Car Confessional: MK1 Renault Laguna

We all have guilty secrets. A few skeletons in the cupboard. Some embarrassing facts that are best left in the head. Nothing too sinister of course, just the kind of information that can taint an otherwise blemish-free record. 

But guilty secrets within petrolhead circles, surely not? Well if PetrolBlog is anything to go by, the automotive world is rife with naughty pleasures that are best left in the closest. But just occasionally they need to be let out into the open. Step forward the Car Confessional. A problem shared is a problem greeted with universal mocking and hilarity.

The latest car to register on my radar is the original Renault Laguna. It’s fair to say that aside from the mid ’90s BTCC Laguna and the third generation coupé, I’ve never really paid much attention to it. It’s always been there, but rather like magnolia painted walls, it has always kind of blended into the background.

New 1998 Renault Laguna on track

But a couple of weeks ago, something changed. I heard the distant rumbling of a V6 motor at speed. As my brain trawled through the possible exotics that might be about to pass me, the noise grew louder and more appealing. Then, in a green blur, there it was. A first generation Renault Laguna. A LAGUNA! I’d almost forgotten it came fitted with a 3.0-litre V6 engine in the first place.

But then big French cars with suitably big French motors have not necessarily been particularly exciting. French ministres délégués always preferred their chariots with slushy automatic ’boxes, mushy suspension and plushy leather seats. Remember the Laguna Baccara, Renault’s rival to the Ford Scorpio? Or a little further back, the Renault 25 Monaco? But like just about any other big French car from the 1980s and ’90s, the MK1 Laguna and in particular the 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre RTi models are just beginning to become appealing. Or maybe it’s just me?

Renault Laguna 2.0 RTi and windmill

Here’s my case for the defence. Originally, the V6 Laguna was offered solely with an automatic ’box. This therefore meant that the keen driver would opt for the 2.0-litre 16v Laguna which was surprisingly rather good. The 140bhp engine, although miserly by today’s standards, would propel the Laguna along at a pretty decent rate. A 0-60 time of a smidgen under ten seconds was nothing to get excited about, but of all the cars in its sector, the Laguna offered the best compromise. The ride quality was superb, the level of refinement could match its German rivals and when fully exploited, the Laguna could be a huge amount of fun.

It was ultimately let down by three things. Firstly, the original Laguna sold in huge numbers, particularly to fleet buyers, so there were quite a few about. Most of which were driven by sales reps. Secondly, it looked totally and utterly anonymous. Even the alloy wheels were an option. Thirdly, it wasn’t particularly cheap to run. Exploit the Laguna on your favourite B-road and you’d soon see the fuel economy drop to the low 20s. Ouch.

Renault Laguna 2.0 RT on a street

Never mind, there’s always in the 3.0-litre model to consider. By the late ’90s it had gained a manual gearbox, so at last it could offer something to those who find driving enjoyable, rather than a chore. In 1998 it would cost just over £18,500, that’s a mere £1,600 more than the 2.0-litre. Admittedly, Renault would still want extra for the alloy wheels, but at least you’d gain an extra 60bhp. And of course, you’d get the soundtrack of the V6 engine as you hurtled towards your next sales meeting. In fact, as the 3.0-litre didn’t need working so hard to get the best from it, fuel economy could be on a par with the 2.0-litre.

Renault Laguna 3.0 V6 24v

Neither cars were particularly good sellers. At its peak, there were fewer than 6,000 2.0-litre RTis on the roads of Britain. Today there are just a few hundred left and even fewer V6s. This would quite easily be a candidate for Bangerwatch as it won’t be long before the numbers are down to double figures. A quick search through the classifieds shows that you can pick up a very tidy and original 2.0-litre for less than £500. I found a one-owner car with full service history for £495. Spend a couple of hundred more and you can have the 3.0-litre. That’s if you can find one.

Today, the ‘hot’ Laguna has been largely forgotten, remembered solely for its front splitter, which can now be seen fitted retrospectively to Cavaliers, Clios, Corsas and Civics up an down the country. It’s no coincidence that there are more splitters listed on eBay than there are Laguna RTis. Nobody loves them and British buyers have always been a bit wary ageing French motors. But prices are so low, they must be worth a gamble? However, before buying one, you should compare car insurance groups as the 3.0-litre is in group 30! The 2.0-litre is five groups lower.

