Car Test   R0258
August 2002
  Renault Vel Satis
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 3.0dCi Automatic
A Renault for thirty thousand? It may seem a tall order, but thatís what is costs to acquire this top-of-the-range diesel. Herein lies the quandary.
   To be brutally frank, the Vel Satis feels outclassed if you pitch it against rivals like the BMW 5-Series or an E-Class Merc.
   Not in terms of equipment or accommodation, because the go-it-alone five-door design of this Renault confers on it real advantages when the needs of rear passengers and the more practical aspects of daily life are taken into account.
   No, the real problem lies in terms of the modelís road manners. A big, front-wheel drive car thatís quite tall and weighty, with a powerful V6 engine under its bonnet, has some inherent dynamic problems to contend with.
   Itís a tribute to Renaultís design team that it behaves as well as it does. However, itís cornering prowess and ride donít possess the poise or steering precision expected, and on leather seats especially, its cornering attitude when pressed can easily unsettle passengers.
   This V6 diesel is commendably quiet and smooth, but the standard automatic box can take more control in some situations than you would wish Ė unnecessarily delaying an up-change after overtaking, for example, or changing down when youíve selected manual mode.
   We were also irritated by the inaccuracy of some of the readouts and the inconsistency of others. All this complexity also leaves us wondering about longer-term costs in service. The automatic handbrake and tyre pressure monitoring fall into this latter category.
   What we did appreciate - however much its styling must remain a matter of personal opinion Ė was the way that this tall hatchback eases oneís entry and egress, the flat-floored rear compartment with its own air con controls, and the sensible array of oddments stowage spots at front and rear.
   The rear sill is too prominent when youíre loading heavy luggage, but thereís plenty of boot space even though the rear cushions donít fold flat.
   In service, this engine requires more frequent checks than itís four-cylinder counterparts, but cambelt replacement isnít due until beyond 100,000 miles. Watch out for exclusions on the three-year warranty - items such as exhausts, drive belts and batteries arenít included.
  considering size, price and rivals
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Security, theft of  not available
theft from  not available
  • Effortless, self-latching tailgate
  • big, very quiet optional sunroof
  • integrated, locking fuel filler cap-cum-flap
  • front seatbelts mounted on seat
  • shallow door sills also impeccably scuff proof
  • automatic headlights don't always get it right
  • stiff bonnet release and unshielded (hot) light-bulb nearby
  • Unwiped screen area beside (British) driver's pillar
  • door mirrors lose their settings and don't fold flush
  • rear backrests don't fold flat
We may have damned this V6 diesel with faint praise, but what if it had been a four-cylinder 'Expression' at under £22,000? Weíve yet to sample these amply-powered, cheaper versions, but weíre impressed by their more-than-generous standard equipment. At this kind of price, the quality and safety remain intact and the Vel Satis can look its less elevated competition squarely in the eye.

engine 2958cc, V6-cylinder, diesel; 180bhp at 4400rpm, 258 lb ft at 1800rpm; belt-driven double overhead camshafts, 24 valves   transmission 5-speed stepped automatic with torque converter and manual sequential mode; front-wheel drive; 31.2mph/1000rpm in 5th, 24.0 in 4th
suspension front: independent damper/struts with integral coil springs. rear: independent multi-link, coil springs   steering hydraulic power assistance; 3.2 turns lock-to-lock; 11.1m diameter turning circle between kerbs (18.0m for one turn of the wheel)
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear, with standard anti-lock and emergency brake-assist controls, plus automatic parking brake.   wheels/tyres 7.25in alloy with 245/45R18W tyres (Michelin on test car); temporary steel spare

size and type large/executive five-door saloon (premium priced)   trim levels Expression, Privilege, Initiale
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/2.0 litre/165bhp, V6/3.5/245; diesel: 4/2.2/150, V6/3.0/180. All turbocharged except 3.5 V6   drive front-wheel drive, 6-speed manual (2.0 petrol/2.2 diesel), 5 speed automatic (standard on V6s/option on 2.0)

