MY opinions on the Renault Laguna owe much to the Mitsubishi L200.
I like Renaults and I think the Laguna is a good-looking car, so I was looking forward to a great few weeks’ motoring.
Sadly, the excellent first impressions of the car started to diminish over the next few days. I was told this would be a good car for children, but I didn’t realise it came with rattles as standard.
You know the sort – niggling noises, hidden behind the dashboard, impossible to locate and fix but loud enough to be heard over the radio.
The mechanism for the smooth-opening cover over the CD player is also inoperative and the heating is suffering temporary glitches too. I really feel for company car drivers who pick up a new car with a problem and fear they may have to endure 60,000 miles with it.
But a short spell in the Mitsubishi L200, while the Renault was being tested by the editor, worked wonders. The L200 is a big beast, lacks finesse and, on a wet road in two-wheel drive, offers more fishtailing than a Birds Eye factory.
I started to pine for a normal car so when I was back in the driving seat of the Laguna, my view started to change.
Yes, there were still rattles and it needs to have the plastic cover fixed, but the negatives are outweighed by the positives.
The engine is exceptional, and frugal, offering huge torque without the front wheels scrabbling for traction. It is unusually revvy for a diesel, but is quiet at all times.
The chassis is more than capable of coping with the torque flowing through the front wheels and it remains composed and grippy even during hard cornering.
Motorway driving is relaxed and quiet and the seats are perfect for long mileages, while the rear has taken everything from filing cabinets to a carpet.
Then there is the keyless entry system, which I love, as I never need to take the key out of my pocket, even to lock the car.
I questioned the wisdom of the latest version of the system on the Scenic, which doesn’t lock unless you press a button on the door, but I have come to appreciate its benefits.
If you have the doors shut and passengers in the car, then forget something and run back into the house, the car locks and sets the alarm, so having the option of locking the car does make sense.
Our Laguna is fast-approaching its first service, when I will ask for the rattle and broken CD cover to be corrected, but it has overcome this significant obstacle to win a place in my affections. However, at £23,000-plus and with a residual value of just 22%, I think hefty discounts would be the only guaranteed way to a fleet manager’s heart.
Price: £23,650 (as tested £24,045)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 164
Company car tax bill (2007) 40% tax-payer: £172 per month
Combined mpg: 44.8
Test mpg: 41.0
CAP Monitor RV: £5,175/22%
Contract hire rate £575
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles