Now the range gets a mid-life refresher, which will play an important part in bringing Renault's 1998 market share aspiration of 8.33% to fruition. Since launch, Laguna's sales have remained consistent at about 40,000 units a year, though its best 12 months was 1995 when almost 41,000 cars found homes: the new model is anticipated to maintain that performance in the rest of 1998 and in 1999, its first full year of sales.
The most significant upgrades with the second generation Laguna include the adoption of new 16-valve petrol engines in 1.6 110bhp and - from August - 1.8-litre 120bhp forms, replacing the tired eight-valve units. Economy and emissions compatibility is improved dramatically as a result.
Externally, deeper bumpers in body colour are standard on all models, and there's a new grille and round fog lamp apertures at the front. Polycarbonate headlamp lenses are stronger and cheaper to replace, while the rear lamps now have orange indicator lenses and a crystal effect.
Elsewhere a new 100bhp 1.9-litre direct injection turbodiesel replaces the old 85bhp 2.2-litre indirect injection normally-aspirated engine, and claims combined economy up from 39.8mpg to an impressive 51.4mpg. Most exciting of all is that the 194bhp 3-litre V6 introduced on the automatic-only Executive last year has now been slotted into the price-busting RTi V6 which claims to be the fastest car on the market for less than ú20,000. At ú18,620 on the road, this 146mph rocket - which covers 0-60mph in 7.5 seconds - sounds a rare treat.
Prices for the new hatchback range start at ú13,570 on the road for the RN 1.6 16v (with sunroof) and rise to ú22,220 for the Executive V6 auto. It's the mid-ranging RT Sport 1.6 16v we test here, fitted with the new 110bhp 16-valve engine. At ú15,070 on the road with sunroof and air conditioning as standard, it costs ú500 more than the RT but adds alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, sports seats and front fog lamps. Even so, that's still around ú500 less than key 1.8-litre rivals with similar power outputs.