It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The £100 Renault Laguna, bought on a whim, was never going to be anything other than a flight of fancy: a step into the unknown with nothing to lose except some pride, dignity and a hundred notes.
But, a month and 500 miles since parting with the equivalent of a single PCP payment on a povo-spec city car, the 2004 Renault Laguna diesel has wormed its way into my affections and is seemingly here for the long haul.
It turns out Rihanna isn’t the only person to find love in a hopeless place.
OK, ‘love’ might be a stretch, but I have developed a bit of a thing for the ageing Sports Tourer that’s about as popular as a plastic bag at a marine biologists’ dinner party.
I have an important meeting to attend, so I’m wearing my best pink shirt and taking the £100 Laguna on its maiden voyage. What could possibly go wrong? pic.twitter.com/qe8PhDfbZ1
— Gavin Big-Surname (@MajorGav) August 6, 2018
To say the Mk2 Renault Laguna doesn’t have the best reputation would be a colossal understatement – these things are considered to be no-go zones by all but the brave, the foolish or the desperate. You can make up your own mind on which one of these categories I slot into.
When dealers refuse to take a car in part-exchange, you get a sense that something might have gone awry. Make enquiries about an aftermarket warranty on a Laguna, and you’ll be greeted with silence, swiftly followed by laughter or the sound of the dialling tone.
So, why, when the PETROLBLOG fleet has enough mouths to feed, has the Renault Laguna managed to secure a foothold on the mountain of tat? I’m not entirely sure, but I hope to educate myself through this outpouring of waffle. Feel free to skip to the next article – this is little more than self-help. A private counselling session, if you like.
There’s no doubt that a 14-year-old Laguna 1.9 dCi with 122,000 miles on the clock is a survivor. Manufacturers would fall over each other to subject this car to the horrors of a scrappage scheme, exchanged for a couple of grand against a miserable and lengthy finance deal.
If not, it’s undoubtedly worth more in parts, presenting itself as a sacrificial lamb for the poor sods putting up with a Laguna on a daily basis. But where’s the fun in scrappage schemes and ‘spares or repair’ ads? Doesn’t every dog deserve a second chance?
Let’s consider the positives. For a start, £100 isn’t a tremendous amount of cash to risk, although insurance and tax are unavoidable add-ons. That said, thanks to the lunacy of the VED system, of all the cars on the fleet, the 2004 Laguna diesel is the cheapest car to tax.
It also has a stack of receipts so thick it could keep a paper mâché enthusiast quiet for months. That’s assuming a paper mâché enthusiast is actually a thing.
You know how a pile of receipts and invoices is usually a sign of a well-maintained and cherished car? In the context of a Laguna, I can’t help but think of it as a criminal record – evidence of a troubled past that delivered terror and sleepless nights to the unfortunate previous owners.
Not that this Laguna is the promiscuous type. Having racked up 70,000 miles in the first three years, the car passed to its second and only other owner in 2007, before making its way to PBHQ in July 2018.
Two owners, original dealer number plates, a doorstep-sized pile of receipts are three reasons to be cheerful, right?
Not too long ago, the second coming of the Laguna was being paraded as the executive motor to take the fight to the Germans (where have we heard that before?) – its avant-garde styling and tech-laden spec sheet hitting the headlines for all the right reasons. The first five-star Euro NCAP safety rating was another feather in the Laguna’s beret.
Keyless entry, a keycard ignition, xenon headlights and sat-nav were a big deal at the turn of the millennium and enough to thrust the Laguna into the hearts and minds of company car drivers across the land. For a short while, the French had a car that could turn heads for all the right reasons at Membury Services or in the office car park.
It didn’t last long. Like so many large French cars, the Laguna suffered from severe depreciation, before a host of quality, reliability and electrical issues condemned the car to a period of terminal decline.
Today, the Laguna II, either in hatchback or Sports Tourer guise, is at the very bottom of the desirability table, jostling for position with the likes of the Peugeot 307, Vauxhall Zafira, Renault Mégane II, Citroën Xsara Picasso and Vauxhall Vectra.
These are cars sold without warranty or guarantee, but with a wing and a prayer and a chance that they might just make it through to the next MOT. They are one big bill away from a ménage à trois with a mechanical grabber and a crusher.
Right now, my Laguna is a long way from a date with a scrapyard. As the only estate car on the fleet, it has proved its worth on a couple of trips to the tip and assisting with a house move. It’s also incredibly economical – I’m not used to seeing 750 miles of range from a full tank of fuel.
Another factor in its favour is its ability to waft. The seats are almost as comfortable as those in my Saab 9000 and the suspension is ideally suited to long distance cruising. The six-speed gearbox is also surprisingly satisfying, while a large electric sunroof, dual-zone climate control, a six-CD in-dash autochanger and a Saab 9-5-esque cupholder are useful nods to modernity.
In the internet age, it’s easy to get swept along by hearsay and urban myths, which only serve to mask the positives of a once sought-after car. It’s for this reason that so many people are lured into PCP deals, leaving perfectly serviceable vehicles consigned to the scrapheap.
If nothing else, I’m determined to fly the flag for #FrenchTat. The Renault Laguna II can’t be that bad, can it? Actually, don’t answer that.
Admittedly, it’s not perfect. The headlight washers don’t work. The door mirrors switch is broken. The outside temperature display is stuck on minus figures. Two of the alloy wheels need resealing. There’s some rust on the offside rear wheel arch. Oh, and the ABS light is on.
If anything is going to sign the death warrant for the Laguna, it’s the ABS light. This will be investigated when I summon up the courage.
You can follow the trials and tribulations of life with a £100 Laguna via Twitter, the Garage section or PETROLBLOG’s YouTube channel. I can’t promise glamour or excitement, but you can expect scenes of heartache and mild peril.
For now, I’m basking in the glow of everything I love about unwanted and unfashionable motors. The Laguna follows the Saab 9000i and Honda Accord Type-Shed as an example of a car that delivers a level of happiness far beyond its purchase price and reputation.
Maybe I’m in love with my £100 Renault Laguna after all. Oh dear.