UK CAR Reviews: Renault Laguna 1.8RN Estate - petrol 1997
Having trolled around in an un-heated Diesel 4*4 which could not clear its own windscreen, it was with a satisfied Bisto like Arghhhh that I slipped happily into the Laguna Estate. Having driven both sharp steering 2.0 petrol's and dull Diesel Laguna's before I was happy to here the faint rasp of a petrol engine under the bonnet. After adjusting the seat to perfection, checking mirror's and setting the heater to full scale hot typhoon clearance of the screen, I engaged warp drive and marveled at the sharpness of the steering, the raging accelerative powers of the engine, the silent pillow comfort of the ride.
1 hour later I was bemoaning its sluggishness, the wind noise, the strained bellow of the engine.
It really highlighted to me, how your proceeding vehicle can colour your perceptions of the one your now in.
I had got out of a car that was very slow and very noisy, the Laguna in contrast was a million miles more comfortable, agile and nippy. Or at least it was for an Hour till the novelty wore off.
I guess many New Car test drives are like that. You turn up in your dirty smelly old banger, with years of slop and wear slowly ingrained into it, you know all its foibles subconsciously so you drive around them. Get into a shiny new, unworn, pristine Motor car and for half an hour (often less) your in dreamy heaven you don't need to do this or not do that, the pedals are light the gearshift accurate, the handbrake works at the bottom not the top. Its going to feel great for a while of course it is. By the time you've realised its not actually some Rolls Royce that runs on water vapour, its too late you've probably already bought it. Slowly over time it will become the car you just traded in. Not so slowly you will notice the foibles of its own, what seemed so wonderful for 30 minutes, becomes a right royal pain in the butt day after depreciating day.
Personally if I was investing heavily in a NEW car I would try to hire one for a few days to see what they are really like.
It didn't take too long to suss out the source of the Laguna's limitations. You can point your finger squarely at the 1.8 motor and accuse it of spoiling what is other wise a reasonable vehicle.
This old generation 1.8 put out only 95bhp hardly enough to excite in a 25 year old car and poor by modern standards. When you consider that the MGB's hardly innovative 1800 Leyland B series motor developed 85-90bhp back in 1962, then you realize that the Laguna's 1.8 is hardly a Renault Tour de Force.
In use it displays reasonable bottom end torque, allied to a flat mid range, and boomy lack of top end.
Its not the kind of motor that's worth the effort of extracting the last few revs to the red line from, as by that time its well spent. Relaxing and accepting that the performance is very limited is much less stressful for you.
On the motorways where most of its competitors sit comfortably at 80 in silence the Laguna is cursed with noise both wind and engine.
Not helping the engines cause is the Clutch and gear shift of incredible sticky wooliness. The clutch seems like it has a cable oiled with a mixture of glue and sand, the gear shift is not so much hot knife through butter as strangely angled cold spoon in treacle.
Its a shame that these three (engine, clutch , gear stick) items conspire so badly against the Laguna because it does display the basics of a good car, overall though the gang of three ruin the cars dynamics enough to detract from any positives that the rest of the car produces.
And some positive points there are.
The Renault Laguna in petrol form at least has decent handling and reasonably sharp steering. Sure its starting to get a little long in the tooth, and maybe cant match the fluency of some of its newer rivals. But that doesn't detract from what can be a good chassis. Ride is reasonable, soft yet controlled. If we where to complain it would be that the Laguna does tend to roll a little to much, and aggressive steering can cause untoward lurching from the body. Smoothly does it for best response.
The Estate variation came to the Laguna fairly late in the first generations cycle. As a styling job Im a little torn on its success. On a good day It reminds me a little of the Saab Estates. On a bad day it looks like a box welded on to the arse end. Something other than white paint might help it look a bit better. From certain angles (rear three quarter) it looks fairly stylish with its half lenght roof bars, big light cluster and rear lip spoiler that resembles a flat cap.
Renault have tried hard to make it extremely practical, the boot is very flat and square , making the most available space for use. The heated rear window element extends to the rear side windows, though I really cant see how much benefit they will cause.
Equipment is fairly basic but livable. Electric windows in the front are a must nowadays. and the manual adjusters for the mirrors work well enough
There is no Air Con at this level but the heater and fan are powerful if a little noisy.
The dashboard designers made an effort to create a swoopy, integrated feel to the interior. Again, 5 years ago it was new, different, stylish. Now it's just beginning to look old and tacky.
The handbrake lever irritates immensely, bare metal, cleaned by yard brush bristles as it moves, poking out through a plastic hole. What the hell is that all about? - A normal plastic-leather cloth gaiter would have looked much better and is probably cheaper to make as well.
The gear stick also ends up very close to the dash in fifth and anything in the bottom of the console is pretty well unusable.
The radio has one of those security covers and is integrated into the clock display unit, similarly to the Vauxhall Vectra.
The interior still grates just as much. No matter how long I try to live with it.
If you expect your estate to lump lots of gear around and little else the Laguna will do a job for you. If you expect a little more dynamic driving experience, or a little more style choose something else.
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