China pulls a reversal and bans Renault car imports for safety concerns

June 11th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Renault Megane 250 fq

In an odd role reversal of the status quo, China has announced the halt of import of four Renault models on the back of ‘serious safety risks’ and non-compliance with regulations.

The Renault models affected include the Laguna, Scenic, Megane and Megane Coupe-Cabriolet – what are Renault’s most successful global models. The decision was reached by the lengthy-named General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

“W]e have repeatedly found batches of passenger vehicles made by the French Renault … do not conform with our country’s mandatory standards and relevant technical regulations, and there are serious safety risks,” AQSIQ said in a statement.

The Chinese government’s decision is strange to say the least particularly when Chinese made vehicles like the Brillance BS4 have very little in the way of genuine safety. The BS4 recently scored zero stars in Euro NCAP testing. In contrast, the Renault Megane, Megane CC, Laguna and Scenic all achieved 5 stars in EuroNCAP testing.

The fact is that China is now the largest car market in the world and the banning of these Renault models will hurt the French manufacturer. In some opinions this is the first step in China trying to protect their domestic carmakers against the strong competition coming from Europe.

Renault hasn’t yet issued a formal response, with a spokesman saying only that the company was ‘surprised’ by the decision, and that it has plenty of evidence of the quality of its models in the form of independent press reviews and testing.

Renault releases updated Clio Renaultsport 200

May 6th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Renaultsport Clio fq

Renaultsport’s latest hot hatch now comes with 200 ponies packed beneath the bonnet. While this is only three more horses than the Clio 197 version on which it’s based and replaces, Renault’s performance and motorsport divisions have worked hard to improve the aerodynamics and cut weight to make the extra power count even more.

Reflecting the mid-cycle facelifting of the entire Clio range, the Clio RS 200 and 200 Cup apparently benefit from Renault’s Formula One program, which brought the aerodynamic expertise implemented on its latest hot hatch. Air passes over the front splitter to feed the the revised 200-hp, 2.0-litre 16-valve four-cylinder engine, but it also surges underneath to the flat rear bottom and rushes out the rear diffuser. The aerodynamic enhancements helps give the car an even more agressive look, while customers can choose from a wider colour palette, contrasting with either black or anthracite-finish trim.

Inside the Clio has a compact steering wheel with perforated leather trim with a yellow strip to show when it’s centered, and Recaro seats are available along with leather upholstery. The new Clio Renaultsport 200 starts selling next month in the UK at £16,570 ($43,000 NZ), while hardcore enthusiasts can get the stripped-down Cup version for £15,750 ($40,930 NZ).

New Megane RS 250 images released

March 27th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Renault Megane 250 s

VW took the time to parade its new 2010 GTI around all week (read news item). Not wanting to be out done, Renault has rolled up its sleeves and released a couple of new shots of its own hot hatch the lethal Megane RenaultSport 250.

Packed under the bonnet is a golf-stomping, turbo 2.0-litre with 250 horsepower on tap. Unveiled at the Geneva show last month, very little is known about the go-fast Megane, but it looks set to go head to head against the Focus RS and the Golf GTI. Check out the photos in the gallery below.

Nissan and Renault to share all new engines

March 11th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Nissan renault eng

When Nissan and Renault formed an alliance in 1999, the two automakers cited cost cutting reasons and increased product sharing and purchasing power. Today, with the global economy struggling, those benefits are required more than ever. So it’s not surprising to hear that Nissan and Renault plan to begin sharing virtually all new engines moving forward.

According to reports, Nissan will focus on gas-powered engines and Renault will stick with it’s successful diesels. Now, both automakers can focus on improving the performance and reducing the environmental impact of both engine lines. If successful, the automotive alliance hopes this deal will generate $1.8 billion USD in positive cash flow in 2009.

Renault to rebirth Gordini performance brand

March 9th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Renault Gordini

While it may seem like a bad time to bring back a performance marque, that’s just what Renault has planned according to a UK car magazine. Renault will relaunch the Gordini brand in Europe next year. It was recently revealed that Renault’s plans to bring back its storied Alpine product line had been axed, but the decades-dormant Gordini is apparently a different matter altogether.

The new range of hot hatches will slot in above current Renaultsport offerings, with a new Twingo variant reportedly being followed by Clio and Megane Coupe models. Like the Gordini-tuned cars of the past, the new models are tipped to wear blue paint and white stripes along with various performance upgrades that will make them a likely competitor to Fiat’s reborn Abarth lineup.

Renault unleashes Megane RS

March 5th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Renault Meagne RS fq

Renault has earned its place as a major player in the hot hatch game. But with new contenders like the MINI JCW and Alfa GTA going for the throne, Renault knew it would have to show some new moves to stay competitive. Fortunately, it brought out a slick new Megane to replace the out-going version, leaving Renaultsport enthusiasts drooling for a performance variant. Renault finally obliged at the Geneva Motor Show this week with the highly-anticipated new Megane RS.

