What is it?
Renault's estate version of the new Laguna III hatch, which adds a bit of spice to an otherwise highly conservative design. Well, relatively speaking.
The Laguna 'Sports Tourer' still isn't going to set the world alight, but the sleek tapering of the extended tail does balance the shape up quite nicely. It also makes the new Laguna a more practical car, making up for the slightly small boot of the regular hatch model.
Giving ourselves a break from the usual turbodiesel powerplants in this class, we've decided to try the entry-level petrol version. That means 138bhp and 144lb ft of torque, but will it be enough to haul this large family car convincingly?
What's it like?
As an estate it's fine, with a flat, if slightly sloping load area and a neat cover that slides away with a one touch operation. The rear seats can be folded easily by pressing a button (the 'Super-fold' system) at the rear of the load bay – handy for when you're standing at the back of the vehicle. All in, there's nearly 1,600 litres of luggage space with the rear seats folded.
The rest of the interior is good news too, because true to their word, Renault has made huge strides with the quality of the materials in the new Laguna and the way in which the car feels screwed together.
Soft and tactile plastics are used extensively and the optional part leather and alcantara seats are convincing in this upmarket interior. The optional Sat Nav of our car is another triumph, with the controls grouped down near the (electronic) handbrake, like the BMW iDrive system but with much greater intuitiveness.
The 2.0-litre engine makes a reasonable job of propelling this Sports Tourer and is superbly refined throughout the rev range – almost inaudible around town. Trouble is, compared to the effortless torquey delivery of a modern turbodiesel, this engine requires considerable stoking if you're to travel at anything more than a deeply conservative pace, and as soon as you do so the fuel economy takes a dive. Diesel really is the only sensible choice here.
Sadly, the Sports Tourer has the same twist beam rear suspension as the hatch, so although it grips very convincingly and has light but accurate steering, the ride is harsh and unyielding over typical UK roads with little finesse. Too much interference makes its way into the cabin for a car of this type.
Should I buy one?
Unless you simply have to buy a petrol this Laguna isn't the pick of the range. Nevertheless, the Sports Tourer itself is an impressive car in many respects, but the ride discomfort is a serious flaw in a class packed with talented cars like the new Ford Mondeo.