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Mike Stevens | Jun, 25 2010 | 17 Comments

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RENAULT LAGUNA ESTATE REVIEW

The 2010 Renault Laguna Estate is perhaps one of the more easily-overlooked options in the mid-size wagon market.

Like much of what's left of the Renault passenger car range in Australia, it is all-but invisible to most buyers.

Sure, after little more than a year and a half in showrooms, it is still reasonably fresh on the scene. But unfortunately, sales have remained very slow.

That's not because the Laguna lacks competence or appeal.

After putting a petrol-powered model Expression-spec model through its paces, we found that the Laguna has more going for it as a comfortable and well-equipped family wagon than many would realise.

 

What’s new?

Launched in Australia in late 2008, the Laguna Estate added a new bodystyle to a line-up that previously only consisted of a hatchback.

In May 2009 the range was bolstered by the full availability of a 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol engine, offering buyers an alternative to the 2.0 dCi turbodiesel.

Prices were brought down last year too, and the warranty period extended to three years/unlimited kilometers.

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What’s the appeal?

Both inside and out the Laguna Estate is a stylish package, with bodywork that appears more harmonious than that of its high-rumped hatchback sibling.

Aesthetics aside, the Laguna is also pretty well-equipped, and boasts a long list of standard-issue mod-cons.

Safety equipment is also plentiful, and the Laguna has performed extremely well in crash testing.

A high degree of utility also works in the Laguna Estate’s favour, and the wagon body is perfect for hauling around a growing family.

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What features does it have?

As the entry-level Expression model, our tester was equipped with a push-button ignition, electronic parking brake, dual-zone climate control, power windows, heated wing mirrors, auto-on headlights, rain-sensing wipers, retractable sunblinds in each rear door, foglights and 16-inch alloys.

A single-disc CD player and AM/FM four-speaker stereo is the standard audio system in the Expression, while the up-spec Dynamique adds a six-disc CD stacker.

A set of 17-inch alloys can be optioned on the Expression, as can a six-stacker CD player and panoramic sunroof.

 

What’s under the bonnet?

There are two engines offered in the Renault Laguna, a 2.0 litre turbodiesel and a 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol.

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We tested the petrol, which develops 125kW @ 5000rpm and 270Nm of torque at 3250rpm. The diesel, on the other hand, is more tractable with its peak torque output of 340Nm available from just 2000rpm, while power tops out at 110kW @ 4000rpm.

Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, which features a tiptronic mode for manual gear selection. All Laguna models are front-wheel drive.

The Estate shares its wheelbase with the hatch, but with extra rear overhang to cater for its more capacious rump. Ahead of the B-pillar, the Laguna Estate’s body is the same as the hatch’s.

MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam axle at the rear suspend the Laguna Estate, while 296mm ventilated front brake discs and 300mm solid rear brake discs are gripped by sliding calipers.

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How does it drive?

The Laguna Estate is a decent steer, and one that feels more Germanic than French in how it handles.

While other Gallic automobiles like the Peugeot 407 are softly sprung and feel supple over rough roads, the Laguna is firmer, and more resistant to body roll. This has an upside on good roads, but also a downside - it is less happy on pockmarked tarmac.

On glass-smooth roads it feels great and is surprisingly agile for a mid-size wagon, but the steering is a little wooden.

The engine, while happy to rev and boasting a broad powerband, is ultimately hampered by the six-speed slushbox and its sluggish shift mapping. Pity then that a manual isn’t available.

The engine doesn’t quite have enough torque for the Estate’s 1517kg frame either, and the diesel would likely be a better choice for dealing with the urban grind.

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What did our passengers think?

Passenger comfort is good in the Laguna Estate. The wheelbase may not be any longer than the hatch, but front and rear legroom is adequate and headroom is plentiful.

The centre rear seat is pretty firm, but there’s enough room on the rear bench for three kids to sit comfortably. Potential buyers with young children will be pleased to know that ISOFIX anchorages are fitted to each outboard rear seat, as well as the usual top tether points.

The seat cushions are pretty flat, and the front seats are lacking in side bolstering. The front headrests do adjust in four directions, however.

Rear seat passengers do get to enjoy their own air conditioning vents (a crucial consideration for those with kids), and retractable sun blinds in each rear door help protect young children from the elements.

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Interior quality and feel

The Laguna Estate’s interior is covered by black plastic and black/grey fabric in Expression trim, with only a smattering of silver-painted plastic highlights to add some kind of visual sparkle.