Packing a 250-horsepower 2.0-litre 16-valve turbo four, it’s the most powerful version yet with a full 20hp more than the last ultimate R26.R. Buyers can choose right off the bat between the Sport and Cup chassis (the Cup has a limited slip differential). Styling cues are borrowed from the Trophy racer concept that debuted at last year’s Paris Motor Show, complete with front grille splitter and center-exit exhaust, all of which makes for one agressive French beast.

Renault Koleos 2008 Review

November 22nd, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

renault-koleos

At this time of year schools across the country begin to quieten down for the end of the year: students take off on exam leave, teachers celebrate, etc. It isn’t just schools that are slowing down after a busy term, car manufacturers are also busy doing their homework and preparing for a tough period ahead. Renault is using this time to launch the Koleos, its first offering in the very competitive crossover category, and one student who has arrived late in the school year. SUV and crossover vehicles have thrived in the past few years and most car makers have been busy enrolling new or upgraded models in this class. Only now with the school term ending and global sales for larger vehicles down, Renault shows up at the school gates with its new French exchange student, the Koleos.

At first glance the Koleos looks understated in appearance and inconsistent with the flamboyant design that defines many French vehicles. On closer inspection the Koleos has some exotic touches, and love it or hate it you can’t accuse it of being boring. Inheriting the Renault family face, the Koleos has pushed back headlights and a dipping nose adorned with a dominating silver badge. The Koleos adopts a roundness that is highlighted by aluminium roof rails and a tapered back end with wrap-around rear lights. It is unusual in appearance and makes refreshingly little attempt to fit in with its peers.

The interior blends style and practicality well and is a potential selling point for those who value internal aesthetics.  A variety of interior equipment levels are available, the tested model had the Dynamique pack which smartly matches charcoal cloth and plastics to chrome effect trimming. There is symmetry throughout the cabin and a simple, easily read instrument cluster makes life easy. However, the centre control console wasn’t very intuitive to use and I found myself having to look down regularly while driving. This was helped by good steering wheel controls and a high set info display mid-dashboard. There are a great range of storage options available, including large door bins, deep centre binnacle and a chilled glove box. More discreet storage is available in a draw under the passenger seat and two underfloor storage lockers in the rear, perfect for hiding contraband from nosy teachers.

Fold down the rear seats and the Koleos provides a totally flat bed with a 1,380 litre storage capacity.  The rear seats have a 60/40 split a useful ski-flap, and with the passenger seat folded down items up to 260cm in length can be carried. The rear tailgate is split-opening and the bottom part of the hatch can perform as a useful platform or just as a seat for hanging out at lunchtime.

The Koleos may be new but it already has one friend in class and that’s the Nissan X-Trail, which shares the same platform and diesel motor. This power plant is a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder which produces 110kW of go and a useful 320Nm of torque. Claimed combined fuel consumption is 8.3 litres/100 km. The Koleos trundles along to 100kph in 10 seconds which isn’t bad considering its 1713kg weight. But the acceleration never feels rapid, and the throttle response can be as slow as a Friday afternoon maths lesson. However, once it’s up to speed the Koleos is a competent cruiser.

Out the school gates and onto the road, it rides smoothly, and sucks up any bumps and dips in the road easily.  The sound of the diesel motor is always present but the cabin is very well secluded from road noise.  The handling is not very agile but it isn’t the fat kid in gym class either and body roll is well contained.  Steering could offer more feedback, but it responds keenly to driver input. Twists and turns see the Koleos staying fairly flat and there is good grip for powering out of corners. The 6-speed auto transmission (that has a manual change option) works the gears well, but frequently changes to draw the most from its motor.

Off road and on to the rugby field the X-Trail underpinnings give the Koleos enough skill to make the A-team. Kitted with Nissan’s ‘All mode I” hardware the Koleos has the potential to transfer up to 50% of the driving power to the rear if required.  This is made possible by an electromagnetic clutch in the rear diff. Under normal driving conditions it operates as front wheel drive, but change the Koleos into 4WD and it is brainy enough to do the calculations and guarantee good traction.

As that final school bell rings and yearly report cards are handed out the Koleos isn’t top of the class. It achieves well despite its late entry, but is roundly beaten by the X-Trail, upon which it’s based. It is the type of vehicle that will always be an acquired taste and this may prevent it from having as many friends as other crossover models. At a couple of grand more than the X-Trail it’s going to win friends that want a European badge, but the compromises over the X-Trail’s interior functionality (read the review here) will be too much for some. Regardless, the Koleos offers an affordable mix of European flair and Japanese reliability and that combination is always worth a second look.

