rep wagon, thanks Rich…
Don't be too hasty to judge, yes the old Laguna had a few build quality issues, however this all new model seems to have sorted all that out with the new Laguna Hatch seeming to have a much stronger and more quality feel about it.

Now the model I had to test was a top of the range Initiale 2.0L Diesel model with a cracking 150bhp, which makes it quick to say the least, 0-62mph is done in nine and a half seconds. So the new Laguna has much improved handling as well, its far more precise and so smooth and quiet you do actually have to check the engine is running at times. With regards to the new exterior styling, don't misunderstand its no Calvin Klein model in Daniel Craig's short shorts (oh the thought) but… I love it, the pictures just don't do it justice, and the new wrap round front lights / low front give it an altogether more sporting and poised look. The new rear is pleasant and will no doubt grow on me over time.

Interior wise the quality feel has gone through the roof, its very Starship enterprise sat behind the wheel with electrickry, full colour screens and computers everywhere; controlling everything from the climate control to the 6 stack in-dash CD player. You get an awful lot of kit for your money, regardless of the spec level you go for. My Initiale model had just about everything you could ever want and more. Because it's a Renault is just about as safe as you can get with even the entry level Expression model coming equipped with ABS, EBD, ESP and ASR Traction control as standard. Now don't get me wrong if you drive like a Turkish taxi driver on a country road you're still going to wrap yourself round a tree, but the Renault safety systems will try their best to help you avoid it.

So overall it's a great motor, nice to drive, comfortable, well equipped and safe into the bargain. It also does nearly 50mpg on the combined fuel cycle which means its going to be fairly cheap to run as well.


SPORT TOURER
 

There's no denying, no matter how much you dislike estate cars, that the new Laguna Sport Tourer is a great looking car. It's sleek, sporty and very upmarket with its dashing new bodyline. Renault's diesels have always been great performers, and the 2L Turbo unit in the Sport Tourer I tested was no exception, with more grunt than a eastern bloc tennis player the big estate never felt underpowered and returned great fuel economy.

Now the new Laguna Sport Tourer over the last version is a totally different car all together, it feels better made, looks better both inside and out, the quality of the materials inside feels far more upmarket and it looks far more expensive than its £24,370 price tag.

Equipment is another of Renault's big things; whatever you're buying it's normally got plenty of toys as standard. The new Laguna follows this rule and had more toys for boys than the Soho prowler store. Included as standard on my top-of-the-range model was full leather interior, CD/MP3 stereo, Bluetooth Sat Nav with a full colour screen, electric and heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry, Xenon headlights and headlamp washers, amongst a wealth of other features included as standard. The extra sporting touches as standard on the outside included the gorgeous pair of twin tail pipes that just increases the big Renaults sporting look from behind.

Even though the Laguna Sport Tourer shares the same wheelbase as the hatch version its been extended to give a load area that feels big enough to fit half of Ikea in the back. It also feels massive within the actual passenger cabin and five are seated with more than enough room to cope with long journeys in plenty of space and comfort. Handling wise it's a lot of fun and you really wouldn't know you where in a large barge estate, it handles corners well and is great flying down country roads and twisting bends.

A triumph for Renault and well worth a test drive if you're looking for a big estate or need an estate company car.


COUPÉ

Showing off a more suave and sophisticated attitude towards motoring, Renault launched the Laguna Coupé in 2008 to dispel any remaining bad feeling toward the brand and, with a clever tongue-in-cheek campaign behind it, proved that driving a Renault is not what it once may have been.

2011 sees the coupe having a slight nip-tuck to bring it inline with the rest of the range offering, and continue bringing a fantastic driving experience into 2012.

So as you can guess I am quite a fan of the mid-sized coupe.  In fact, I would go so far as to say I think it’s quite underrated among the industry, and deserves much more attention than it’s been given.  The sleek and slender lines give the coupe a very sporty look, and boasts a very mature nature compared to that of its product counterparts – like your best mates hotter, older brother all suited and booted.  The Laguna Coupe brings an elegance and grace to the road and, like his hot older brother, looks just as great from behind.

Inside is just as subtle, with a sharp interior and the use of higher-grade materials; the Laguna Coupé is matched perfectly to the exterior finish, keeping that classic style.  Reclined sports seats are complimented with a cascade style centre console with integrated satellite navigation and a compact control panel nested by the gearstick.  The addition of a flat-bottomed steering wheel invokes the typical coupe feeling and matte chrome highlights within the door trim and dashboard complete the cosseted cockpit perfectly.  Keyless entry and exit also makes the whole experience pretty cool, especially when out to impress.

Moving onto performance and this is where the Laguna Coupe excels.  Renault have really worked hard to make sure the coupe experience isn’t all style and no substance – all thanks to introducing a technology they call ‘4control’.  Definitely one to test out on sweeping bends and tight country corners, the 4Control system works to turn the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front, creating tighter steering and more precision when tackling those tricky twists.  You can really push this car to its limit with no trouble and it will keep giving as good as it gets.

