Fleet News

Renault Vel Satis 3.0 V6 dCi Initiale - 1,330 miles

Renault

Review

FOR years I have charged around European motor shows admiring the invention and creativity in concept cars that never see the light of day.

Somehow, when the beancounters get their hands on the outlandish designs of avant-garde stylists and engineers, radical concepts dilute into the standard shapes and sizes that populate the roads today.

Four years ago, Ford did break the mould with the Focus and confounded its critics with a runaway success that continues to top the sales charts.

Now Renault has followed suit with two radically-styled cars, the Vel Satis and Avantime, stamping its own revolutionary vision of the 21st century executive car.

For some, however, the words French and executive car sit awkwardly together and company directors are notorious for limiting their company car horizons to German or Swedish exports.

Renault will certainly have a tough job on its hands to persuade drivers to exchange the keys to their beloved BMW 5-series, Jaguar S-type and Mercedes-Benz E-class cars.

But other conquests could prove easier, from 4x4 drivers fed up of heavy fuel bills, to drivers of highly-specified MPVs who decide they no longer need seven seats.

And the looks I've had from Saab 9-5 drivers in the past fortnight suggest that not every executive car driver is looking for a like-for-like swap at the end of their lease contract.

At more than £30,000 on-the-road, our new long term Vel Satis 3.0 V6 dCi Initiale auto is at the rich end of the car's range, but its standard specification is so lavish that the options run to just five items - and they include a rear seats DVD player and laminated side windows.

Everything else, from marquetry inlay to multi-adjustable heated, electric leather seats, CD multichanger, satellite navigation, twin-zone climate control, automatic transmission, cruise control, reversing sensors, tyre pressure monitors and huge alloy wheels come as standard.

And there are neat touches everywhere, from pull-up rear seat blinds incorporated into the rear doors, to a fuel tank that avoids the need for a filler-cap. Add in the most beautiful stereo I have seen in a car - it really would make a Bang & Olufson system look fussy and complicated - and distinctly German fit and finish, and the Vel Satis provides one of the finest cabins available today.

If this car carried an Audi or Mercedes-Benz badge, people would be cooing over its interior execution. But if it were an Audi or a Mercedes, it would have other attributes deficient on the Renault.

The Vel Satis's handling, for example, is no great shakes, its ride and refinement lag behind executive saloons from prestige car makers and its 3.0-litre common rail diesel engine seems reluctant to deliver its 180bhp and 258lb ft of torque.

The other key area where the Vel Satis fails to live up to its Teutonic rivals is in its residual value forecasts.

Perhaps the used car price guides are relying on the old Safrane as their base camp, but a forecast used value of just 27% of its new price spells precipitous depreciation and Alpine lease rates for the Renault.

However, if you could trade futures in used cars, buying the right to acquire this model for just over £8,500 in three years' time would be a terrific bargain.

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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