* Prices may differ from that shownMore Offers
*** Renault Safrane - The Motorised Sofa ***
This opinion is about who would want to buy a Safrane, and who wouldn't. If you want to know the full specification for the Safrane 2.5 Executive 20V auto, go and look at a car dealer web site like Autotrader. However, to give you an idea of what the car is like, imagine a high spec BMW or Mercedes (all the knobs, bells and whistles) on the inside and an oversized Laguna on the outside.
I bought my Safrane, which happened to be an ex-company car, in 2000 for about £6,000, when it was a mere 3 years old but with 74,000 miles on the clock. High mileage, but I figured that it had done about 100 miles per working day so it wasn't being driven engine killing short journeys! Also, the spec of the car would mean that it would unlikely to have been taken down to Brighton sea-front for an evening of engine screaming hand brake turns.
You can only get them second hand now - Renault stopped building them in 2000 when people stopped buying them, and at £23,000 new, I don't blame them! The resale value has dropped like a stone, and is almost non-existent now.
I will first look at who wouldn't want to "invest" in one, then who would and the reasons. Having driven the car for over 60,000 miles and 5 years, I feel experienced enough in all the Safrane's foibles to be able to write about it.
--- Don't buy if you're looking for a town run-about ---
It's a large car. Slightly longer than my Dad's Volvo estate, and slightly wider. Multi-storey car parks are not for the faint-hearted as it will only just fit into most of the spaces or round the corners. I used to park every day in a very tight underground company car park which I had to get the exit from just right - with literally centimetres to spare each side! When you're looking for spaces to park on the road, you may have to drive past several before you'll get one long enough.
Width restrictions aren't much fun either. There is one going into London from the West that I only just squeezed through - 6'6 is usually the narrowest I would attempt. This means that narrow town roads require you to know the width of your car very well!
It's also a bit thirsty on short journeys. When I drove to work 2.5 miles away, it would only get 24 - 25 miles to the gallon - ouch! (Yes, I know that wasn't "green")
--- Don't buy if you're looking for an image enhancing vehicle ---
It looks like a Laguna. Lagunas are not flash. They are sensible family cars often used as company fleet vehicles. Although you will probably be the only person for miles around to own a Safrane, people will still think it's a Laguna. I seem to recall only ever having seen about 4 or 5 in the whole time I drove mine. There's not a fan club or owners reunion as far as I'm aware.
It's still a professional looking car - one reason I got it was to be able to "give a lift to my boss without being embarrassed" (I did - eventually - do just that, and she loved it!). In fact, before we were married my wife borrowed it for getting to a works conference instead of her little Austin Metro.
--- Don't buy if you're on a tight budget ---
Where do I start? It's not the cheapest car I've ever owned, let me put it that way.
Insurance is group 15, which is up there with the Range Rover, Lotus Elise, and many other high spec cars. Why, I have no idea, because one of the beauties of the Safrane is its complete lack of desirability to thieves. It's got a big engine at 2.5l, and it's supposed to be a high spec car, but I'm still paying nearly as much in insurance premium as the car is worth! Young drivers in particular would have to be very rich to consider it, and definitely don't do it unless you've got 5 years no claims! Esure won't insure me on it, and I was over 25 and have a clean history.
I've mentioned it's thirsty. On long journeys you can expect to get no more than 33mpg. I did get more, once, going up the M11 to Cambridge, but I think the wind was behind me, I had the air conditioning turned off and I kept to a reasonably low speed. And then I only got 35mpg!
Then there's the maintenance. I reckon overall it cost at least £700 - £800 a year in repairs. And I might be underestimating that.
- the head gasket blow
- the alternator stop working
- a power steering pipe replaced (which needed the whole engine taking out)
- a repaired sump tank (although this was because the garage broke it whilst fixing the power steering pipe, so I didn't pay for it)
- new tyres
- new brake pads
- all the dash board lights replaced (some went, the rest I replaced in case!)
- a few problems with leaking oil
- the under-engine tray refixing (didn't pay for that one either, the garage forgot to invoice me)
- a new windscreen
- and a glitch with immobiliser which made battery go flat.
Phew! Sounds a lot when you list them like that!
