Fleet News

Renault Laguna and Megane 225 Trophy

Renault

Review

AS mid-life facelifts go, the nip and tuck which has just been applied to Renault’s Laguna is far more important than simply giving the model fresh appeal to keep interest strong.

Instead, this Mark II Laguna needs to set a strong foundation so that fleets will be more accepting of the more radical, all-new Laguna which is set to arrive in 2007.

So what has Renault done differently with this Laguna? Well, the most obvious change is at the front, where new light clusters sandwich a new one-piece front grille and bumper section. Opinion is divided over whether the new lights are an improvement or not, and to my eye the front end now lacks the presence of the old model.

But it is inside where the main changes have taken place. Renault has admitted that quality was not up to the standard it should have been on the outgoing Laguna, so a big effort has been made to improve the look and feel of this latest version.

My first drive was in a French-specification Initiale hatchback, and the luxury and quality feel was evident. In fact, with all the wood trim, it was reminiscent of sitting in a Vel Satis.

With a new centre console and revised mouldings on the top of the dashboard, the view from the driving seat is much less cluttered than before.

Lesser models come with a charcoal cabin which looks neat and robust – and the silver strip which runs along the dash does a good job of lightening the rather dark atmosphere.

As far as improving quality, it’s mission accomplished for Renault. Let’s just hope that the electrical gremlins that afflicted the earlier cars have also been ironed out – Renault claims they have.

As well as the visual changes, Renault has been busy at work under the bonnet with two new diesel engines.

Of most interest to fleets will be the upgraded 1.9-litre dCi 130 unit, which gets a particulate filter and power boost, as well as now complying with Euro IV emissions requirements which avoid the 3% benefit-in-kind tax surcharge on diesels.

This engine exemplifies the current standard of diesels – refined, lag-free and with masses of power and torque from just 1,500rpm.

A lower-powered 1.9 dCi 95 is also available, which again is Euro IV-compliant. The existing 1.9 dCi 120 and 2.2 dCi 150 carry over from the previous model.

For diesel-phobic drivers who want a splash of excitement, a new addition to the range could fit the bill.

The Laguna GT 205 uses a detuned version of the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the Megane 225 hot hatch, and also gets a bespoke chassis set up.

It advertises its sporting intentions with anthracite alloy wheels, silver-topped gearknob and bright red inserts on the leather seats. It reminds me of the company car I had wished my dad had when I was younger – a Cavalier GSi 2000, a fairly normal family car but with the engine from a hot hatch under the bonnet.

Despite losing 20bhp in the transfer from Megane to Laguna, the 2.0-litre turbo engine does a great job of injecting some performance into the Laguna range. With a wide band of power in the mid-range and little in the way of turbo lag, the GT 205 simply stomps along back roads.

And with a slick six-speed gearbox, there’s also plenty of fun to be had in pushing the engine right up to the red line.

The chassis set up for the GT is also new, with a 10mm lower ride height than its more conventional stablemates and special Michelin tyres which provide bags of grip. As a package it works well, adding a touch of sporting pedigree to the range and, after driving the two back-to-back, it works better than the Megane 225 Trophy (see story below).

The revisions to the Laguna range work very well, but Renault isn’t expecting to sell more Mark II versions this year, estimating that 15,000 will be sold in the UK in a full year, of which 12,000 will go to fleet customers.

With the obvious good PR which comes with being the first mainstream car to achieve the top five-star Euro NCAP crash protection rating, the Laguna will remain a viable alternative to the volume leaders of the upper-medium pack, mainly Ford’s Mondeo and Vauxhall’s Vectra.

But more importantly, it sets a solid foundation for 2007 when the new Laguna arrives.

Max power (bhp/rpm): 135/5,500 170/5,000 205/5,000 210/6,000 95/4,000 120/4,000 130/4,000 150/4,000
Max torque {lb-ft/rpm): 140/3,750 199/3,250 221/3,750 206/3,750 169/2,000 221/2,000 221/2,000 236/1,750
Max speed (mph): 128 138 146 146 113 125 126 133
0-62mph (secs): 9.8 8.4 7.2 8.0 13.6 10.7 10.2 9.8
Fuel consumption (mpg): 35.7 33.6 33.2 28.5 47.9 51.3 47.9 43.4
CO2 emissions (g/km): 187 198 200 237 257 150 154 174
Fuel capacity (l/gal): 68/14.96
On sale: Now
Prices (OTR): £15,980–£22,355

Megane: now with more attitude

IT may seem strange to be featuring the Megane 225 Trophy as only 160 examples will find their way to the UK and most are already sold.

But later this year, Renault will offer the Trophy’s chassis, steering and brakes as a ‘Cup Chassis’ option on the regular Megane 225. Which means that if you find the Megane 225 not to your liking you can spice it up with a stiffer chassis, Brembo brakes (and the removal of the electronic Brake Assist programme) and 18-inch Cup alloys.

What it also means is that the Megane gets a lot more attitude as standard, both looks-wise and in handling.

Truth be told, it’s a bit of a hooligan, with the front wheels constantly scrabbling to feed 225bhp to the road. And removing the braking assistance means the car will move about more when you brake hard.

There’s also a new steering rack with ‘High Frequency Curve Assist’. In English, this should provide greater feel, but the Trophy suffers with overlight steering in the same way as the stock 225 does.

The Trophy costs £20,000, which is £500 more than the standard version. The steering blights this car, but it’s worth the extra money alone just to get those gorgeous anthracite alloys.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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