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Renault focuses on mid-size


There is a lot hinging on Renault's newest arrival.

The mid-size Laguna, unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, will help relaunch the brand when it arrives here next year.

The French carmaker has been swept aside in the sales race this year by rivals prepared to spend more on advertising and promotion.

Sales are down almost 30 per cent compared with last year, with a year-to-date tally of only 1893 cars.

However, Renault Australia spokesman Craig Smith is confident the Laguna, as well as Koleos all-wheel drive, will help refocus buyer attention on the brand.

“Our issue is awareness and the only way to get awareness is to spend more money,” he says.

The Laguna will hit showrooms in June and the wagon by October, in time for the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.

Renault has sold 33 Lagunas this year and, despite introducing it as an economical 2.2-litre dCi diesel, it has failed to ignite a European medium-size segment dominated by Peugeot and Volkswagen.

The Koleos, using the same underpinnings as the new Nissan X-trail, arrives late next year.

It will be offered with a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine mated with a six-speed automatic.

Koleos pricing should be close to the X-trail but it will be built in South Korea, which could mean cost savings when it lands here.

The Laguna is being built at Renault's Sandouville plant in France.

Smith says the stylish hatch will arrive with the 2.0-litre dCi four-cylinder turbodiesel mated to six-speed automatic.

“At this stage we're not sure about petrol engines, though three or four petrol variants are available,” he says. “The question is whether we need petrol engines because the diesels offer better performance with better fuel economy.”

In Europe, the 2.0-litre dCi Laguna is available in three tunes, 96kW/320Nm, 110kW/340Nm and 127kW/360Nm, with the 110kW version available with a six-speed Proactive automatic.

The Australian line-up has not been confirmed, but the 110kW/340Nm is a strong contender.

“The 2.0-litre dCi units will form the basis of everything we do,” Smith says.

That engine also will be available in the Trafic commercial van.

The new 3.0-litre dCi engine shown at Frankfurt could appear later as a range-topper in the new Laguna GT coupe. The coupe may come with Renault's new active four-wheel steering.

Renault executives say the new Laguna's build quality is equal to BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

It believes the car offers benchmark road-handling and dynamics with a responsive chassis and precision steering.

Though larger and more spacious than its predecessor, it is 15kg lighter, depending on the model.

The Laguna, like the previous model, is expected to get a five-star crash-test rating with even better side impact protection and the addition of new-generation thorax and pelvis double lateral airbags.

Apart from the Laguna and Koleos, Renault will introduce the RenaultSport Clio early next year, which will herald the arrival of entry Clios as well.

The Clio has been on sale in Europe for two years.