Renault Laguna interior

With my senses awakened by a chance encounter with a Laguna V6 in Northamptonshire, I’ve now added a couple to my eBay watch list. A confession too far? A lone voice in a sea of sensibility? You tell me.

Remember, if you want to share your own car confession, get in touch with us. A problem shared is a problem laughed at by the readers of PetrolBlog.

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ABOUT AUTHOR
Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

42 comments

  1. January 16, 2013
    Dogknob1 (@Dogknob1)

    Certainly wouldn’t mind a Renault Safrane Baccara v6 biturbo, not sure about the Laguna though!

    Reply
    • January 16, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Ooh, now that’s a proper car!

      Reply
  2. January 16, 2013
    Rafael

    I always found the Mk1 Laguna a rather decent car. Good chassis and refinement, shame about the mediocre 8 valve engines. I liked the dashboard, it was a lot more elaborated and classier than the Cavalier/Mondeo/Xantia/Carina/Primera offerings.
    And although the styling is nothing to write home about, it´s more elegant than today´s terrible Lagunas.

    Reply
    • January 16, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      I couldn’t have put it better myself!

      Reply
  3. January 16, 2013
    Antony Ingram (@antonyingram)

    Have to agree on the Laguna, and it’s all the BTCC’s fault. Well, mostly.

    My dad owned several Renaults in the 1990s and early 00s, so I’ve always been a fan of the marque. The Laguna arrived – and entered the BTCC – around the time I was properly getting into cars. 1994 was a golden year for me – there were some brilliant cars about. It’s probably my favourite BTCC season ever. WRC was good too – the Impreza 555’s first year and McRae’s first RAC win. And though it was a tragic year for F1, it’s still the first season I remember vividly, culminating in Schumacher and Hill’s coming-together at Adelaide.

    That’s a long-winded way of saying the Laguna arrived at the right time. I always wanted my dad to own one, preferably the 2.0 RTi which was closest in spirit to the BTCC car.

    I actually disagree that it looks bland though. Compare it to its contemporaries and it’s actually quite pretty, and it’s a sign of how right the design was that it made such a great-looking BTCC car with only some big wheels and a bit of a drop…

    Not sure I could honestly bring myself to buy one now though, unless I suddenly came into lots of money and didn’t mind buying a few daft things. If the numbers for RTis and V6s are that low, I dread to think how many of those are actually in good working order too…

    Reply
  4. January 16, 2013
    Dogknob1 (@Dogknob1)

    I think French cars went down hill with the demise of the yellow headlight

    Reply
    • January 16, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      An inspired and insightful comment!

      Reply
      • January 25, 2013
        Dave Bicker

        I wish to be associated with the comments of Dogknob1.

        Reply
  5. January 16, 2013
    Shaun Brader (@ShaunBrader)

    There’s a Laguna Mk1 up the road from me, dark green with a yellow boot spoiler and a full bumper width, blue on yellow RENAULT sticker on the rear, it’s been adorned like this from new in 1998, maybe a dealers made up special ‘touring car edition’. Wonder if it has floormats to match?

    Reply
    • January 16, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Oh, please get us a photo!

      Reply
    • January 18, 2013
      Antony Ingram (@antonyingram)

      That’s an interesting one. I distinctly remember when I was a kid – would have been 94 or 95 specifically – there was a guy in my town with a yellow Laguna in full BTCC colours – i.e. the yellow body with blue Renault script repeated down the side, with a blue back end. Different car obviously, but would love to know what eventually happened to it.

      A favourite of mine was in the local Peugeot dealership too. Soon after the 406 came out and it’d been in touring cars a few years, my local Pug dealer had a 406, lowered on 17″ OZ Superturismo alloy wheels. To my young eyes it was a spitting image of the BTCC car, and as such, very cool. We drove out of the dealer in a 1.8 LX…

      Reply
  6. January 16, 2013
    Graeme Thomas

    I have a confession, i worked for a Renault Dealership in the late 90’s and my company car was a Laguna 1.8,{the single point injection variety}which strangely enough was my choice,if i recall,due to the company car tax regulations then,the 2.0RTI was the desired choice,but far too expensive to run as a company car,by the way,the 2.0l was actually from the volvo S40/V40 of the day.

