Can head-turning three-door boost image of family car range?

  • Both of our contenders feature hi-tech kit that aims to improve driving dynamics. In the Renault’s case, it’s the firm’s 4Control electronic four-wheel steering. At speeds below 37mph, the Laguna’s rear wheels turn up to 3.5 degrees in the opposite direction to the fronts, which dramatically reduces the car’s turning circle.
  • Go faster, and the back wheels point in the same direction as those up front, resulting in increased agility and grip. It’s a shame company bosses didn’t insist that their designers spend as much time on the interior as they did on the chassis. While it’s reasonably well packaged, the cabin just doesn’t feel special enough. Apart from the more steeply raked windscreen, you could be in a Laguna hatchback.

It would be fair to say that the latest Renault Laguna hasn’t had the warmest of receptions. Since it appeared in the UK at the end of 2007, anonymous styling and lacklustre dynamics have hindered the French family car.

In an effort to boost the Laguna’s fortunes, company bosses have introduced a sleek coupé. It’s based on the standard model, but the newcomer gets a complete visual makeover, together with the firm’s hi-tech 4Control four-wheel-steering system.

There’s no denying that the Laguna Coupé is a real head-turner. Up front, the nose takes its cues from the hatchback. But from the windscreen back, it’s completely new. A sweeping roofline flows into a high-set tail that has more than a hint of Aston Martin about it. The coupé is certainly a radical departure from the bland look of the rest of the Laguna range.

Sadly, the cabin is less adventurous, as the dashboard is carried over from the standard car. There’s little wrong with the quality or the fit and finish, but it lacks the bespoke feel of the Volkswagen. And a high-set seat denies those behind the wheel a traditional, low-slung coupé driving position.

However, despite its sporty looks, the Laguna is surprisingly spacious. Two adults will fit comfortably in the individual rear seats, once they’ve squeezed through the narrow gap behind the front chairs. Lifting the Laguna’s tailgate reveals a large opening and a useful 423 litres of carrying capacity. Pull either of the two levers mounted in the side of the compartment and the 50:50 split rear bench folds flat.

But for nearly all coupé owners, practicality will take second place to performance. And Renault’s refined 177bhp 2.0-litre diesel feels strong, especially in the middle of the rev range.

At the test track, the Coupé had the edge over its rival. Acceleration in sixth gear was impressive, with the sprint from 50-70mph dispatched in 8.9 seconds – a full second faster than the VW. The way the Renault takes corners adds to its appeal. Four-wheel steering delivers amazing agility and incredible grip. It’s so effective that the Laguna is able to carry much more speed through bends than the VW, while rapid changes of direction fail to upset the car’s composure.

Sadly, the driving experience is let down by over-assisted steering that lacks feedback. Ride comfort is also below par, with the car occasionally crashing over bumps, which hampers the Renault’s otherwise refined cruising abilities.

The Coupé is the star of the Laguna line-up. On looks alone, the sleek newcomer is sure to win fans. Add in the strong performance and polished driving dynamics, and the Renault represents a strong challenge for the Passat CC.

Details

Price: £23,832Model tested: Renault Laguna Coupé 2.0 dCi 180 GTChart position: 1WHY: Latest Laguna has had a lukewarm reception. Can stylish Coupé lift French car’s fortunes?

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