EVER had a tasting menu at a restaurant? You know the sort … several offerings of individual dishes through the courses, meant to showcase the best cuisine the establishment can create.
Well, I was lucky enough to try out the motoring equivalent, courtesy of Renault. There were lots of motors to sample from the French manufacturer’s range during a day based at the plush Rookery Hall hotel, set amid the gentle Cheshire countryside. I’ve devised my own menu here from the cars available at the event.
Something light and tasty – the Zoe Dynamique Intens, a pretty, five-door electric hatchback. The car felt lithe and it was certainly nippy. The seamless flow of progressive acceleration, which even the smoothest automatic gearbox cannot match, combined with the near-silence of electric drive made for initially unfamiliar, but increasingly pleasurable, driving. As with all other electric cars, the limits of range may be an issue, but I stepped out of this smart little model feeling that herein lies the future of motoring.
A pleasing morsel if ever there was one – the Twizy, a diminutive two-seater electric car of distinctive design, where driver and passenger sit in tandem, as they would on a motorbike, but with individual seats rather than a saddle. Great fun and ideal for zipping around our clogged-up cities. Forget parking problems … just pull up and stick it in your pocket! (Well, almost).
A couple of fiery platefuls here, the Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo EDC and the Mégane Renaultsport 265, both equally mouthwatering in terms of power, pace and handling.
The Clio has a new direct injection 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine, delivering 200hp, a 0-62 acceleration time of 6.7 seconds and a maximum speed of 143 mph. There’s swift-changing, hi-tech six-speed automatic transmission, Formula One-style ‘Launch ‘Control’ system for perfect standing starts and great stopping power from the beefy disc brakes.
Lithe and limber, this car puts the fun back into motoring and was my pick of the day. On the road price: £19,995
Its Megane sibling is all about pace, power and handling too, earning the credit of Renault’s fastest road car yet. The figures stack up at 265bhp, 158 mph top speed and 6 seconds for 0-62 mph. There’s a face-lifted single version for this year’s model which features more expressive looks, including new bumper, sculpted bonnet and vent grilles, new elliptical headlights and daytime running lights that stretch along the outer edges of the bumper. On the road price: £26,925.
There’s a choice to finish … something satisfyingly smooth in the shape of the Mégane Sport Tourer or robustly-filling in the Dacia Logan MCV. The former is a smart and civilised estate. I tested a GT Line TomTom diesel version with lots of nice touches, including rain sensitive wipers and light sensitive headlights, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and push-button start. There’s a dynamic look about the car plus a sport chassis with lowered suspension, giving a certain edge to the load-carrier. On the road price: £22,245.
The Logan bears the badge of Renault’s budget brand, Dacia, and this capacious five-door estate (the MCV label stands for ‘Maximum Capacity Vehicle’) is a lot of car for the money. The Ambiance TCe 90 model I drove, powered by Renault’s plucky, tried-and-tested 1.5-litre diesel engine, had handy stuff like a 12v power socket 60/40 split-folding ear seat-back, a luggage area light and daytime running lights as well as enhanced trim. Fit and finish felt solid and the whole package gave an air of dependability and value for money.
On the road price: £8,595.