    Reply
    • January 16, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      In those days the Laguna was the default choice for a lot of company car owners. How times changes. Hence the demise of the Laguna in the UK.

      Reply
  7. January 16, 2013
    mkl37

    My town is near the Renault factory of Valladolid so offers for Renault workers make this generation Laguna very popular. Like 15 MK1 Lagunas in a town with less than 3000 residents!

    This Renault-ly front, this rear with so much personality, and a nice sound (on gasoline engines, DTi is a lot “tro co tro co tro” sounding)… I like the Laguna too 😛

    Reply
    • January 16, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      15 MK1 Lagunas in one small town?! I may need to pay a visit. Presumably you see a good selection of other old Renaults too?

      Reply
      • January 17, 2013
        mkl37

        Sadly there’s not too much oldies, but there’s some R4, R5, R9, R11, R12, R19, R21, R25… and an abandoned Renault Fuego that really hurts my soul

        I think the oldest is a pretty cute pre-restyling R4 van which was property of the grandfather of a friend of mine

        Maybe I have overestimated the number of MK1 Lagunas but don’t doubt it, it’s a Renault town xD

        Reply
      • January 17, 2013
        Ton D. (@Tonsty)

        That wouldn’t be a Fuego that would, in its better days, allow us to enter The Turbo Zone, would it?

        Reply
        • January 17, 2013
          Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

          Ha! Great memory!

          Reply
  8. January 16, 2013
    Simon Hingston

    I had one for a little while about 6 years ago. Bog standard bottom of the range with genuine hub caps. Was comfy,reasonable drive and reliability. Then exhaust fell off and it wasn’t worth repairing! Agree they look better if in a line up of contemporary dross. Not much style but some.

    Reply
    • January 16, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Completely off topic, but how’s the snow up there? Worried the BlogNobs may got lost in the snow!

      Reply
      • January 16, 2013
        Simon Hingston

        Ooh good point Blognobs have not arrived (enjoyed chocolate digestive as we speak). Snow is minimal but temperature eve more so. Malcolm (the MINI apparently) even deployed glow today for only the second time! I must be getting old though as I like heated seats now rather than making me think I’ve wet myself.

        Reply
        • January 16, 2013
          Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

          Ah, heated seats. Missing mine. 🙁

          Reply
  9. January 17, 2013
    Ton D. (@Tonsty)

    I love this Car Confessional feature. Might have to confess a thing or two, too…

    Reply
    • January 17, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Please do.

      A problem shared is a problem laughed at…er…I mean, halved.

      Reply
  10. January 29, 2013
    therealfalk

    When living in England I used to drive a Mini (the proper one) for many years. After meeting my wife for the first time it became clear that I had to lose my Mini as it needed lots of repairs anyway at that time. I needed a decent car and my mechanic already had a Saab 900 Turbo on the garage for me, unfortunately he couldn’t get it to start and run properly. After a few weeks he offered me a 1.8 RT Laguna instead. I wasn’t really keen in the first place as I found it a bit ugly but after having driven it from Birmingham back to Leeds it started growing on me.

    Sure, it wasn’t the best performing car (given the same power output as my Mini had with its MG Metro engine), but the ride was the most comfortable I ever had in any car. And I was driving a lot of cars while at Uni as I used to work as a props driver at the movies.
    I loved the Laguna and the boot was huge! you could easily move in there with your lounge furniture should you split from your wife…

    I can completely understand this confession…
    I would drive a Laguna again should I ever have the opportunity again. Best cheap-to-comfort-ratio…

    Reply
  11. August 26, 2013
    Maarten Jan Mulder

    Although very little of them have been made, you could also consider the 1.9 dci (yes dci, not dti). It was only sold in 2000, thus meaning even the entry-level version were fully equiped (at least here in the Netherlands). To be honest, I drive one 😉
    (RXI, 16″ alloys, automatic climate control, cruise control, electric windows, fog lights, painted bumpers, etc. the whole lot)

    I had a remap done, after the remap it went to 128 hp on the dyno at the wheels and a nice 310 Nm of torque. With that amount of torque it is reasonable fast, especialle from 80-120 and 120-160 🙂

    Reply
    • August 26, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Ooh, nice spec.

