Car Test   R0288
  See also R0258 
December 2002
Brief Test Renault Vel Satis
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 2.0 Turbo Privilege
Can Vel Satis succeed in the executive sector where the Safrane failed? We’ve thought that 30 grand for the 3-litre V6 diesel automatic (see R0258) was being optimistic, especially as its road manners are outclassed by rivals such as BMW’s 5-Series and the E-Class Benz. Wouldn’t it be more viable, we mused, as one of the less-ambitiously powered four-cylinder models costing a cool £8000 less? Cue the 2.0 Turbo.
  
   The good deal you save is, indeed, a good deal, because the additional equipment that comes with the top-level Initiale trim (standard with the V6 engines) is largely cosmetic. You do, however, get items such as automatic transmission, all-electric door mirrors, sat nav and a memory on the driver’s electric seat. The sunroof remains a £1000 extra, though.
  
   It emphasises just how superbly equipped even the Expression and Privilege models are, with little to diminish the quality and adventurous ambience of the stylish furnishings and fittings. The Audi A6 was the benchmark for interior quality, and it shows.
  
   What you do lose with the two-litre engine is, of course, the masterfully installed V6's performance, refinement and sublime-at-seventy cruising. Nevertheless, this torquey, four-pot turbo gives a very good account of itself, guaranteeing either smooth, spirited acceleration (with a sporty note to go with it beyond 4000rpm) or easy-going town pottering. It’s also remarkably tolerant of low revs, so you don’t need to call too often on the gearchange that feels light and positive – if a little loose-limbed. What’s more, the long-legged sixth gear gives hushed motorway progress, complemented by low tyre noise and excellent wind sealing.
  
   It also aids economy; and thank goodness it does, because only a modest 33mpg results from a steady 70mph cruise, with just a little more when driving gently. No, this big, weighty 2.0 Turbo is no economy car, so don’t expect more than 28mph or so overall – as confirmed by the near-accurate trip computer. But at least the large, easy-filling tank gives a 450-mile range.
  
   The Vel Satis’s general conduct on the road has been analysed in our earlier test, and this 2.0-litre version, despite its eager engine, continues to put the good life before ultimate handling. Superb back seat comfort, for example, puts all rivals in the shade. Even so, the ride can be a bit fretful at times, away from main roads and motorways, and the steering is too light and ‘disconnected’ for our liking. The turning circles are good for a big ’un, though, as are the brakes, with a clever semi-automatic parking brake.
  
   Safety remains a Renault preoccupation, with generous features throughout the Vel Satis. Indeed, since we last drove the model, it has not only fared very well in anti-theft assessments, but also gained a prestigious five-star rating in Euro-NCAP crash tests.
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Space/practicality
Safety Euro NCAP
Security, theft of
theft from
LIKES ...
  • rustproof bonnet, front wings, doors, tailgate
  • interior lighting generous, subtle, useful
  • individual rear heater/air-con controls
  • rear head restraints lower flush with seatbacks
  • neatly concealed front and rear cup holders, trays
and GRIPES
  • wipers on 'auto' don't always get it right
  • wiper blades noisy on flip-over
  • rush of rain water from corners of opened tailgate
  • hi-fi buttons very small
  • sun visors droop when swung forward
VERDICT
While the £30,000 Vel Satis is punching above its weight, this more attainably priced 2.0 Turbo is more of a match for a different set of rivals, especially in terms of accommodation. What the Vel Satis still lacks in the dynamics department, it makes up for with comfort, quality, equipment and safety features that match and sometimes surpass the best in class. And, of course, there’s also Renault’s touch of bold, Gallic ‘differentness’. An acquired taste, this Vel Satis, but beneath the quirkiness, it offers a lot of sensible features at a sensible price.


BRIEF SPECIFICATION
engine 1998cc, turbocharged 4 cylinder petrol; 165bhp at 5000rpm, 184 lb ft at 2000rpm; belt-driven double overhead camshafts, 16 valves
transmission front-wheel drive, 6-speed manual (5-speed stepped automatic optional); traction control. 24.5mph/1000rpm in 6th
suspension front: independent MacPherson coil spring/damper struts, anti-roll bar
rear: independent multi-link with coil springs, anti-roll bar
wheels/tyres 7in alloy with 225/55R17W tyres (Michelin Primacy on test car); full-size steel spare
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear with ABS and brake assist; semi-automatic parking brake
CO2 emissions 225g/km
0-62mph* 9.6sec
AA 30-70mph 9.3sec
official mpg§ 22.4/37.2/30.1
AA typical mpg overall - 28mpg
* maker's figure  § urban/extra urban/combined


HOW THE VEL SATIS 2.0T 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 2.0 T 4/1998/165 2860 9.3 13.3/17.8~ 28/225 18/25.5 112 104/79 3.2/11.1 486
Audi A6 2.4 6/2393/165 3100 8.8 15.2/21.6 30.5/238 19/23 109 100/74 2.8/11.1 480
Jaguar X-Type 2.0SE 6/2099/157 3140 10.3 17.8/26.0 29/219 18/25.5 110 100/75 2.7/10.8 467
Mercedes-Benz C200 K 4/1998/163 2820 8.0 12.6/16.8 30.5/228 19/23 118 98/75 2.9/10.4 453
Rover 75 2.5 V6 (auto) 6/2497/177 2540 9.3 auto 28/286 22/24.5 114 100/77 3.2/11.3 475
Skoda Superb 1.8T 4/1781/150 3020 8.2 14.9/20.1 34/199 13/26.5 109 107/85 2.8/11.4 480
  ~ 6th 23.3
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