• Renault Koleos review

    The Renault Koleos is the newest entrant in the fiercely fought mid-to-large SUV segment that includes the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Kia Sorento and Skoda Kodiaq. Completing Renault’s crossover range, which also includes the Captur and Kadjar, the Koleos is in effect the French giant’s flagship car. As such, it’s offered in just two top …

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  • Renaultsport Mégane 275 Trophy – First Impressions

    You could be forgiven for thinking that the current Renault Mégane was getting a little long in the tooth. Its current guise has been on sale since 2009 and in that time we’ve seen all-new sporting models from Ford, SEAT, Volkswagen and Audi. So to step into the Renaultsport Mégane 275 Trophy and still be amazed at how well it drives is testament to the astonishing abilities of Dieppe’s finest engineers.

    Renault Megane 275 Trophy 01

    Renault Megane 275 Trophy (image courtesy of Newspress)

     

    Close inspection of this Mégane’s tyres reveals that they are the optional semi-slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s. Pick these and you’re treated to a set of rubber that looks barely road-legal but offers amazing grip. The only problem, apart from the £1,000 price tag, is you need to work hard to generate enough heat to extract their full potential. They may be great on dry, smooth tarmac but on a cold, wet Spring morning they could be terrifying – it’s an option aimed squarely at the track rather than the UK’s inclement weather and greasy roads.

    Hidden behind the 19-inch Turini wheels and Brembo braking system lies a set of £2,000 Ohlins dampers that are lifted from the Mégane N4 rally car. That’s a lot to spend on a damper upgrade but they tip the usual road-car compromise back from cost firmly in favour of ability.

    Some special cars feel right within just a few hundred yards and the Mégane Trophy is one of them. The steering is perfectly weighted and talks back to you, unlike in most modern hatchbacks. It’s incredibly direct too and it allows you to point the Mégane exactly where you want it to go.

    Renault Megane 275 Trophy 02

    Renault Megane 275 Trophy (image courtesy of Newspress)

    The grip from those Cup 2 tyres is impressive. While Millbrook’s ever-vigilant marshals put paid to any serious efforts to test cornering Gs, the Michelin’s ability to cope with 275bhp and 360Nm were impressive. As well as the abundant grip there’s a limited-slip differential shuffling torque between the front wheels, and the result is ballistic acceleration from far earlier in the corner than would otherwise seem sensible.

    The Ohlins dampers are superb. Body movement is tightly controlled but there’s a supple side to the Mégane’s ride that’s absent in the standard 275, which usually comes across as ridiculously brittle on anything but the smoothest tarmac. That’s the benefit of upgrading to the more expensive dampers.

    Renault Megane 275 Trophy Wheels

    Renault Megane 275 Trophy Turini wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres and covering Brembo brakes

    The last Renaultsport product to feature dampers like this was the Clio 182 Trophy. It used a set of Sachs Race Engineering items that cost 10 times as much as a standard Clio’s dampers but they transformed the Trophy’s handling. It’s now regarded as a collector’s item. Is it worth upgrading your Mégane? Absolutely.

    The rest of the car remains as you’d expect. A bit of carbon effect trim, red highlights, some alcantara trim and firm but well-bolstered Recaro seats. The fussy media system remains, sacrificing touch controls for fiddly buttons down near the handbrake. The Start/Stop button also hints at cost cutting, sitting low and far to the left, a consequence of positioning it for left-hand drivers and not retooling the dash layout for right-handers.

    Renault Megane 275 Trophy 03

    Stickers make it easy to identify the Megane 275 Trophy

    Not that it matters. Renaultsport models have always been about the driving experience and that’s where the Mégane still excels. If you can come to terms with the £32k price of a Trophy-spec Mégane there’s little else that can beat its fluid responses and beguiling chassis. It might be outgunned by several rivals and it might not be cheap either, but the joy of driving is still at the heart of the Mégane’s appeal.

    Performance & Economy 2015 Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy
    Engine 1,998cc turbocharged 4-cylinder, petrol
    Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
    Power (PS / bhp) 279 / 275
    Torque (Nm / lb.ft) 360 / 265
    0 – 60 mph (seconds) 6.0
    Top Speed (mph) 158
    CO2 Emissions (g/km) 174
    VED Band H
    Combined Economy (mpg) 37
    Kerb Weight (kg) 1,376
    Price (OTR) £28,930

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  • Renault Scenic review

    MPVs were all the rage back in the day, but then along came SUVs and crossovers of a similar size and their popularity plummeted.

    Renault reckons sales have now reached a plateau and there’s still plenty of mileage left in people carriers. So much so that it’s launched a fourth generation car (and stretched seven-seater Grand Scenic sibling).

    Some 6.5 million Scenics have been sold globally since Renault pioneered the compact MPV segment in 1996. However, the new car is like no other.

    Renault Scenic and Grand Scenic

    Priced from £21,445, the Scenic and Grand Scenic boast a dramatically distinctive design with sculptured, swept-back styling, a steeply-racked windscreen and big standout 20-inch wheels.

    Elsewhere, there are key features we’ve come to expect from the ‘Renault Renaissance’ including a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash safety rating, a strong mix of economical petrol and diesel engines, excellent packaging, a state-of-the-art infotainment system and a classy feel.