      Any more details of the car online? Would like to see some pics…

      Reply
  12. August 29, 2013
    Maarten Jan Mulder

    Thanks, yes, from that angle it look’s the best 🙂

    Reply
  13. October 14, 2013
    Ben

    http://www.autotrader.co.uk/classified/advert/201310129255738/

    why oh why, am I thinking of making this my next banger!

    Reply
    • October 15, 2013
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Because you have sense, Ben.

      That’s in remarkably good nick. And cheap, too.

      Do it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeyXokLQ5kg

      Reply
      • October 17, 2013
        Ben

        sold before I could get there 🙁

        Reply
        • October 17, 2013
          Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

          Drat.

          Reply
  14. March 9, 2014
    mike herd

    I bought a laguna3.0l V6 24v 10 years ago as it was cheap, very cheap for a car that does 7.7secs 0-60. I am still driving it today having only spent £44 on repairing it outwith general wear and tear stuff. It is beginning to show signs of its age now but the engine is still as quiet as the day I bought it and I am reluctant to part with the power of the 3L engine. I would highly recommend one to anyone to have some fun with!

    Reply
    • March 11, 2014
      Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

      Good stuff. Ten years is an awfully long time to keep a Laguna, so that V6 engine must be the main factor?

      Reply
  15. July 4, 2014
    Abstractnoise

    I effectively inherited last year a Mk1 Phase 2 1.6RT. Not the outright best car by any means, and getting it running after 3-5 years off the road has been a guilty, expensive pleasure. But we love her and she performs amazingly well on UK roads. Fun enough to poke around B-roads, sensible enough to live with and 45MPG on motorways. Planning to keep maintain ours as a classic!

    Reply
  16. November 29, 2014
    carl

    Have had 2 mk1 v6 lags and I love them!!!. Strong quick engines, 147mph and the best thing is it looks like a old Renault and it really piss”s off the BMW and Audi drivers who don’t know its harbouring a v6!!!

    Reply
  17. December 2, 2014
    Steve Bell

    Have had a Laguna 3.0l V6 24v since 2004. Lovely to drive, garaged and only done 47,000 miles. However the electrics have been a constant pain for the last half dozen of these years with the instrument panel going dead intermittently and lately the alarm kicking in when driving. Am about to scrap a good runner (with 7 months MOT) as it’s got too annoying. It’s in Leeds – anyone interested?

    Reply
  18. April 11, 2015
    Andy

    I currently own and drive a 1999 3.0 v6 with manual gear box – 98k on the clock and still going strong. The sales pitch described it as a Wolf in Sheep’s clothing.

    Reply
  19. August 23, 2016
    gerry

    gt reading abt the old r renault.. ive owned this rt folr 17 years few olff mods
    to make the breathing improve hardened the suspemsion other than that oh forgot
    a stainless steel sports system and it flys b it loud but gd fun have only done 96000 miles
    spain italy france scotland belgium holland now the wife bit on the sick side
    so use ir as my fun car only had done to engine
    #was the cam sensor went in the middle of france some old lad fixed itat a village garage
    tires ir does well on any of the named makes .. oh ikt an auto rt
    understand there are only two registered
    roll on the next 100000 miles aty agbed 81 who cares
    gerry

    Reply
  20. September 4, 2016
    Luke

    My dad had two of these, a pre-facelift 1.8 and a facelift 1.6. I remember going to the dealership with him to pick up the first one in 1995 and being fascinated by the remote controls for the radio on the steering column. I remeber the interiors being surprisingly well built, but very stuffy as neither of them had aircon. Also, as soon as I hit about 12 years old, I could no longer fit in the back of them. If you’ve never sat in the back of one, you would not believe how little space there is back there for a (supposedly) D-segment car. The other standout memory for me is the bulletproof reliability (made all the more apparent by the complete lack of it in the A6 that followed). The first one never went wrong, and the second one only failed to proceed once when Dad got a bit over-enthusiastic and clouted the sump on a rock!

    Reply

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