When parts do need replacing, they aren't cheap. The power steering bit in my opinion was the only one that could only have happened on a Safrane. It was a slightly bad design in that the pipe clip wasn't protected and had slowly worn a hole in the pipe. All the other problems could (and do!) quite often happen on a second hand or older car, particularly high mileage. My previous car, a Vauxhall Cavalier, had just as many problems and I ended up getting rid of it after about 105,000 miles (and it was a lot more rusty too!).
I had the car serviced every 10,000 miles, sometimes less if it's going in for another problem anyway. Each time it costs about £150 for the usual parts and the labour. However, it's never had a problem with the MOT and has always passed with flying colours.
So that's the bad points. Now for the good. You'll see why I put up with the costs.
+++ Do buy if you want an easy drive +++
Let me put that in capitals. DO BUY IT IF YOU WANT AN EASY DRIVE. I would say it's as easy as right pedal: go, left pedal: stop, round thing in the middle to steer. But it's even easier than that.
It's an automatic, so you'll never stall it, you can't over-rev the engine, you can't drive the thing like a kangaroo hopping even if you wanted to. It always starts first time (apart from when the battery was drained by the immobiliser problem, of course!), you put it into gear and off you go. Easy.
On motorways it's even easier as you don't have to worry about the pedals. Click the cruise control button on the steering wheel and all you have to do is avoid the lorries and cars. Speed up? Use your left thumb. Slow down to overtake? Right thumb, then move out, then right thumb again to go back to your original speed. Very easy.
The engine doesn't seem to notice the difference between 70mph and 30mph. You will notice, but only because the trees flash past faster. The engine noise is quiet and effortless. No screaming down the motorway in 4th like the poor little 0.9l Fiat I once had a lift in! And yet you still have a lot of power at high speeds to get yourself out of trouble if you need to. (It pulls away from traffic lights pretty speedily too, if you feel like it and want to burn petrol.)
Traffic jams are easy. It's an automatic, so no clutch control. If it's a slow moving line, put the "ice" button on, which will hold the engine back a bit so you can just glide along. Driving out of the Reading traffic jam daily for 18 months saw good use of the easy jam driving. That's another reason I bought it - call me cynical but I think there will be more and more jams, and I want a car I don't have to work hard in a queue.
The Safrane stayed outside in all weathers, including winter. Iced up? No problem, whack the heater and electric windscreen on and by the time you've scraped the ice off the side windows, the whole back and front windows can be cleared by a swish of the wipers. I just love that feature at 6.30am when I leave the house! Oh joy. Oh easy!
+++ Do buy if you don't want to think about repairs or faults +++
It is good at looking after itself too.
"Bing Bong. Warning! Rear compartment door not shut".
"Bing Bong. Watchout! Your seat belt is not fastened".
"Bing Bong. Warning! Hand brake not released" (oh yes, so it isn't! No wonder we were going slowly...).
"Bing Bong. Warning Near-side rear brake light faulty".
"Bing Bong. To obtain the required temperature, switch on the air conditioning."
"Bing Bong. Warning! Lights not switched off".
"Bing Bong. Warning! Overheating. Pull over, switch off engine and contact Renault Dealer."
Those messages are fabulous - apart from scaring the living daylights out of you in case it's the latter in the list. Normally, though, it's just telling you to switch on the air conditioning.
Why fabulous? I drove to town once, turned the car on, and it told me immediately that my rear light had broken. I drove straight round to the garage, and got it fixed. How would you know otherwise? Wow! Easy!
The time the alternator stopped working, we had just driven hundreds of miles back to my now-wife's parents' house. As I drove off to go home, I got a series of "Bing Bongs" which led me to believe something was seriously wrong, so I had turned the car round and was heading back before the whole car stopped and all the lights went out. If I hadn't had the warnings, I would have been further away and probably on the dual carriageway before the car had stopped completely. Phew!
It's a bit embarrassing in car parks if you forget to switch your lights off and open your door, as the very loud male voice announces "Bing Bong. Warning! Lights not switched off" to everyone within earshot. It might as well say " you plonker" on the end. You soon get the hang of turning them off by the time it's gong "Bing" to stop it going further!
+++ Do buy if you want a comfortable car +++
The seats are like a sofa chair. The padded arrmrests are perfectly placed to make you think you're in your own front room. We still haven't found a sofa that can match it, in fact. You know the minute you sit down you're in for a comfortable ride.
