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Renault Laguna 2007 Review

But how does it go on our streets where diesel costs about 12 more?

With the launch here this year of the Phase II Laguna in a one-spec diesel model, Renault has become one of the last European companies to get on board the diesel road train in Australia.

Europeans go nuts for diesel, which is not only cheaper, but also attracts all sorts of concessions and subsidies from their governments.

No such luck here. We pay more for the cruder fuel type and get no help whatsoever from our governments.

Still, with diesel power about 30 per cent more efficient then petrol, diesel passenger car sales are up about 140 per cent on last year, although it is only 3.6 per cent of the total passenger car market.

Renault is therefore not chasing a big total market share with its Laguna, but the introduction of the car in diesel-only shows it is after its fair share of the growing oil-burner sector.

When it was last sold here about 20 months ago, Laguna came in seven hatchback and wagon variants priced from $39,990 to $57,990.

Since then, Renault has streamlined its product range for efficiency, so now you get the Laguna 2.2 dCi for $46,990. And that's it.

Its design is sleeker and less geeky than when it was last here, but it is still no fashion leader.

The exterior shape is more like the 1990s Honda and Subaru when those companies fell off the design bandwagon with a solid thump.

It's probably not that bad, but certainly no design chiefs are benchmarking future product on it. Even its long rear hatchback design is one which has long been passed over.

However, if you like a sedan look with the virtues and practicality of a hatch, this is one of the few around to choose from.

The interior is another matter.

The new dashboard, console, leather-wrap steering wheel and instruments are classy, modern and functional.

The cloth and leather seats are also comfortable and supportive.

It is a supremely pleasant environment for driver and passengers with just about every feature you can name.

There are auto wipers, rear and rear-side sun blinds, stalk-mounted audio controls, cruise and speed limiter controls, and adjustable headlights. Safety features include a host of airbags (dual front, two side and curtain), anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist and electronic stability control including anti-understeer.

Two convenience features stand out.

They are: an electronic handbrake which automatically engages when the vehicle is in park and switched off, then disengages when the accelerator is pressed; and a hands-free key card which unlocks/locks the doors without pressing any buttons.

These are the sorts of features that usually come only in luxury German cars.

It is powered by a 2.2-litre direct injection common-rail diesel engine producing 320Nm of torque, 10Nm less than a VE Commodore.

The unit is a little lethargic to begin with. Stamp on the throttle and it pauses, then kicks into life.

It is actually better to squeeze the juice slower and more smoothly for a better response.

So long as you are a patient driver, it works fine.

In the meat of the daily driving rev range there are ample portions of power. In fact, maximum torque runs from 1750-2500rpm.

Then there is a top-end fizzle. It simply runs out of steam, er diesel.

Economy is claimed to be 7.7litres per 100km, which is good for a medium-size desel car, but not great.

For those concerned about the environment, it is Euro 4 compliant and is fitted with a particulate filter to cut emissions.

Across cobblestone Paris streets the Laguna would be a dream with its lush suspension.

Yet that does not translate into a wallowing barge on our roads.

Renault has struck a great compromise between handling and ride with a flat cornering attitude and a smooth feel over potholes.

Steering feels heavy and vague, with slow turn-in.

Cabin noise is exceptionally low for a diesel. You would have to wind the window down at traffic lights to identify it as a diesel.

The biggest letdown in this otherwise value package is the transmission which is slow, unresponsive and unpredictable.

This hopeless box hunts around for gears, sometimes selects the wrong ones and flares on engagement.

However, if you don't challenge it with awkward snap decisions, it works just fine.

This car is one for patient, considerate, economical and environmental drivers.

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Range and Specs

2.2 DCi 2.2L, Diesel, 5 SP AUTO $4,600 – 7,370 2007 Renault Laguna 2007 2.2 DCi Pricing and Specs