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I bought my first ever estate car slightly by accident - I was trying to sell my sisters People Carrier for her and a chap wanted to part exchange. It also happened to be my first Renault, but with a full service history and an engine running sweeter than a Cadbury's Flake on a Sunday, I thought I'd give it a go. Whoops.
It's not that the Laguna is a duff choice - far from it. But, the one major reason you'd buy this car is for the expected MPG of a non-turbo diesel, combined with towing ability (at the time I had a Hot Dog van I used to drive out to Lowestoft every Saturday).
This thing was slow. On two seperate occasions I got over taken by cyclists, and once by a carrot hitching a ride on the back of a three legged mouse. I swear I even got overtaken by myself once. If this car had been around in the 19th centuary when someone walked in front waving a flag, the flag waver would have kept stopping for a cuppa so you could catch up.
So all that happens when a car has no BHP per ton, is that you end up driving with your foot flat on the floor all the time. And the result of course is miserable MPG. Pointless. TOP TIP then: Buy turbo diesel or 2.0 petrol.
Other than that, the Laguna makes a nice car. The cabin is huge - much bigger than a Mondeo or Primera, and the seats are more comfortable than your favorite pair of old slippers. The estates load area is equally impressive. The 1996 'RT' trim level is nothing to shout about although the sunroof is electric rather than the manual version of its rivals.
The handling is very good for a car of this size - a nice compromise between soft and comfortable, and decent road-holding. The steering gives good feedback and the gearbox, although quite heavy, is reliably precise. The brakes were very good. All the switches feel of decent quality and the doors shut with a nice solid 'thunk'. The Renault plastics were of good quality although the cabin was a bit too grey in colour.
The car was reliable bar one problem - the heater was rubbish. Apparantly it's a common fault and Renault dealers will quote you hundreds to put it right. An independant garage with the right knowledge will put it right for less than a ton - but check the cars you test drive to save paying later (it's easy to forget these things if you go and try a car on a warm day).
All in all, I'd definately have another Laguna - in fact I'm considering one now to replace my Audi A4. But the engine will have to be a TDi. Anyone got a TDi Sport for sale???
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