For the full specifications of the Renault Koleos click through to the next page

Price: from $37,990

What we like:

  • It’s different
  • Sharp interior styling
  • Off road capable

What we don’t like:

  • Uncommunicative steering
  • Throttle response

Renault Koleos (2008) – Specifications

Engine

Capacity (cc) 1995
Bore x stroke (mm) 84X90
No. of cylinders / valves 4/16
Compression ratio 15.7:1
Maximum power (kw) 110
Maximum power (rpm) 4000
Maximum torque (Nm) 320
Maximum torque (rpm) 2000
Fuel type Diesel
Injection type Electronic Multi-point Direct Common rail + watercooled turbocharger
Anti-pollution system Three-way catalytic converter Oxidation catalyser with particle filter
Emissions standard Euro4

Chassis and Drive

Transmission 4X4 six-speed automatic
Front suspension MacPherson type
Rear suspension Multilink
Front and rear driven wheels with auto-adaptive transmission Yes
4×4 ALL MODE-i with ESP transmission Yes
Front/rear anti-roll-bar diameter (mm) 23/19.1
Ground clearance 188
All-terrain: approach/ramp breakover/departure angle (º) 27/21/31

Fuel Consumption and Emissions

Fuel tank (litres) 65
Urban – litres/100km 10.5
Extra urban – litres/100km 7
Combined cycle – litres/100km 8.3
C02 (g/km) 221

Weights (kg)

Tare mass 1713
Gross vehicle mass 2300
Unbraked trailer 750
Braked trailer 1350

Dimensons (mm)

Wheelbase 2,690
Overall length 4,520
Overall width (exterior mirrors folded/with exterior mirrors) 1,865/2,120
Height (with/without roof rails) 1,695/1,710
Front track 1,545
Rear track 1,550
Boot capacity (to top of rear seatback) 450 (dm3)

Words, Adam Mamo photography, Darren Cottingham

Return of the Renault Clio Sport

October 14th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Renault Clio Sport

Hot on the heels of Fernando Alonso’s second consecutive win at the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix, Renault’s smallest hot hatch, the Clio Sport, now as the RS 197 has returned to New Zealand.

Priced at $39,990, the limited edition three-door Clio RS now produces 197 horsepower from its two litre fuel injected engine, a 15 horsepower improvement on the previous Clio RS 182.

Only a handful of cars have arrived on New Zealand shores and can now be spotted at Renault dealerships. The next shipment will not arrive until well into 2009.

Compared to the regular Clio III, the RS’ body has wider front and rear wings to accommodate the larger wheels and tyres, side skirts and a semi-rigid under-bumper splitter, while the stance has been lowered. Extractor vents and an active rear air diffuser are fitted to aid stability and prevent rear-end lift by creating a zone of low pressure beneath the car. This results in a down force rating of between 40 and 70kg at high speed, lowering lift by around 65 per cent and eliminating the need for a rear spoiler.

Underneath is a development of the Renault/Nissan Alliance B Platform, which is also used by the Nissan Tiida and Micra. But the Clio III RS 197 is significantly different thanks to a 10mm longer wheelbase, as well as 48mm wider in the front track and 50mm in the rear, compared to the regular Clio III hatch. It also rides 15mm lower. The subframe is the same as used on the Megane RS 225, and employs transverse strengthening for greater front-end rigidity. Its bushes, front shock absorber mountings and rear suspension mountings are also stiffer.

Braking is via Brembo-supplied callipers at the front, featuring 312mm cross-drilled discs) and 300mm solid discs in the rear, while the 17-inch lightweight alloy wheels are shod with 215/45 tyres.

Turning the front wheels, via a new six-speed manual gearbox, is a development of the old RS 182’s normally-aspirated 1998cc 2.0-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine with variable valve timing.

The French may have invented the metric system but Renault panders to Great Britain, the largest consumer of its RS products, by revealing the RS 197’s horsepower rating in its name. That’s 145kW, achieved at a high 7250rpm, while the 215Nm torque comes at 5550rpm, courtesy of the RS division. The result is a 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.9 seconds.

RS has optimised the engine’s intake, exhaust port length and profiling for greater efficiency, worked on the valve seat aerodynamics, improved air intake and gas flow, increased valve lift from 9mm to 11.5mm to create a longer and wider valve aperture, and redesigned the combustion chamber and piston heads for a high compression ratio of 11.5:1. Lower emissions are a result, with carbon dioxide pollution dropping to 199g/km, while the combined average fuel consumption rating is 8.4L/100km.

On the safety front, the Clio III has earned a five-star European NCAP crash-test result. Present are an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), electronic stability control (ESC) that is sports-tuned with higher threshold programming and can be disconnected, ASR traction control and eight airbags — including two anti-submarining devices underneath the front seats.

Interior trim includes aluminium pedals, a perforated leather wrapped steering wheel with red centre-point stitching, RS logos on the instrument faces, door sills and front seats (which are of a bolstered ‘sports’ design), and a chrome-zinc centre console.

Standard features include air-conditioning, cruise control with speed-limiter, remote central locking, power windows, a multi-function trip computer, single-CD sound system, 60/40-split folding rear seat and 17-inch alloys.