HOW THE VEL SATIS 3.0 DCI COMPARES engine (cyl/cc/bhp) revs at 70mph (rpm) 30-70 through gears (sec) 30-70mph in 4th/5th gears (sec) fuel (mpg/CO2) brakes from 50mph (kg/m) maximum legroom - front (cm) typical leg/kneeroom - rear (cm) steering turns/circle (m) overall length (cm)
Renault Vel Satis 3.0dCi V6/2958/180 2240 8.9 auto 31/232 18/25.5 112 104/79 3.2/11.1 486
Volvo S80 D5 5/2435/163 2430 9.3 auto 36/207 16/25 111 105/82 3.1/11.8 482
Peugeot 607 2.2 HDi 4/2179/136 2350 14.5+ auto 38/193 n/a 112 102/76 3.2/11.3 487
VW Passat 2.5TDi V6/2496/150 2240 9.4 auto 36/216 14/25 110 101/74 2.8/10.9 470
BMW 530d 6/2926/184 2040 8.2 auto 35.5/221 15/24 116 103/77 3.0/11.0 478
Audi A6 2.5TDi Avant (Manual) V6/2496/150 2120 (6th) 8.9 12.3/18.3 44/186 19/23 109 103/76 2.8/11.1 480
  + estimated

More commanding driving stance than in a Jaguar for example; nice details include automatic handbrake and (optional) distance limiter. Autowipe best left to its own devices, but auto-headlamps are confused in misty conditions.
Grips well but the sloppy steering that's also very light, undermines the car's cornering behaviour. Safe on the limit - electronic stability programme tames any wild excess.
The 45-Series low-profiles on this version gives too sharp a response to some broken road surfaces and the damping can lose its grip over undulating roads, too. Air con's distribution not always ideal, but it's a remarkably quiet diesel.

Auto very keen to change to suit the conditions, but sometimes gets it wrong. Always knows best for ultimate acceleration, however, and it never jerks.
  acceleration in seconds Using Kickdown in D Using manual hold to 4750rpm
  20-40 4.1 4.2
  30-50 3.7 3.9
  40-60 4.6 4.8
  50-70 5.2 5.2
  30-70 8.9 9.1
  max speed in each gear (* using kickdown/4500rpm for best acceleration)
     gear      1st*      2nd*      3rd*      4th*      5th
     speed (mph)      30      48      73      108      132 (4175rpm)

Rather disappointing - A6 "Multitronic" would do much better, close to manual version in our rivals table. Good range, nevertheless and a really sensible filler that avoids diesel spills.
    AA test results (mpg)  
    worst (hard/urban) 20  
    best (motorway) 37  
    overall mpg 31  
    realistic tank capacity 73litres  
    realistic tank range 500miles  
    official figures (mpg)
    urban 23.5
    extra urban 41.5
    combined 32.5
    CO2 emissions 232g/km
    car tax band E

  from 50mph (with brake-assist/ABS)
This model has not yet been
tested by EURO NCAP
pedal load     stopping distance
unhurried 10kg     30.5m
sudden 18kg     25.5m best stop
+4kg ie 22kg     26m
fade resistance/consistency    
Euro NCAP = European New Car Assessment Programme: independent crash safety tests evaluating protection for occupants and pedestrians in an offset frontal collision, side impacts and pedestrian strike conditions
click here for more NCAP details/test results etc.

Full marks for trying to make a prestigious car convenient, as well. Limousine - like back seat with no sills or humps to impede - you feel like royalty! Yet it folds as well, for more prosaic purposes
  in centimetres (5-door hatchback)
  length 486
  width - including mirrors 218
    - mirrors folded 200
  height 158
  load sill height (inside/outside) 20/74
  turns lock-to-lock 3.2
  turning circle (metres) 11.1
  easy to park/garage?
  front - legroom 87-112
    - headroom 91-98s
  rear - typical legroom 104
    - typical kneeroom 79
    - headroom 93
    - hiproom 137
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
  load length 89-178
  load length to facia no
  load width 92-131
  load height (to shelf/to top of aperture) 53 81
s with sunroof (95-102 without)

A card not a key, with a seperate start/stop button. Life gets complicated if the battery goes flat, however. Full alarm protection on all versions, plus dead locks. No way of locking back seats to protect boot contents, however.
central locking  
remote control  
remote window closing  
alarm (perimeter + interior)   
self-locking (static + drive off)   
two-stage unlocking   
attack-resistant glass   
AA load area security rating
=standard    =option    =not available
NCSR - "theft of" not available
NCSR - "theft from" not available
NCSR = New Car Security Ratings: a 1 to 5 star system which rates anti-theft protection, both of the car itself and the theft of valuables from within the car
Visit for more details
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