2009 Renault Safrane | road test

Posted on Nov 16, 2008 by

has made a great name for itself over in Europe, where fuel-efficient, practical and good-value motoring has been at the very top of many new car buyers’ wish-lists for many years.

With serious constraints put on many purchases, simply by the cost of petrol; a car that can deliver value-for-money transport, while still expressing a certain amount of style and flair has always been a good-seller in the European markets, and the French carmaker knows this.

So, aimed exactly at this price and economy-conscious segment is the new you see here. Just looking at it will instantly tell you that this is a big car for the money; packing four doors, a long wheelbase and as big a truck and bonnet as you’ll get in this mid-size segment – all for around 60,000AED, for this, the base model 2-litre, 4-cylinder petrol-powered sedan. But, as I said earlier, to make it into the hit parade in the very discerning European markets, these budget autos must also express a certain amount of charm, cheek and flair. So, does the ?

Well, yes and no. OK, so she’s not exactly the prettiest looker, or the most dynamic drive out there, even if you do take into account the very reasonable price you’ll be paying for her. The front end of the car is pretty basic in style with large headlights and an also large and rather plain front grille, whilst nothing much happens along the side of the car
(apart from all those large, useful doors) until it all finishes around at the back in not much of a crescendo of automotive styling. The Safrane doesn’t seem to fit that well into the rest of the European Renault family, especially if you think about the funky Clios and Meganes.

The Safrane belongs to a fairly stylish French family; it’s just that this family particular family doesn’t make as much of an effort as the others when it comes to dressing to impress. Just make sure that you’ve gotten to know this new car very well before you leave it in a packed car park, as it’s image may well slip out of your mind after a couple of hours shopping in the mall, and you may never find it again.

Joking aside, the Safrane is ‘minimalist’ in its design and style, but it can still win many, many fans by simply offering solid and spacious transport with a minimal amount of fuss and cost. Pulling open a reassuringly heavy-feeling driver’s door, via a chunky-feeling door handle and again your first impression is one of minimalism from the much uncluttered interior. Nestling down into the seat and you’re not immediately blown away by swathes of rich leather and expensive-looking finishes; remember this is the base model, but after a good look and feel around I did find myself quite happy and reasonably impressed with what Renault had presented with the Safrane.

The seats aren’t sports seats; this isn’t a sports car – they are comfortable and adjustable enough to get you into a good driving position, with a fabric finish that looked both modern and hard-wearing, and was also pleasantly soft to the touch of the hand. I could’ve used an extra click or two backwards from the seat-slider, being over 6-feet tall, but this will not be a common problem for most average drivers, and I still found myself to be nearly perfectly comfortable. And with a 2775mm wheelbase your friends and family in the back seat area will also feel the happiness of space and movement, with three adults catered for easily, or three children plus a stack of toys.

Those in the back also get their own air-conditioning vents, something that Renault have clearly thought important for the middle east, and they’d be right about that. In fact, the A/C in general gets a very good blast going, and your front seat passenger also gets to control their own chill-factor, like the back-seaters. In a hot climate like this the A/C is so super-important; you’d rarely turn it on in chilly Europe – Renault had done their research.

The rest of the interior, is, like the exterior; minimalist yet functional. The Safrane exterior was clearly designed with crash-protection and maximized interior space in mind and for any car to be a success in this budget-conscious segment manufacturers must be honest with themselves and do exactly that. Again, Renault has not been shy to make a large, practical car that might not win any beauty competitions, but certainly can take along a lot of spectators.

The dashboard stretches quite gracefully from one side of the car to the other with gentle, uncluttered lines, showing all the controls you need, and being a base model, not much else. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as everything you need is there and in easy reach, easy to understand and of a high enough quality feel to let you think that you are driving a respectable European car – and this is something that will appeal to a lot of people. There are no extra audio and cruise control buttons on the steering wheel and no maze of sat-nav switches on the centre console – you just get to turn the music up with the volume control on the actual head unit, and the A/C control is exactly where you expect it to be. You can learn your way around the Safrane in no time, and what’s wrong with a simple life? The stereo sounds good enough, especially as the car cruises nice and quietly at 120kph, and with a pliant, smoothly rolling ride, the whole interior experience, especially whilst on the move is soothing and relaxing, and that’s a good tick in a big, important box.

Driving dynamics, won’t, as you’ve probably guessed by now, set your world on fire, but again, it’s all more than OK where it needs to be. My only fairly strong complaint would be about the steering feel, which was ‘over-assisted’, in my opinion, with just a tiny amount of arm-effort hurling the front wheels in your intended direction. So, don’t expect much precision from the speed-sensitive power steering (SSPS); you’ll just have to get used to it, which isn’t that big an ask. Other safety aspects of the Safrane spec-list were more than up to their intended game, including the all-important anti-lock brakes and brake force distribution – both of these active safety features pulled together well to pull the Safrane up to a stop very well. Renault has always been good at extolling their safety values, and the Safrane, with its powerful brakes and six airbags as standard, adds further enhancement to the maker’s excellent safety record.

Engine wise, the Safrane is no coiled spring waiting to fire you down the motorway at rocketship-speeds, but the little 2-litre engine has a pretty good stab at the speedier side of things, doing rather well considering all the XL space and valve it has to pull along behind it. The 1998cc, petrol-power 4-pot makes a smidge over 140bhp and 196Nm of torque, and with a generous kick-down you can stir things up a little. But you will have to keep the revs very much on the boil and the pedal well and truly buried in the quality-looking carpet to keep your hustle going. Engine noise will get a little gruff as you attack the redline, but this is the price of speed with a small and fuel-efficient engine, and if you want to return the very respectable efficiency figures of 9,3L/100km, you’d better not spend too much time at full throttle, anyway.

Keep the gas pedal in gentle operation and the Safrane’s supple suspension will return a comfortable and quiet ride; drive it like a high-performance rally car and you’ll soon be squealing the tyres and scraping the door handles on the road – there is no point, so don’t bother. Simply enjoy yourself a quiet and cost-effective cruise, smug and happy in knowing that you’ve got yourself and big, practical and quality-feeling family-sized car, backed-up by a world-renowned brand name, and all for not very much money at all.

Technical Specifications
Model2009 Renault Safrane
Body Style4-Door Sedan
PriceAED60,000 plus
Engine2.0-litre 4-Cylinder
Transmission4-Speed Automatic

* Prices are indicative and may vary at the time of purchase. All prices are ex-Dubai showrooms. Please check with your local dealer for current prices and offers.


One Response to 2009 Renault Safrane | road test

  1. rin jose Reply

    December 15, 2012 at 8:41 am

    No one in middleeast i guess actually reviewed the 2 litre engine in safrane except you. Am planning to get a 2012 model with 2litre engine and your review has helped me a lot.

    All I need is a quiet ride at highway speed( which I really miss in my rav4 ) and a large sedan. Will do a test drive today to decide on.


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