The radio and 6 CD changer controls are just behind the steering wheel. Change CDs, radio stations, volume without your hands leaving the steering wheel. New cars of other makes are started to copy this about 3 years ago - it's a great safety feature, too, as your concentration on the road isn't affected.
The suspension is such that you can hear the pot holes but not feel them. That's what a car is about to me, rather than hard suspension that means you can go faster round corners than is safe ...
+++ Do buy if you drive long distances +++
It eats miles for breakfast. I drove 100 miles to work and back each day in it and loved doing it. We went away for the weekend to Somerset once, and I drove after being at work for a full day (driving 100 miles roundtrip before setting off) for yet another 120 miles. When I arrived, it was as if I'd never started. Compare that to my old Cavalier, where my back would be sweaty, I'd be tired and stressed, and I'd have felt like I'd wrestled with a big black bear. Now, 120 miles is nothing. I used to 'pop' back to my now-wife's parents to pick her up for the weekend - that was a 120 mile round trip too. No problem, it's a breeze in the Safrane.
+++ Do buy if you want to carry loads of stuff +++
I could get two bikes in the back without taking any wheels, saddles or other extremities off either of the bikes. I could get 8 foot lengths of wood home from the DIY store (why do so few offer a cutting service??). I could take four passengers and 2 very large suitcases and several smaller ones to the airport. I could buy a very large set of shelves from Ikea and they'll fit in the back (just - I did have to measure it first!). OK, so I like saying "Gee, you wouldn't get a bike in the back of *that*" to a TVR or Ferrari. I'm just jealous really.
One of my friends once needed to transport a large number of books home. I worked out (the sad actuary that I am) that I could completely pack the back of the car with books and the Safrane would still not be overloaded. Wow!
+++ Do buy if you like gadgets +++
Boys and their toys, and I love my toys! Apart from the Bing Bong fault finder, there's another on-board computer giving you mpg, average speed, trip speed, and most useful of all, miles left before you need to fill up (500 on a full tank).
Everything's electric, from the sun roof to the memory position seats. The CD changer is great. There's a "sport" button. This makes the car change gear higher than usual, and is useful for overtaking lorries on my journey home on the only 500 yard stretch of dual carriageway, up a hill, for 15 miles.
The air conditioning can be changed for either side of the cabin, and there's a special "sun" button which is supposed to make the air conditioning work harder in the direct sunlight. However, I've not noticed any difference and just like pushing the button.
Heated seats are great in winter, even if you do feel like you've wet your pants the first few times you use it. They heat up quicker than the air conditioning, giving you much needed warmth at the start of your trip. Mmm, comfortable.
+++Do buy if you want all this luxury without worrying about paint scratches.+++
Remember this high spec car is only worth about £500 now on a really good day, particularly with a high mileage. Therefore, you have the luxury without having to look out the house window every few moments to make sure it's still there. I've had a few minor dings from other people's doors in car parks, but it doesn't matter.
+++ ...or anyone stealing it +++
There's only a small second hand market in Safranes, so there's no demand for them. Great! Keep it that way!
+++ Do buy if you want the safety of a big car +++
I once had a puncture on the M11 (not the same journey as the high mpg, though). I wouldn't have noticed had we not got stuck in traffic and someone in a car nearby wound down their window and shouted across to me. The point is that it felt perfectly normal driving a Safrane at 70mph with a puncture. I asked the garage why I didn't notice, and apparently there's some automatic adjustment thing that counters the pull, but I couldn't tell you for sure.
There's air bags everywhere (even where the glove box ought to be. One of the little missing items on the Safrane, along with the cup holder). I couldn't tell you if they're any good, though, as the ABS brakes have so far prevented accidents. You almost expect it to go "Bing Bong. Warning! You're about to crash into the car in front". (It doesn't).
I do know, though, that there's lots of bonnet to crumple before you get to me from the front, and there's a lot of boot to crumple before you get to me from behind. And with the drivers around these days, that's a comforting thought.
-+-+- Summary -+-+-
OK, this is a long opinion, but the car's been 120,000 miles and it deserves it. In summary, it won't suit you if you want to keep costs down, if you just want to nip around town, or if you want to be stylish.
On the other hand, (and this is so me it's untrue), if you drive long distances, like your comfort, want to shift lots of big stuff around, want the easiest life driving a car you can think of, and don't want to pay a fortune for it all in a new car but are happy to put up with the odd technical problem as the price to pay, get a Renault Safrane.
