In the family and company car market most buyers (and more fleet managers) will opt for a prestigious German badge if their budget will stretch to one and a dependable Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Insignia if it won’t.
Now Renault, after dropping away in the last few years and struggling with big losses during the recession, is trying to work its way back into the equation with the facelifted Laguna and Sports Tourer range.
Visually the update means a simplified structure for both cars with a sleeker, more streamlined, body to overcome its previously rather uninspiring appearance, and a more aggressive front end to offer some spark. It has also been given a more efficient engine (offering a 152g/km C02 rating for the top Sports Tourer diesel, which is good for a car with such pace and power), a sportier feel and higher levels of standard specification. Even the entry-level Tourer comes well equipped, offering 16in alloys, Bluetooth and MP3 player input, while the top-selling Dynamique TomTom boasts some features you’d don’t normally find in mid-range models, including parking sensors, cruise control and a speed limiter.
The range-leading Laguna Sports Tourer GT Line TomTom I tested is certainly is a fine cruiser with something of a sporty edge and plenty of flash kit, including 18in alloy wheels, BOSE sound system, directional headlights (well worth the investment if you are a rural driver) and tasteful Alcantara upholstery. The popular French salon and estate variant had previously had something of a dull reputation and the top-end GT Line (complete with Renault’s 4Control wheel steering system) is clearly an attempt to shake this off. Its 180bhp is plenty enough and despite a relatively poor 0 to 62mph figure, it’s punchy enough in high gears when the turbo-boast pressure kicks in. Power aside, it’s still missing a dose of French verve, lacks steering feel and poise and isn’t an exciting car to drive.
More practically it works as an excellent family car when aspiring ‘Boy Racer Dad’ is prised from the wheel. When subjected to the twin trials of my niece’s tantrums and gargantuan car seat in the rear and my muddy bike in the boot it performed well. Its rear seats collapse completely flat at the touch of button, which is a fantastic timesaver, removing the hassle of moving up and down the car to push them flat. It’s a small feature I know but the Sports Tourer is packed with clever functions and neat styling features. And while it’s certainly not a perfect car, unlike the Laguna’s of old it finally compares well with big boys of the family car market.
There are newer models on the market, including the pretension-free (and cheaper) Focus Estate which is a better load carrier, and the Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer which is actually even roomier than its big brother the Vauxhall Insignia. For even more room opt for the Ford Mondeo Estate. For value for money consider the very capable Hyundai i40.
Renault Laguna Sports Tourer
Price from: £19,315 (£26,480 GT Line TomTom tested)
Engine capacity: 1995cc
Power output (PS @ rpm): 180 @ 3750
Top speed (mph): 135
0-60 mph (seconds): 8.7
Fuel economy (mpg): 48.7 (combined)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 152