Specs and stats next and prices range from just over £20k to a range topping £28k!  But, don’t think that you’re being sold short if you opt for the entry level TomTom dCi 150, as you may have guessed from the model name, navigation comes integrated as standard, along with rear parking sensors, dual zone climate control and even auto sensing lights and wipers.  Options include extras like leather and metaillic paint, but for the most part Renault is spoiling its Coupe purchasers.  The 2.0 litre diesel performs well too, sprinting to 62mph in just 9.8 seconds and still returning an impressive combined mpg of 46.6 – not bad at all.

Responsive and engaging, the Laguna coupe will compliment your smart and sophisticated image at the office, while servicing that ‘boy racer’ urge round town and on the motorways.  The 2012 model sees the addition of running lights and some shiny 18” alloys, as well as some rather special, special editions.  Definitely the most surprising coupe I have driven over the past few years, and one that I can’t recommend enough.

SEAT Ibiza Review

ECOMOTIVE

Bless VW Group, it's obsession with Eco-motoring has now reached such a level it means that regardless of the actual main brands of its group that your buying from, be it SEAT, VW or Audi  there's now a guilt-free-motoring-you're-not-killing-the-planet-but-all-our-exiciting-and-fun-SUV's-still-are 'Eco / BluMotion / TDIe / slower than retarded cats / coma inducing-ly dull / zero fun /  blander than Gordon Brown's next speech , low emissions derivative of every car.

The latest to receive the VW Group emissions make-under is the gorgeous new 5dr SEAT Ibiza ECOMOTIVE.  The little 80bhp 1.4TDI chucks out a tree-hugging 98g/km of CO2 emissions.  If that wasn't enough they've also reduced the weight and strapped a DPF filter on the engine to further reduce harmful particle emissions.  It's got reduced-friction road tyres and improved aerodynamics to make it leaner than a supermodel on a Parisian catwalk.  Now there are obvious absolute-no-brainer benefits to choosing the Ibiza ECOMOTIVE.  For a start, due to those almost non-existent emissions its free of road tax.  So it's a big two fingers up to the current charge-motorists-into-poverty-by-taxing-every-aspect-of-anything-concerned-with-motoring labour government.  Secondly SEAT claim in its press pack that it will do 94.2mpg on motorway journeys.  So it won't cost a fortune to run, to say the least.

The other huge benefit with the little ECOMOTIVE Ibiza is that its standard equipment list is more than generous.  With it coming as standard with Air-Con, ABS, central locking, electric front windows, pollen filter, PAS and an iPod compatible stereo with AUX port its great value for money.

Now the 'aerodynamic' changes are where the problems start, for a start to make the car lighter and more fuel efficient, say goodbye to Alloy wheels and hello to 14" wheels with closed gap plastic trims  and big fat reduced friction tyres.  Which are about as sexy as your nan in lacy knickers.  Then remove the sexy new Ibiza grille and replace it with a shiny black plastic closed grille, then stick a black plastic-looking rear roof spoiler on the back to improve air flow over and under the front of the car and increase the aerodynamics of air off the back of the car, thus reducing drag, again as sexy as your nan in lacy knickers - without her dentures in.

Inside the ECOMOTIVE Ibiza, it's much the same story, lightening the car means that the spilt-rear seat is replaced by a bench folding seat,  where trim isn't essential, its been removed and I was left feeling like one of my favourite small cars was now (in ECO version) somewhat lacking.

Now I realise it sounds like I'm giving the SEAT a really hard time, I am! Compared to the standard of a non-ECO SEAT the overall trim and look of the Ibiza has been removed, and with it the fun and personality of the Spanish sexpot hatchback.  It's bland inside and out, simple as.

However, 94.2mpg is a claim I felt the need to test… damn if SEAT aren't true to every letter of that statement.  On the motorway I achieved a massive 87mpg without any hassle. If I'd really pushed it I think I would have been easily able to get 94.2mpg.  The one thing that SEAT haven't removed is the sporty feel to the actual drive of the Ibiza.  The little 80bhp engine isn't quick with 0-62mph taking 12.9secs, but it feels much fastest.  It still handles well, and its great fun to duck and dive through town traffic and cruise down country lanes.  It feels as sturdy and safe as a regular Ibiza and its still cute.  But to be fair with such amazing economy I'm hard pushed not to love the ECO just for the miniscule running costs.  It's also a group 3 insurance, which is pretty much the equiverlant of the insurance company paying you to drive it.  So its great for younger drivers and those that have just passed their test and want a brand new car.

The other huge thing is cost to buy, for once I actually got a press car through that wasn't loaded up with optional extras, in fact my press car was TOTALLY standard.  It also cost £12,205OTR, which is cheap for a 1.4 TDI that will theoretically do 750 miles on £47's of fuel, especially coupled with the no-road-tax and cheaper-than-cheap-insurance.

So do I love it? No. Would I drive it? Yes. Would I buy it? Yes, it's a great little car, its just a shame that SEAT stripped some of the fun and appeal out of the Ibiza ECO along with the weight.  Overall it's a great buy for the money.


