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Driven: Renault Modus Initiale - on sale now



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The supermini MPV of the Renault range is a tardis. Little on the outside, you fold yourself up neatly to sit behind the wheel, only to be shocked at the expanse of beigeness that surrounds you.

Yes, beigeness is the word, exclusive to the Initiale: beige leather trim, beige leather seats, beige gearknob – you get the idea. But rather than be overwhelming, the result is a spacious environment with a touch of luxury.

Although the Modus is quite tall (1,589mm), it handles well. Renault has opted for firm springs and dampers and, as a result, body roll is not a problem.

The 1.6-litre 16V engine is sprightly for an MPV. It doesn’t suffer the lag that many automatics have, but it did seem thirstier than a student at a free bar. We didn’t get anywhere near the 37.7mpg combined figure that Renault claims. If fuel economy is key to your customer, then the 1.5-litre dCi would be a far better option, with a combined 62.8mpg.

There’s a hint of the Mégane about the tail end of the Modus, but it doesn’t share the spacious boot of its sportier sibling. Ok, you don’t expect much space back there in an MPV, but there’s only enough room for a couple of shopping bags. However, the whole of the rear seat can flip forward, providing an almost van-like amount of space.

The Modus has cornering lights that come on at less than 38mph. A great feature, these light up even the darkest Fenland roads with ease.

Safety is an important issue to Renault. ESP comes as an extra for just £300. This makes a huge difference to handling, and should be promoted to all customers.

The Carminat sat-nav system is another option (£1,100). Carminat is one of the best systems available. Come on, Renault, start providing it as an aftermarket product.

Last year, 9,500 Modus cars were sold, with Initiale making up 2½-3% of this figure. As this is still a relatively new sector for Renault, it is “looking for sustained growth in 2006”.

Strengths: Feels much bigger than it is
Weaknesses: Thirsty petrol engine
Opportunity: Great safety features make it an ideal people carrier
Threat: More expensive than its rivals
The USP: Exciting drive for a small MPV
Price: £15,100
Engine: 1.6-litre 16V petrol; 113bhp @ 6,000rpm; 111lb ft @ 4,250rpm
Performance: 0-62mph: 12.3sec; top speed: 114mph
Transmission:Four-speed automatic
Efficiency: 37.7mpg (combined); 180g/km CO2
CAP RV 3yr/30k: £5,150 (35%)
Rivals: Ford Fusion, Honda Jazz, Vauxhall Meriva

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