    Starting with the interior, the new Scenic is slightly wider than its predecessor and has a longer wheelbase which means there’s more space inside.

    Renault Scenic

    Always a strong point for any MPV, the Scenic doesn’t disappoint with ample room up front and in the rear (though check the rear head space if you plan to carry taller passengers), plus there’s a class-leading 572 litres in the boot or 1554 litres with the back seats folded down, (there’s a simple ‘One Touch’ operation which can be activated from inside the boot or via the touchscreen).

    The Grand Scenic is much the same, just a little longer and with a third row of seats, though it has to be said these are really only for small children. There’s 189 litres of boot space with the third row of seats in place – 596 with the seats down.

    In both the Scenic and Grand Scenic, nifty little fold-down picnic tables are available for rear seat passengers.

    Renault Scenic

    The lower part of the centre console also slides back into the rear seating area. It’s certainly different, but we’re not 100% sure why. Yes, it frees up a bit of space up front, but maybe the main reason is to separate children a little in the back or just to give them extra storage and closer USB ports. Who knows?

    What we do know is that the interior is bathed in light and the visibility is excellent thanks to acres of glass, that enormous windscreen and an optional full length (fixed) panoramic sunroof.

    The seats are very comfortable and the driving position is high, which should suit SUV and crossover buyers. The Scenic also sits slightly higher than the outgoing model.

    Renault Scenic

    A large centre dial dominates the binnacle in front of the driver, while to the left sits Renault’s excellent R-Link 2 infotainment system featuring a generous 8.7-inch portrait touchscreen, first seen in the new Megane, with full connectivity.

    There are four trim levels (Expression+, Dynamique Nav, Dynamique S Nav and Signature Nav) and all variants get air-conditioning, electric windows, DAB radio and automatic emergency braking.

    The list of other options and driver safety aids is extensive, ranging from Adaptive Cruise Control to an awesome BOSE sound system.

    Renault Scenic

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  • Signs of Confusion?

    The British have always been great travellers with some of the world’s most famous explorers hailing from our shores: Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and Captain James Cook to name but a few who faced incredible dangers in uncharted territories with constant threats from disaster, disease, wild animals and hostile locals. It seems that Brits have been successful in reaching every corner of the globe (assuming that globes actually have corners!) but there is one peril that these heroic globetrotters did not have to face but one that lies in wait for any unwary modern-day British traveller brave enough to venture from these sheltered isles. That danger arises from the apparent inability of the British to understand other countries’ road signs.

    Of course any traveller needs to understand a little of the local lingo even if such knowledge is limited to STOP, LEFT and RIGHT but it seems that most confusion arises with the signs containing pictures or symbols. Although there have been moves towards standardisation of road signs for many years (a protocol to which the UK did not sign-up), there remains much national diversity and there are even some signs which have different meanings in different countries. This failure to understand, and consequently not to follow, the instructions given by these signs has been cited as one of main causes of accidents abroad and this fact has been recognised by overseas car-hire companies who are now imposing additional insurance requirements on British drivers who they regard as being a bad risk. This may slightly dent the pride of our usually well-respected motorists but insurance companies report that the countries from which the most accident claims originate are: Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Australia. The latter, being an English speaking country, may be surprising and many visitors from the UK expect driving here to be just like at home, with the possible exception of a few signs showing Skippy bouncing across the road, and are not prepared for some of the unusual road signs. The Australian sign for “The Road Ahead Will Change” is a classic example of a sign where the image seems to bear no resemblance to the message it is purporting to convey. It seems that you really need to think Australian to fully understand the logic. Some of the Icelandic signs are also highly symbolic rather than pictorial so need to be carefully studied.

    Both in the UK and overseas, there are also signs which are unlikely to have any relevance to the average motorist such as the prohibition of vehicles carrying explosives but the whole business of understanding other countries’ road signs is a matter which should be taken very seriously and some, such as those advising which roads are “priority routes”, inform drivers as to who has the right of way and abiding by this is almost as important as driving on the correct side of the road.

    The most important thing is to recognise which signs are concerned with road safety and which are simply providing information about local facilities. In France for example a sign simply showing the letter é over a silhouette of a village church simply indicates the location of a stop-over village (Village Étape) and a single letter t indicates the toll booth location for season ticket holders. It may be some consolation to know that French drivers’ knowledge of some of these minor signs is not much better than that of UK drivers.

    It should always be remembered that UK road signs are probably just as confusing to overseas visitors and we can only wonder what a Renault-driving Frenchman would do when confronted with a sign saying “FORD”.

    So, whatever country is to be visited, some time should be taken to become familiar with that country’s road signs and, if it has been some time since a driving test was passed, it would do no harm at all to also study the latest UK road signs as their numbers also steadily rise. The realisation that most of the important overseas road signs are intuitive comes as something of a relief to those with limited language skills and the few which are symbolic rather than pictorial can easily be learnt. Driving in a safe and considerate manner should be no more difficult overseas than at home and will win the respect and appreciation of local motorists. It also enables such trips to be fully enjoyed, carrying on the British tradition of travel and exploration. Take a look at the coop’s infographic:

    Road signs

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