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First drive Renault Modus – on sale now



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Renault UK needs four models to replace the Clio, and even then it does not expect to beat the hatchback’s best performance of 92,000 registrations in 1992.

The functional Kangoo is here already but far more influential is Modus, on sale since mid September. Like new Clio, in the UK by the end of next year, it comes off a new platform shared with Nissan (so, too, does current Micra and new Twingo, due 2007).

Now 15 years old, the existing Twingo has been a big seller on the Continent but never officially sold here. The next will strengthen Renault’s small-car hand.

Jeremy Townsend, brand manager for Modus and other small Renaults in Britain, says: "Things have changed tremendously since 12 years ago, when Clio was sold with three or five doors. Now, flexible platforms enable manufacturers to offer a much wider choice. Without the four models, we would lose sales in the small car sector."

Renault UK has sold 750,000 Clios since 1991 and it has always been in the top 10. Clio retains a considerable follow-ing and 50,000 registrations are expected in 2005 through to run out. Three- and five-door derivatives continue, but Privilege and Initiale versions are being dropped.

Townsend says dealers took 2,200 advance orders for Modus and Renault expects 5,000 sales by the end of the year, followed by 25,000 in 2005.

Renault places Modus between Clio and Megane and it is available with four trim levels (Authentique, Expression, Dynamique and Privilege). Aircon is standard on Privilege, a £500 option elsewhere.

The £10,500 1.4-litre Dynamique is the forecast top seller, with diesels likely to take 25% of Modus sales. Dealer training has focused on safety (it is the first small car to score five stars in the Euro NCAP crash test) and practicality.

Modus comes with a choice of sunroofs: one is powered to slide or tilt, the other is a manual pop-out, which can be tilted or removed and stored in a pouch behind the rear seats.

The newcomer’s further strength, believes Renault, is its “fun, small car with a big heart” personality. It hopes Modus will appeal to young couples and families.

Behind the wheel

Modus has attractive, fluid lines on the move for a one-box car and at the wheel feels bigger than it is.

The ride is refined, noise levels (engine, airflow and road) are low and cornering is neat. It feels classless and a large window/sunroof area makes the cabin feel exceptionally light and airy.

The five-door has a split tailgate and the rear bench features a foldable middle seat, allowing fore and aft movement when there are only two passengers at the back. These are details which should appeal to the target buyer – younger couples and families.

Renault has also managed to make Modus hand controls and instruments functional without feeling or looking particularly cheap.

With two-up, the 1.2 petrol has to work hard under acceleration. The extra for the 1.4 is worth the money, and the 1.6 has the expected extra zip. The 104mph, more powerful diesel is the pick.

The knowledge

Prices: £9,250- £13,000
Engines: Petrol: 1.2, 1.4, 1.6; diesel 1.5 65/80bhp
Transmission: 5sp manual, 4sp auto (1.6 option), fwd
Performance: 0-62: 15.9s (1.5 65d) to 10.3 (1.6 manual); top speed 97mph to 117mph
Efficiency: 37.7-60.1mpg comb; 122-180g/km CO2 CAP RV (3yr/30k): 42-45% Rivals: Fiesta, Jazz, Meriva, Corsa, 206 and Polo


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