People might not want to pay much for them, but to me the Safrane was priceless. I was more than happy to pay the repair bill. If you took out a 5 year car loan at 15% ARR for a new car of £15,000, you'd be paying about £1,200 a year in interest, so at £800 a year and very little depreciation, I think I had a bargain. Irreplaceable.
Sadly, the car did have to go. A £40 part to fix a coolant leak into the footwell would have cost around £900 to fix as the car would literally have had to be deconstructed. There was no guarantee that it would go back together again. The low mpg and my ever-increasing journey length meant that the time had come to say a (tearful) farewell. They were happy years though!
A dealer took pity on me and offered £500 part exchange - I snapped their hand off.
My husband bought a pre-owned Renault Safrane a couple of years ago (P reg). He was looking for a car that was large enough to accommodate a bike in the back (on the inside) but for under £6000. What quickly became apparent is that all moderately acceptable second-hand cars cost £5,995 whether it be a little Ford Fiesta or a rusty old Nissan. Then he got a call from the local garage where his car was serviced. "We have a Renault Safrane for sale, come and try it out." Immediately we both knew that this was the car for us. It is slightly larger than the Renault Laguna and ceased manufacture about 3 or so years ago. Renault designed the car in an "executive" configuration and it appealed enormously to the French market where safety comes first and looks are a definite second. Unfortunately for us Brits, the car had no market appeal here. New prices were comparable to Mercedes and BMW and on the style front this car cannot compete. It hit the road new and lost some 60% of its value. It does, however, make a very good second-hand buy. The car is packed with features that you would expect to find in high class vehicles. All your trip gadgetry is here together with a voice computer which strikes the fear of God into you as you hear the "bing bong" and think what has gone wrong now, only to hear it say "to obtain the required temperature, please switch on the air conditioning." The computer does have its uses though, it tells you when your lights are on, when the boot is not shut, when you are about to run out of petrol and when your lights are not working. In terms of diagnosing faults it is first class. The car is exceptionally roomy and yet handles well. Power assisted steering means that much of the weight of the car is controlled for you. It is an automatic and moves through the gears with consummate ease without suffering much of an acceleration time lag. The only complaint with the geari
ng is that 40mph is between gears and so the car can feel lumpy. Otherwise it is a very smooth quiet ride. This car is designed for the lazy. If it can be electrified it will have been. There are electric front seats (with three memory positions), electric windows front and back and electric mirrors. You can warm your bum with the heated seat or cool off with the air-conditioning. The sun roof has two sections so that you can have light pouring through the top of your car, or not, as the fancy takes you. Then, the ultimate, cruise control with fingertip adjustment. Set the engine to the required speed and relax, need to speed up just a little or slow down just a little, press a button on the steering wheel and you are there! Fuel efficiency is not that good, but not far off other cars of a similar size. Visibility is generally good if you use the mirrors a lot. Rear visibility is a little restricted and you may need to alter your driving position to avoid the front support bars getting in your way. Safety is Renaults thing and this car is fitted with all of the equipment and safety features that were available a few years back, front driver and passenger airbags, lateral airbags and reinforced body-work. The car has been reliable throughout our time of ownership, despite being very high milage when we bought it (85k on the clock). It has had a few things done. The head gasket went and it has had a few other minor jobs done. Servicing has not been a problem although official Renault parts are expensive (but then what official parts aren't!). As, Sidneygee quite correctly points out in his opinion, there is a lot that could go wrong with this car, especially as it is rather dependant on the elactronics for many of its features. So far all is well. The only thing that has stopped working is the automatic of adjustment of the passenger rear view mirror when you go into reverse. I do kind of miss this, as it is a big car and not t
oo easy to park, however, it is not going to make me scrap the car! All in all a good buy second-hand (and that is the only way to get them now).
Probably one of the most under estimated executives on the market, the Renault Safrane provided comfy cruising for just under £25,000. The second version could take a few tips from the first one. Almost everything is an optional extra. A smooth ride is guaranteed, and there is plenty of room in the back at no expense to the boot. Handy functions include rear heating and headphone sockets but you may wnat to turn off the 'handy' speaking onboard computer. If your bonnet isn't firmly closed it won't shut-up. Trust me!