BOCANEGRA

Seat’s Cupra range is known for producing cracking, covert looking, hot hatches.  After bringing us the new Ibiza and three-door SC, SEAT have invoked the demonic power of Cupra and brought us the Cupra Bocanegra, (meaning ‘black mouth’ in Spanish, influenced by the car’s wide black grille) appealing to those inclined towards a body kit and leaving a lasting impression on others.

The Bocanegra joins the FR and Cupra to form a trinity of Spanish hotties, all powered by VW’s nippy 178bhp producing 1.4-litre supercharged TSI plant.    Although mechanically identical to the Cupra, the Bocy benefits from some attractive unique styling features.  Inside there’s red diamond stitching on the sports seats and leather steering wheel, different trim detailing and embossed ‘B’ logos, and outside apart from the obvious aggressive open black grill, there are black inserts in the rear bumper, black gloss wing mirrors and a large Bocanegra badge sweetly set off against the choice of Dakota Red or Candy White body colours.

Finishing off the attractive styling, 17-inch smoke effect ‘Sira’ alloys compliment the sharp definition of the bodylines – a final flourish from Lamborghini Gallardo designer, Luc Donckerwolke.

On the road, the Bocanagra performs best when enthusiastically driven. It may have a half reasonable sprint from 0-62 of 7.2, but lacks the agility, sparkle, edge and matchless grip of say the Renaultsport Clio. The ride is firm and body control good, but overall it feels slightly sanitized.  Thoroughly competent, but fails to engage as its edgy, sleek looks hint it might.

The extra £700 plus cost above the Cupra, includes VW’s excellent DSG auto gearbox as standard and is a model that looks-wise, is certainly not lacking in kerb appeal.  Another reason to buy is the fact it has the lowest emissions and best fuel economy figures kicking out an impressive 44mpg, lower than just about any hot hatch currently on the market – something certainly not to be sniffed at.

In conclusion the Bocanegra is a stylish ride to be seen in, and one that will certainly get people talking.  But for just over £18k you’ll want to be noticed a lot, for all the right reasons.


ST

When it arrived, in SEAT’s questionable Tribu Yellow (Gold), the Ibiza ST looked quite uninviting, however now it has left I have to admit I kind of miss it…

Small estates are becoming quite the normal to see around town these days, Audi have always been known for the A3 Sportback and more recently Renault and Peugeot have entered the small estate market with the likes of 207 and Clio.  SEAT are not letting them carry on without a bit more competition however, the Ibiza not only looks great but performs well, even achieving versatility competitive against larger more established estate cars.

First and foremost, how does the little ST look?  Well when I started in motoring 4 years ago, I would’ve never given an estate the time of day, I thought they looked ugly – and for that sole, small-minded opinion, I was never to be seen driving one.  Fast forward to present day… the body styles have evolved to become one of my preferred styles and the extra space doesn’t hurt to have either.

Call me a convert, but I like the very rugged looks of chrome roof bars and that extra room, commanding a little more respect than a standard saloon or hot hatch.  The Ibiza is no different, the longer body lends itself perfectly to the carved kinetic lines of the bonnet and makes for a very sporty look, especially combined with SEAT’s leaf-shaped bi-xenon lights and highlighted nicely with some 5-spoke alloys.  I didn’t get any roof bars, however I did get a lovely sunroof that adds a very aggressive look to the front.  More importantly, it looks like it’s been designed from the ground up, as opposed to SEAT just sticking a bigger boot on an Ibiza just to cash in.

Solid build quality and moulded plastics carry its exterior styling to the interior very successfully, including two tone ‘Design’ seats and the theme continues on through to the dashboard elements and instruments.  Overall, SEAT has really done the small estate market justice.

Driving the ST is no chore either; the model I tested was a 1.6TDI sport, which reached 0-62mph in a respectable 10.9 seconds. With enough poke to get you out of a sticky situation, whilst still managing to return around 65mpg combined, fulfilling a tidy economical credential.  The extra car body does nothing but make the Ibiza more fun and better equipped for the journey ahead, handling is tight and steering is very stable, I have no complaint that’s for sure.

Although a bit of an all rounder, the ST is fundamentally an estate, so my review wouldn’t be fair if I hadn’t put it through its paces as a ‘space-box’.  So how better to do so, than to fit a flat-pack luxury 6-piece patio furniture set, cushions and all!  Albeit quite a squeeze, we managed, with the seats folded and my passenger sitting rather close the windscreen, to fit it in and get it home.  Granted not ideal for moving house or shifting any larger cargo, but suited to possibly carrying the dogs and a healthy sized picnic, including blankets, and even the buggy.

As mentioned earlier I had the benefit of the sunroof, which unfortunately only had a tilt function but didn’t retract to allow me to see the sky.  My press car gave me as standard AUX capability with Bluetooth phone preparation, the optional ‘Design’ pack that my car came with gave me two-tone second colour inserts within the dashboard and seats, plus some very nice adaptive automatic bi-xenon headlights, with cornering function!

Throughout the week I have to say I grew to really appreciate the Ibiza ST.  The colour, although gold, works to show off its lines and styling and its overall performance and practicality works toward being a perfectly balanced estate.  Compared to other competitors like the Clio and 207SW, I know I’d rather be driving the SEAT, and for around £18k it’s not the worst choice on the market.