What is it?
A redesign of a car that Renault needs to be a lot more dependable than it was last time around, and an entry in the shrinking – though still big – market for large hatches, saloons and estates typified by the Ford Mondeo.
It’s not often that a car manufacturer is (relatively) upfront about the failings of its products, but the appeal of the last, stylishly sculpted Laguna was seriously compromised by a cornucopia of small but irritating faults, mostly affecting the electrics and trim.
So, major efforts, many learned from Nissan, have been employed to improve the Laguna’s dependability and finish. To underscore its confidence in the new car, Renault is providing it with a three-year warranty of 100,000 miles rather than the usual 60,000.
In the light of this it’s perhaps surprising that this new Laguna is based on the platform of the old, but there was little wrong with the mechanicals (in reliability terms) and presumably much of the Laguna’s hardware has been debugged.
The styling is all new – and frankly rather blander than what we had before – but on the up side there’s a totally new, and quite finely crafted interior, and impressively, the car is 15kg lighter, on average, than the old model despite being bigger, stronger and better equipped.
That will improve economy, as will some new powertrain configurations. These include a 140bhp 2.0 petrol, a low-CO2 and surprisingly small capacity 109bhp 1.5 dCi and a 128bhp 2.0 dCi. There’s also a 148bhp 2.0 dCi automatic, while all other versions have a six-speed manual transmission as standard.
Renault reckons the best seller in the UK will be the 2.0 148bhp dCi diesel in Dynamique trim (that’s one rung up) and it’s that version, with five-door hatch styling, that we sample here.
What’s it like?
While this third generation Laguna’s front-end style may be a little fussy, opening a door onto the new interior is more decisively pleasing experience, the seats classily sporting with their (optional) Alcantara inserts, the dashboard mouldings tightly grained to give the impression of German quality, which is probably no accident.
The dashboard’s top roll is soft-feel, the lower half has soft-feel paint, the infotainment screen’s flowing hood is elegant, splashes of aluminium heighten the impression of precision and every moulding feels robustly moored. That there were no rattles or squeaks in our car, admittedly on pretty smooth Austrian roads, seemed to confirm that.
Starting, using Renault’s (in)famous card key and a starter button, certainly reveals oil-burning activity up front, but the 2.0 dCi is pretty subdued, even if the noises it makes are distinctly diesel, and caused a very slight vibration through wheel and pedals at times. But it’s quiet overall, and impressively so at high speeds, where it feels reassuringly well-planted too. It should make a great motorway pounder.
Also good is interior space, up front, in the rear and the boot (it’s a bit shallow but long), the control layout, the infotainment system and its pleasingly clear control cluster. That said, there’s nowhere to dump a mobile phone, and the door bins are small.
And if you’re a keen driver, you may be slightly disappointed by the Laguna’s handling. This is a capable car, with excellent roadholding and stability, decently controlled roll, and reasonable resistance to understeer, but the steering, though quite precise, is pretty mute and the chassis falls short of the crisp precision of a Mondeo’s.
Should I buy one?
If Renault succeeds in meeting its ambitions for product and service quality for this car, then it deserves the interest of those after generously dimensioned, well-equipped and safe family wheels.
The attractive, business-like cabin, the space and high-speed quiet are all strong suits, as is the engine’s solid urge and economy promise. Many will like a hatchback facility that’s not universal in this class too.
But if you’re a keen driver, and like a handsome set of wheels, this car is somewhat disappointing, its exterior style less successful and decidedly less bold than its predecessor’s, its road behaviour more than adequate but short of the finesse that makes a Mondeo such a surprising driver’s delight. But this Laguna should earn a better reputation than Renault’s last offering in this class.