Near perfect family car. The extra seats are a bit pokey, but the boot space is vast. 5 star NCAP means you feel safe ferrying the kids about in it, and the styling is definitely leagues ahead of the van-with-windows Touran and anonymous C-MAX. The interior is funky and modern and just a little quirky in that traditional French way. We really like it, although it won't appeal to all. Haven't seen a digital dash in a car since a mis-spent youth in an Astra GTE 16v. The biggest surprise is the quality of the dash and trim which uses soft touch, expensive feeling plastics and attractive cloths. After 37k it still looks like new. Only a couple of irritating squeaks over more severe bumps give the game away.
Although it won't worry hot hatches, the 1.9 dCi engine is a gem of an engine. Apart from idle, it's completely smooth, whisper quiet from inside the car, and responds instantly with a muscular shove regardless which of the 6 gears you're in. We looked at the 1.6 petrol which has only slightly less power, but there's a world of difference. The diesel is not only quicker, but quieter and smoother as well. Fuel economy so far is 40 mpg which ain't bad for a big car which has done most of its work around town so far.
Handling is acceptable. There's a fair bit of body roll and the horrid electric power steering has no feel whatsoever (this is common to electric steering and not a particular fault of Renault), but it's not that sort of car in fairness. The handling is more than adequate for a family car, and it is coupled with more important aspects such as a supple ride and confidence inspiring, if slightly over-servoed brakes. Road noise is also among the lowest of any car I've driven, including more expensive and supposedly more prestigious German cars. It's an effortless, comfortable and quiet long distance cruiser.
The car has a fully automated, electric parking brake which works surprisingly well, but I still think it's a daft, unnecessary gimmick. Renault say it's to free up floor space, but they could have mounted a conventional mechanical lever in the dash instead of an overcomplex series of motors and sensors which is bound to go belly-up at some point. According to the service history, it has done so twice on this car already.
This car started life as a dealer demonstrator so came fully loaded. The CD autochanger nestled under the passenger seat, the fabulous dual panoramic electric roof, the auto folding mirrors, and full keyless operation are welcome extras over the standard, very comprehensive Dynamique spec, and would have added over £2000 to the list price when new. The car has pretty much everything else you could want - four electric windows, air conditioning, electric mirrors, integral rear sunblinds, ABS, EBD, ESP, 6 speed gearbox, auto locking, on-dash oil level monitor, fuel computer, auto headlights with "see you home" function, rain sensing wipers etc, etc. It's Gadget City in there.
Most useful of this little lot is the full keyless system. You simply approach the car with the card in your pocket, put your hand on the door handle and it unlocks the car for you. Climb in, press the clutch (or brake) and touch the start button. The car automatically powers itself up, runs through the start sequence (glowplugs etc) and the engine turns over and starts. You can sit with your arms folded whilst all this happens - it's bizarre at first. The auto handbrake releases automatically as soon as the car tries to move, and off you go. When you leave the car, press the start button again which turns off the engine and engages the handbrake. Close the door, press the little button in the handle twice, and the car deadlocks itself, as well as closes the sunroof and any open windows automatically. Perfect when you've got kids in tow and you don't want to faff about with locks or fiddly remote buttons.
It's too early to comment on dealer service and reliability, but the car goes in for a service and some attention to the sunroof closing alignment next week so we should have some idea. There's nothing in the history to suggest reliability issues apart from minor niggles with the parking brake and one door handle.
A bargain used - under £9k for something which would have cost more than twice that (with options) 2 and a half years ago and still has 6 months warranty left on it. The minor facelift this car has had since new didn't warranty the extra cost of a new one, and the newer 1.9 dCi comes with the troublesome FAP particle filter which I have 'heard nothing, but horror stories about. I'll live with the loss of 10PS and the new lights and grille. Oh, and woo-hoo, the extra Renault badge on the tailgate. None of this convinced me not to leave an extra £9-10k in the bank.