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Renault eyes diesel duties

Next big thing: The Samsung-developed Koleos will be Renault's first SUV.

Oil-burning Laguna Phase II is just the start of Renault’s diesel revolution

17 Nov 2006

RENAULT’S first new-generation diesel passenger car to reach Australia may be overdue, but the facelifted Laguna hatch certainly will not be the French maker’s last oil-burner.

The next cabs off Renault Australia’s compression-ignition rank are turbo-diesel versions of the Megane Phase II hatch and the Scenic Phase II people-mover – both due in the second quarter of 2007.

Another car high on the Renault agenda is the much-needed Clio III small hatch, which was expected to go on sale here this year. Pricing wrangles have now pushed the on-sale timing for the Clio out to the end of 2007.

Although Renault Australia has not confirmed pricing, the well-equipped Clio is tipped to become a $22,000 hatch and move from the light- to small-car category to compete against the Peugeot 207.

Renault management is also aware that Clio cannot be priced too close to the new Megane but has also ruled out the lower-cost Modus as a likely Clio replacement.

In the meantime, the company is concentrating on turbo-diesels.

While the Phase II Laguna’s 2.2-litre diesel engine delivers 112kW and 320Nm of torque via a sequential five-speed auto, both Megane and Scenic should gain a 96kW/300Nm 1.9-litre version of the same dCi common-rail four-cylinder turbo-diesel.

Both dCi engines are Euro IV emissions compliant, deliver fuel pressure of up to 1350 bar, employ "multi-vane" turbocharger technology and, in Europe, are available with a six-speed manual or Renault’s Proactive robotised four-speed sequential clutchless-manual gearbox.

While diesel power may eventually also be offered in the new Clio III light hatch range that debuts next year, Renault Australia managing director Rudi Koenig is animated about the prospect of Renault’s first legitimate SUV.

The company is officially keen on the Koleos Concept, which was unveiled at September’s Paris motor show and is scheduled for release in Europe around mid-2008, and Mr Koenig made no bones about its appropriateness in Australia.

"(Koleos) is something I can’t comment on at this time, suffice to say that obviously Australia has a very large SUV market and we’re looking for growth," he said.

"Renault at the moment only competes in about 25 per cent of the total market as far as product offerings go, so obviously the growth strategy has to be to compete in more segments." While the premium-oriented Qashqai compact is built at Nissan’s Sunderland plant in the UK, the Koleos was designed and engineered at the Renault Samsung Motors Design Centre in South Korea and shares the same part-time 4WD platform as next year’s second-generation X-Trail. It will spawn a Samsung version.

35 center imageLeft: Renault Clio III.

GoAuto understands another Renault-Samsung project – a mid-size sedan – is also planned for 2008 and, like the Koleos, could be built for right-hand drive markets such as Australia.

Renault is also looking at the possibility of expanding the reach of its low-cost Logan sedan, which is sold as a Dacia in Europe. The Logan will be built in India by a joint venture company Mahindra Renault Ltd and goes on sale there early next year.

Currently only available in left-hand drive, there are plans for the next-generation Logan to be engineered for right-hand drive, expanding its prospects as a global car. Mahindra Renault wants to build 500,000 small cars by 2012 for the emerging Indian middle-class.

Mr Koenig said that while last year’s sales figure of 3300 vehicles, which fell well short of Renault’s 7500 sales target for Australia by now, makes it harder to demand more suitable models sooner from the Europe-focused Renault brand, the result hardly puts Renault on borrowed time in Australia.

What's coming:
Megane II diesel April 2007
Scenic II diesel April 2007
Clio III hatch Nov 2007
Koleos SUV 2008
Mid-size sedan 2008
Logan small sedan 2009

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