So, Renault are entering the small convertible market with a car that is so different from any other two-seat roadster, it's sure to turn heads. Meet the new Renault Wind. Yes, Renault has Wind and they aren't trying to disguise it at the dinner table, or even blame the dog.
Since the launch of the new Laguna Coupe, Renault have changed the minds of us all, bringing a new prestige feel to a brand once slated, for being unreliable and of poor build quality. Next came the new Megane hatch and following suit is a much better car than it's predecessor. Poking fun at themselves with a fantastic new advertising campaign, and an honest attitude made the perfect platform to make way for the Megane Coupe, a car that looks phenomenal, but is it all that it's cracked up to be?
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.
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.
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.
If you're looking for a small hot hatch then there's a lot of choice on the market, not many of them truly float my boat though I'm afraid to say. Rarely are they as exciting as the manufacturers claim they will be, even rarer do they have the drop dead sporting pedigree and looks promised. In fact most of the time small "hot" derivatives are nothing more than the same small car but with a bigger engine, lowered suspension and have a few daft spoilers bolted on in the appropriate places.
Then there's the Renault Clio 197 Sport, Renault have never really pulled any punches when releasing insanely "hot" versions of one of the regular model line-up.
Take the R26 Megane (please don't, let me keep it, I've been a good boy honest guvner), it looks like it eats small hot hatches for breakfast and is totally insane, its also the best there is in the "hot" hatch stable, hence why I voted it "TopGayer Hot Hatch of the Year 2006".
So on to the Clio 197 Sport which once again doesn't disappoint in terms of looking good, extra wide wheel arches, super low slung profile and a sound from the exhaust to rival a super-club. Cosmetically everything about the Clio 197 Sport screams it means the business, it's a great looking car, it sounds great and handling wise it's one of the best out there and could be considered somewhat of a Rival to its R26 bigger brother (the R26 is better though lol). Sadly one thing lets the butch-but-still-cutesy 197 down and that's the performance, it is quick 0-62mph takes 6.9 seconds making it almost as quick as it's sibling the R26 (0-62mph - 6.2 seconds), however it just doesn't feel that quick in reality and the performance although great just feels a little lacking lustre in the thrills department.
The interior is good with plenty of sports styling, if you could find a partner that hugged you as tightly as the seats do then you'd marry em as quick as you could.
It's also full of gadgets and gizmos, from the card key keyless entry and push button start through to the MP3 and electric everything, your left wanting for nothing.
Overall I do love the little Clio and it's a fabulous sporty little run around, it sounds amazing, looks fantastic and the performance is more than adequate even if you do feel like your not really shifting, all those headlights disappearing out of sight in your rear view tell you that you are!
I'm a huge fan of the Renaultsport versions of the bog standard Clio and Megane, they're great value for money and rarely disappoint. So when I got chance to get behind the wheel of a new facelifted Renault Clio 200 Cup for a week, I couldn't say yes quick enough. Having driven and fallen in love with the 197 it replaces I wanted to see just how much a facelift could change the monstrously performing little hatchback.
Now I say it's a facelift, the engine has had a few more tweaks to it than the bodywork. Yes that amazing 2.0-litre 16-valve screamer is under the bonnet, yes it still kicks out just under a massive 200bhp (hence the 200 in the name). The 0-62mph time is a Golf GTI worrying time of 6.9 seconds and it'll keep going to 141mph. Power and strong good looks is what the 200 Cup is all about. So with some tweaking and fiddling around Renaultsports engineers have managed to squeeze around an extra 20% more torque at low revs. They've also played about with the gearshift and now first, second and third are rapidly quick. So it looks like Renault have listened to owners comments about the 197 being a tad on sleepy side of sporting. The other huge achievement for Renaultsport is that the gas guzzling qualities of the 197 have been improved (albeit ever-so-slightly!) on both mpg and C02 emissions.
So what's it like to drive? Its got more grip that a drag queens hold on the last 'whore red' lippy in Boots. It still has very slight torque steer, but only when you give it large without warning, and the balance is so beautifully arranged that manages to be both incredibly forgiving, when you push your luck too far, and highly entertaining. As with all Renaultsport derivatives Brembo brakes are the brake of choice, after all it's no good having super quick acceleration if you can't stop in time when you need to! So the Brembo's are top notch without being to snatchy, the steering is responsive and light (sometimes a little too light!) However you do feel somewhat of a Rally driver sat in the Recaro bucket seats, tiny steering wheel in hand. The other huge thing to remember is that the 200 Cup is stripped out, if it doesn't need to be in there, then its not, this includes all the nice touches like air-con, reach-adjustable steering column (I'll come back to that later) electric mirrors and much lower quality dashboard and interior, all this in the name of saving weight and increasing performance.
It, without doubt, handles brilliantly, its more fun than Alton Towers and performance is enough to worry almost all hot-hatch drivers. Not to mention the fact that in the Alien Green colour that Renault sent me the Cup in, it looks demonic and most drivers look petrified as you rocket up alongside or up behind them. The Cup's styling is almost as aggressive as the noise that comes out the back of it. You cant fail to hear it coming, unless of course you've been sat inside it and then due to the excessive cabin noise from that beefy engine, you'll probably half deaf.
So on to a few issues I have with the otherwise superb 200 Cup… The chassis for a start, saying its excessively stiff would be an understatement akin to saying that Leona Lewis is a bit big in the thigh department (the woman has the legs of an Arabian Thoroughbred race horse). I love a sport ride as much as the next man (minds out the gutter!), not however if the next man is bloody Jenson Button! It's a road going car, regardless of how sporty it is there is a limit to how back breaking the ride needs to be to emphasize this. Its 15% stiffer than its predecessor's, which Renault say gives the car a more distinct more distinct personality from the standard Renaultsport 200 version. I kid you not when I say, that so hard is the suspension on the 200 Cup, that whilst testing it I came to the end of the A417 (Swindon - which is not the smoothest of roads and it certainly wouldn't win any prizes for its flatness either) that it shook me and my passenger so hard and so violently for so long that I actually felt sick!
My other major issue is with the optional Recaro seats, they look and feel great, they look and feel like a great idea to buy. However, over long journeys they're uncomfortable, they're an £850 cost extra and they sit way way way too high, it's meant to be a sports car, I want to sit and feel part of the car, not sit so high that I get altitude sickness! Stick with the standard seats, I've checked it out and the driving position is way better and far more comfortable than in the Recaro's. Finally my last issue is with the lack of rake adjustment on the steering column. Again the steering wheel sits far too high and at an odd angle, especially when combined with the Recaro seats. It's less-than-ideal driving position and totally removes the feeling of being at one with the car. It makes you feel like your driving a Go-Kart whilst being sat on a kid's bumper seat.
So do I like the 200 Cup…. Yes of course I do, I'm a petrol head!
I can say without a shadow of a doubt I'd buy one, and I'd love every minute of driving it, I just wouldn't have the Recaro seats. And at just over £17,000 for the top of the range 200 Cup, yes it's a great track day car, but you can drive to and from the track as well.
The big daddy Grand Espace is a bus of an MPV, it looks like it crashed to earth in a meteor, not only that but it shifts and I mean REALLY shifts. The 7 seater Grand Espace is a great luxury people carrier, however in the 6 seater formation I tested, it takes on a totally different slant and has somewhat of an upmarket limo-esque quality.
How much do I love the newest little member of the Renault family? It's compact, cute, sporty, fun and comfortable, while coping well with just about anything you throw at it. In fact if it was a guy I'd be proposing marriage (well civil partnership) to it after spending a romantic two hour drive together on the M6 (I really need to get a life I know!).