Renault Laguna 2.0 dCi 150

Blending the C5’s mile-munching ease with sportier handling, the Laguna has much to offer. It’s just that the competition is more polished.

  • Excellent sat-nav is operated by a high-class control wheel.
  • Design is not to everyone’s tastes; when cornering, there's the unnerving kickback through the steering if you hit a mid-corner bump, meant to give feedback about the road surface but you’ll wonder if there’s been any damage.

When Renault styled its latest Laguna, its designers took a very different approach from Honda’s. While the new Accord closely resembles its predecessor, the French firm virtually started with a clean sheet.

Elements of the old Laguna remain, but the overall appearance is one of the most distinctive here – and that’s being complimentary. This Renault stands out for all the wrong reasons and looks ungainly from the front and rear. The only way to get away from the awkward detailing is to opt for the more stylish Sport Tourer estate.

Inside, the cabin is more successful, featuring the brand’s trademark attractive shapes and lines. Even if the build quality is no match for the Honda’s seamless cabin, it is on a par with the C5 and uses better materials than those in much of the Mazda’s. It’s one of only two cars here to go without a conventional key – a feature now common across the Renault range.

Rear passengers are well catered for, with 760mm of legroom, second only to the Mondeo, and there’s ample headroom. As those by the doors sit closer to the edges of the car, there’s more space for the fifth occupant, too.

Few will be disappointed by the boot. The wide opening is similar to the Ford and Mazda, while its 462-litre capacity is reasonable. Under the carpet, there is a shallow tray with several compartments – but it’s too small to be of great use.

In previous tests, the Renault has left us feeling sold short on the road, and there’s no change here. On a perfect surface – if you can find one – the Laguna is a smooth-riding, taut hatchback. Long-distance cruising comfort is comparable with the slickest rivals, but once you leave the motorway the Renault starts to struggle.

In an effort to create a sporty feel, the suspension has been stiffened, which causes every bump to unsettle the body. This constant patter is most noticeable on pitted A and B-roads, and exacerbated by the steering wheel jerking in your hands as you ride over mid-corner bumps.

You might think this was caused by the 18-inch alloys on our test car, but we’ve also driven Lagunas with 17-inch wheels with interesting results – the ride quality issues remained. It seems the chassis has the same foibles, regardless of rim size.

And that’s a pity because fundamentally, the Renault is able to tackle a challenging road as competently as any rival here – it just doesn’t ride well enough to maximise its driver appeal.

The engine also falls just short of our expectations. There’s no questioning the 2.0-litre diesel unit’s flat-out performance – it recorded the joint-fastest 0-60mph time of 8.8 seconds, matched only by the more powerful Citroen C5. Get caught in the wrong gear, though, and the turbo lag is a real bind, leaving you waiting for a rush of torque to kick in. The only saving grace is economy: the Renault returned a decent 37.2mpg.

Despite its dynamic flaws, the Laguna is still worth a look because of its appealing prices. At £19,700, it’s one of only two sub-£20,000 contenders here. And the Renault comes loaded with seven airbags, climate control and powered, heated seats as standard.

Value and practicality count for a lot in this test, but will the Renault’s strong performance in these categories make up for its stubby styling and lacklustre on-road characteristics?

Details

Price: £19,700Model tested: Laguna 2.0 dCi 150 Dynamique SChart position: 5WHY: Keen pricing and a strong oil-burning powerplant make the Laguna well worth a look.

Economy

On test, the Laguna returned 10mpg under the official combined figure. We had hoped for more than 37.2mpg.

Residuals

At 39.6 per cent, the Laguna just fails to break the 40 per cent barrier. It’s set to lose £11,899 over three years.

Tax

Emissions of 158g/km are up with the best in class. Add a cheap price, and low-rate business users pay £953 in tax.

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