Aside from the darkness of the interior, plastic quality is generally good, although the glovebox latch on our tester inexplicably failed a few days into the loan.

Having a glovebox that refused to close properly was a bit annoying, but elsewhere the cabin was good.

Plastic surfaces were hard-wearing and resistant to scratches (the dashpad is also made of a nicely-grained soft-touch material) and the fabric seat upholstery is comfortable and durable.

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The leather-wrapped steering wheel has a nicely shaped rim and all switchgear feels fairly solid.

However, the location of the toggle switch for the cruise control/speed limiter is placed on the centre console, well out of the driver’s natural field of vision.

It must also be said that the cupholders are fairly useless for holding beverages securely.

Whether it’s the single front cupholder or the bizarre triple cupholder in the rear seat’s centre armrest, they don’t grip cups, cans or bottles, leaving them free to wobble around or fall out.

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Luggage space

The boot floor is level with the boot’s lip to make loading large items like prams easier, and the floor is also perfectly flat.

The sloping rear glass does eat into luggage space a bit, but it also means you can lean into the boot space when loading it up, rather than having the roof and tailgate hinge in the way.

Boot capacity measures in at 501 litres with the 60/40 split rear seatbacks up and 1593 litres with them folded down.

A pair of levers in the boot area makes lowering the rear seats a simple operation, while the seatbacks themselves line up flush with the boot floor. Bag hooks, luggage tie-downs and a shallow underfloor compartment add extra utility to the Laguna’s load area.

 

How safe is it?

Eight airbags headline the Laguna Estate’s safety list, with side airbags for both front and rear passengers (as well as front and curtain airbags) offering better crash protection than most of its competitors.

ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control and stability control are all standard-issue too, and the Laguna Estate has scored a full five-star rating under Euro NCAP testing.

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Fuel consumption and green rating

Renault claims the Laguna Estate petrol will return 8.9 l/100km on the combined cycle, and our average of 9.2 l/100km (over a predominantly urban cycle) suggests such a figure is certainly achievable.

On the other hand, the Laguna prefers premium unleaded, meaning fuel bills will be a few dollars higher at each fill.

The quoted petrol model emits and average of 210 g/km of carbon dioxide on the combined cycle.

According to the Australian Government’s Green Vehicle Guide, the Laguna Estate petrol rates 6 stars for greenhouse gas emissions and 6.5 stars for air pollution performance.

 

How does it compare?

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The Peugeot 407 Touring, Skoda Octavia RS wagon, Volvo V50, Mazda6 Touring, Volkswagen Passat 118TSI wagon, Subaru Liberty 2.5i Sport and Ford Mondeo Zetec wagon all occupy the same price range as the Renault, and all have their strong suits.

The Peugeot has the most capacious interior by far, while the Volvo is the sharpest looker and has a silken five-cylinder powertrain (even if it’s a little cramped on the inside).

Ford’s Mondeo Zetec is a bargain at $37,000-odd, but lacks power and lacks charm. The Octavia RS is by far the best handler of the bunch, and has a superb engine and the choice of super-quick DSG automatic.

The Renault sits somewhere in the middle. The interior has plenty of space for passengers and cargo and has nicely finished cabin fittings and a high level of standard safety equipment, but its engine and gearbox combo aren’t exactly class-leading and the ride isn’t quite as smooth as some of its competitors (particularly the Peugeot).

 

Warranty

Renault offers a three year warranty with unlimited kilometres for the full Laguna range.

 

Colour combinations

Glacier White, Intense Red, Eclipse Grey, Mercury (silver, pictured), Charcoal Grey, Midnight Blue and Pearl Black are all available colours for the Laguna Estate.

 

How much?

The 2010 Renault Laguna Estate retails at $41,990 before on-road costs for the Expression-grade model, with the up-spec Dynamique coming in at $46,990.

Metallic paint is an $800 option, while 17-inch alloys for the Expression cost $1000, a panoramic sunroof costs $2000 and a six-stacker CD player costs $700.

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Our verdict

The Renault Laguna Estate is a sound package with excellent safety credentials and loads of space for parents, kids and the family dog.

It’s let down slightly by its mechanical package, but the average driver won’t find anything to complain about in normal, everyday conditions.

Our advice? Test one for yourself and see if the ride quality and powertrain/drivetrain package agree with you.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the Laguna Estate, and we found it to have a significant amount of European charm along with a healthy dose of mainstream appeal.

 
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