MY 10th ARTICLE! And, incidentally, for this article I have something special – a car review. After that I have a confession to make. So enjoy the read.
CAR REVIEW: RENAULT MEGANE III COUPÉ
Last Thursday I was walking around Norwich, minding my own business and then I saw a bunch of Renaults parked in a Shopping mall. No, not randomly parked. They were there because Holden Renault of Norwich were advertising them. Obviously, one of reasons why cars are being advertised this way is because they are not doing that well. So I decided to see those cars what’s what.
There were four cars there: Megane III hatchback, Clio, Megane III Coupé…and another one I don’t even remember because I couldn’t be bothered to see it. Anyway, I decided to see Megane Coupé up close because it was the only appealing car between those. So…what did I see?
First thing I noticed was that it is a handsome thing. Really, French have finally improved their design over the years. It’s not like they’ve never designed a beautiful car – some Renaults before 1990s were quite cute and nice looking, like Renault 5, Dauphine and Alpine Renaults. But during 90s and 00s Renaults were so dull I wasn’t bothered to find out anything about them. Maybe it’s because their partnership with Nissan has got themselves some decent designers. The profile is also sweet. It is more like a shooting break than a coupe. And I prefer shooting brakes to coupes any time. They look sleeker, sexier.
One thing I was really surprised was the quality of interior. Long gone are the days of cheap, rattling plastics. Now it’s all soft touch, quality materials. Even plastic buttons on the climate control and radio are coated with soft, rubber-like layer. Definitely it’s gonna be feeling good for first couple of months of usage. But after years, I feel that this rubber will wear off. I’ve seen it before on other cars (I think VW Passat. One of taxis I’ve been in around Norwich I noticed that this kind of coating was worn off). Despite that it’s a massive improvement over the dull interior of those 90s/00s Renaults. Cars like 2nd Generation Clio had interiors that make watching paint drying on the wall a lifetime experience. So this interior gets thumbs up.
One detail I was particularly fond of was the key slot. To many it’s no big deal, but I really wish that ordinary keys didn’t disappear, but who am I to decide. So the best I can wish for is these key slots. Why? Because I want to have as much connection to the car as possible. A push button start is good, but it is quite impersonal. A slot key makes me feel like I did start the car. I put the key in and I unleashed that power, whereas when I push a keyless start button, it’s like I ask the car “can you star for me, please?”
The driving position is good. Low down, the steering wheel and pedals are right in the centre and you can have the “king of the road” position (i.e. one hand on top of the wheel, one on the gear lever) easily. The visibility of instruments is very easy (unlike Peugeot, where they stupidly moved it in such a way that for some drivers the steering wheel is in the way to see them), however I question the use of electronic speedo. I believe they used it because it’s cheaper and looks cooler, but why do you need to know precisely how fast are you going? Even racing drivers don’t. For them only things they want to see on the display is the gear and rev counter. And another thing: using an electronic fuel tank gauge is not a wise choice. Renaults have used them for some years now. So have MINI. The problem with it is that they have bars instead of a continuous line to tell how much fuel you’ve got left. And bars make a huge difference. What’s wrong with an ordinary fuel gauge? It ain’t that expensive to make and won’t make too much of a hustle.
Another thing that made me puzzled was the rear leg and head room. Ok, I know that I’m 194 cm tall (6ft4in for imperial measurement people) but even midgets would find it hard to get in here. It’s not like Renault are exclusive cars like Jaguar. Renault people are ones who have a lot of friends without cars and (hopefully) you’re a nice enough person to give them a lift. And my guess is that many people will choose to walk because it will be less painful than to sit in the rear. First of all to have at least some decent legroom the driver needs to drive like a teenage girl, i.e. with the steering wheel in the chest and the chin above the wheel. Even then you would struggle to get some decent room.
And if they did have some leg room they would have to cut their heads off because there is literally no headroom.
And I don’t see what was the problem. The Megane rides on the same platform as Nissan Quashquai, and that car ain’t the smallest. And Renault still had tons of room behind rear seats to extend the car because the boot is massive, only it has a funny opening. So why didn’t they sacrifice some of that cavernous boot to make passengers a bit more human than headless pieces of meat? Even the smaller Renault Clio seemed larger.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to drive the car because of two reasons: 1) there is a stupid bureaucracy in Britain regarding insuring people on cars and 2) they had no test cars. So I can make no comment on that. But as a car to live with you have to have midgets as friends and you will be fine. And as for quality, I have a feeling that those worry days are over, so forget about those French car stereotypes when you want to try a Renault.
I GIVE UP: The ill-fated SAAB
Some of my friends know that I am a huge Swedish car fan. And in past couple of years I have been very enthusiastic about the brand. A couple of reasons for that: I loved what they stood for, I hoped that they will get away from GMs disastrous regime and because my dad owned two – A 9000i and a 9000 CS 2.3T – and I loved them. And I was always thinking of excuses to why I am defending its troubles. But last year I finally gave up hoping, after hearing the news that they have run out of cash AGAIN and that they assembled merely 4 cars a week. With that kind of tempo and with assembly of a 12-year-old model I gave up hoping for its success because it is impossible.
I mean really. SAAB had already a decline in sales prior Spyker takeover in 2010 of the 9-3. It is by no means a bad car, only massively outdated, too simplistic for modern day competition (when cars like Megane I reviewed above have way much tech than a SAAB. Renault, being better than SAAB. Many years ago that was unthinkable) and not great for keen drivers. The front wheel drive for such large chassis is limiting the ability of the car and they are only keeping it because some SAAB purists say “don’t ruin the heritage.” BMW just recently spitted in the face of its RWD heritage with the hideous 2-series Active Tourer (more about it next week) and nothing happened.
I don’t blame NEVS for this. And I don’t blame Spyker for this (though Spyker could’ve saved it if Victor Muller (pictured above) wouldn’t had tangled with the bastard Russian “businessman” Vladimir Antonov who also bankrupted two banks in the Baltics during that time). What I DO blame is GENERAL MOTORS! Yes, the very dastardly company that, as John Oliver said, “doesn’t have bad ideas, only bad cars.” Their mismanagement of SAABs finances and their insisted use of their pathetic platforms crushed the reputation of SAABs overnight. Suddenly the reliable, quirky Swede was nothing but a European Chevrolet Malibu or another Opel Vectra only in a fancier suit. Same with SAAB 9-5. The recent 9-5 (pictured below) was so similar to Vauxhall Insignia I truly believe that if I took the Vauxhall badge and stuck it over the SAAB badge nobody would notice that it was a SAAB.
Whenever I talked to people about SAAB, they don’t think about their great Turbo cars and their fantastic build quality. All they could say was “oh, that Opel-derived car?” or “it’s so unreliable.” If SAAB managers in 1989 heard the word “unreliable” and “SAAB” in the same sentence, I think they would’ve torn that deal up there and then. But because they didn’t and because it has once again stopped making cars because of money problems, I do apologize to hard core SAAB fans but I just can’t make myself believe that SAAB will ever flourish. It’s just too much to ask. I will respect their best work like 900 and 9000 and will not hesitate if I will have a chance to drive them, but that will be it. As I am boycotting GM, I will not be considering on getting a 9-5 or a 2nd Gen 9-3 even if somebody gave it to me.