Looking Back: 2001 Renault Laguna

In November 2000 the first print articles on the Renault Laguna Mk2 started to appear. What did they say? 

2001 Renault Laguna: bestsellingcarsblog.com
2001 Renault Laguna: bestsellingcarsblog.com

Renault’s approach was to “take the car upmarket” by improving the fit and finish of the interior (everyone was thinking ‘Passat B5’ at this time). Patrick Le Quement said of the car that combined Germanic rigour in its treatment and Latin flavour. Looking back, it’s hard to see how the Laguna Mk 1 lacked any rigour as the design still holds up for the quality of its detailing inside and out. With the Mk2 they flattened the surfaces and reduced the curvature of the main forms, lending the car a more chiselled, planar look. Where did the flair reside? Conceivably, the decorative metal panel over the grille and the inflections on the rub strips; perhaps something in the rake of the C-pillar. Apart from these mild flourishes the car is sober and serious.

The Laguna faced stiff competition at the time. Citroen had launched the C5 and a new and very grown-up Mondeo had gone on sale. The latter more influenced by the Passat than the former which seemed to have been influenced by molluscs. The Mondeo went down the same flat-surfaced path as the Laguna while the Passat was rather curvy at all scales, yet the message the competition took from this was to do the opposite.

The biggest change perhaps over the model shift between Laguna 1 and Laguna 2 lay in how the estate was treated. Renault snubbed the antiques trade by making the Laguna 2 estate more of a fastback, with a raked d-pillar, more of “shooting brake” to quote the marketing boss of the time, Thierry Dombreval. Bad move, I say, as people buy estates to move things and if they wanted a shooting brake they’d not be looking at Renault. The thinking was that customers were opting for the Scenic instead of the Laguna so the Laguna was made (pause) less practical. It seems to me that they only compounded the problem. What they needed to do was make the Laguna ever more practical.

Renault wanted to shift the focus of the firm away from small cars by making the Laguna more serious and refined. That didn’t work as the car was dogged by electrical problems and its bigger sister, the Vel Satis found few takers.

In January 2001 Mike Duff at Car magazine summed up the Laguna: “…the new Laguna will carry on where its predecessor left off – pampering reps with generous equipment, cruising the motorways at a thoroughly sensible cost-per mile. But Mondeo-beater, it ain’t.” Renault offered a V6 among the engine ranges available, and like all mainstream saloons, it was dismissed: “The V6 motor quickly proved itself rather too fast for the attached Laguna. This is a car that, like its predecessor, likes to canter rather than gallop. The suspension is slow to react, and changes in road texture or intended direction seem to come as a total surprise to the springs and dampers – catching them out every time. Lots of roll and squeal in corners and woolly steering, and a surprising amount of ‘whump-thump’ gettting into the cabin. There’s also noticeable wind noise above about 75 mph, a loud whistling from the tops of the doors.” The key card received short shrift for doing nothing a key could not. Having tried the Renault key card 14 years later, I can only agree. I just don’t see the point.

In April 2001 Car gave the Laguna another kick, out of four cars (C5, Mondeo and Passat), the Laguna came second to the Passat.

2001 Renault Laguna. They aren´t trying hard with this photo, are they?: mobile.de
2001 Renault Laguna. They aren´t trying hard with this photo, are they?: mobile.de

Fifteen years on, the car’s legacy is this: “Plagued by wide-ranging problems with the electrics, mechanicals and build quality,” writes Honest John. The counterpoint is this: “Stylish looks, luxuriously well-equipped and a comfortable ride. A fine motorway cruiser. Excellent crash test rating.” In 2001 a Laguna could be had for £14,000. Today you can get a 1.6 base model for €550 with 160,000 km.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

11 thoughts on “Looking Back: 2001 Renault Laguna”

  1. Even now still a handsome design, and those i’ve driven were competent cars.
    Renault have the knack of combining a comfortable ride with superb cornering ability and these were no different, so many other makers get this so wrong, we don’t all want concrete springs and elastic band tyres so your spine absorbs every the bump from every road chipping ever laid.

    When these were new i was still driving car transporters, and a lot of my work was countrywide inter depot rental transfers, usually 7 to 10 cars at a time.
    It became a bit of a standing joke at the large renter that used Laguna 2’s that around 50% of the available model would be off the road for some electrical glitch, more often than not for spurious faults on tyre pressure monitoring system.
    Many Laguna 1’s were off the road too in their time span but with front end accident damage, very prone to locking the front wheels in the wet and sliding headlong without any noticeable reduction in speed….i recall being overtaken on wet roads several times by Laguna 1’s with locked front wheels seemingly having no impact on speed..pun not intended.

    What was the problem with Laguna 1 rear brakes i wonder, my 21 Savanna estate was a thoroughly competent reliable vehicle that never suffered with brake lock up that i can recall.

    Pity about Laguna 2 really, if Renault had basically rebodied Laguna 1, and just effectively ABS’d the thing without the rest of the electronics, they’d have had a winner IMHO.

    Effectively the unreliability of Laguna 2 and other models of the period has seen Renaults large cars largely disappear from Britain, partly due to bad reputation for reliability and difficulty/expense of repair which soon leads to dismal residuals (some other makes could find themselves in this boat in this age of instant information, if it wasn’t for lease/rent schemes which shield the new car owner), a pity as it appears Laguna 3 is massively improved even though plagued with looks only a mother could love.

    1. Imagine if he was? ‘…Pelata’s cost-cutting was ruining morale in the studio. I decided to put the staff professional development budget into stocking and restocking our hidden wine supplies. I can barely remember some weeks, including when we did the whole front end of the Laguna. It probably shows. But I slurred out some nonsense to senior management about the Renault 16 and reduced decorative trim costs while nursing a mother of a hangover, and they put it into production! So we had a good laugh about that.’

  2. The front design is really debatable, but the rest is good in my opinion. It’s what Citroën should have done as a Xantia successor: clean lines, long wheelbase, a proper hatchback. Instead we got this blob named C5.
    About the estate: is its boot really that much smaller than the first Laguna’s? I always thought of it as one of the more fortunate examples of marrying a sloped window line with a rather upright tailgate.
    Too bad that the car was let down by poor electronics and dubitable reliability. This really seems to be a French speciality.

  3. I, for one, think the front end was among a couple of things that distinguished the Laguna from the rather mundane competition. For me, the facelift made it all too conventional.

  4. I notice that the intention to take the car upmarket has been declared for the last three Laguna-class cars Renault has launched. Does anyone at Renault ever check their archives before writing new fluff for the press releases?

    1. I expect such announcements of intent are counter-productive. Instead of people looking at the car over time and possibly deciding ‘actually that’s a bloody good car, match to a 3 Series any day’, they are provoked my the puff to scrutinise the new car and its increased price very closely. It’s the same as a waiter telling you you’re going to enjoy your meal.

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