– Very quiet ride
– Cabin quality and features
– Smooth suspension tuning
– Lacks top-end grunt
– Soft brake pedal feel
– Some odd button placements
We liked the previous Renault Safrane so much that we put it on our recommended list. It wasn’t that it was fast, or sporty, or even stylish. We just appreciated the fact that it was a traditional comfort-cruiser rather than yet another wannabe sports sedan, and a throwback to the days when affordable midsize sedans were, you know, affordable. We even ended up buying one as a family conveyance to replace our legendary 15-year-old Toyota Corolla. Of course now, there is a new Safrane for 2011.
The Safrane now styled much more in tune with its competitors, with upscale chrome elements and fancier alloys, though not as flamboyant as its Korean rivals. The Safrane itself is built in Korea, but looks a lot more French now than the previous rebadged Nissan design.
The interior in our test car, a top-spec 3.5-litre model, was very “nice” to say the least. The shapes are unique and the colours are inviting, with meaty soft-touch materials on the upper dash and doors, with padded leatherette door inserts and armrests. There’s also some obligatory hard plastics, fake wood and faux metal trim, but it all looks so good that you’d think this cabin belongs in an Audi.
Still based on the same platform as the previous version, cabin space is expectedly good, though there’s maybe just a tad less rear legroom than in a Toyota Camry. The boot is huge though, with the lid’s goose-neck hinges cleanly hidden away so as not to crush your luggage. Inside, the practicality continues with door pockets, an armrest cubby and four hideaway cup-holders.
Our Safrane was loaded to the hilt with gadgets, including some we never expected in this segment. Alongside the usual CD stereo with decent speakers, keyless start, HID headlights with foglamps, and powered front seats, the Safrane comes with options such as an ioniser to clear the air of germs, as well as a fragrance dispenser! On top of that, there is an optional massage function for the driver’s seat that works better than ones in a Bentley. Alongside these, there are features such as a panoramic glass roof, working Bluetooth phone, USB/AUX ports, rear parking sensors, front and side airbags, pull-up sunshades for the rear windows, cruise control and power-folding mirrors. The dual-zone a/c works well enough, and has rear vents with controls too. The ergonomics are a bit weird though, with the cruise button next to the shifter and various other buttons on a thick stalk behind the wheel, typical of French-designed cars.
We got the 3.5-litre V6 version for review, an engine taken right from the previous-generation Nissan Altima, so it makes 237 hp at 6000 rpm and 330 Nm of torque at 4200 rpm. The smooth 6-speed manually-shiftable automatic is seemingly tuned for economy, so it likes to stay in the higher gears. Power is more than adequate, even allowing wheelspin on take-off with traction control off. But it is obviously nowhere near as powerful as other V6 sedans in this segment. We timed its 0-100 kph run at 8.9 seconds during September weather. Our fuel economy was more agreeable, at 12.6 litres/100 km.
The Safrane still retains its smooth suspension tuning and quiet ride, even though the low-profile tyres can make it feel a bit firm on some surfaces. The tight initial gearing makes the car jump quickly off the line, making it a good city cruiser, but there isn’t much kick left beyond 50 kph. Also, the throttle response is a bit delayed, something we’re see a lot in cars with drive-by-wire accelerator pedals. In contrast, the older model was smooth on all surfaces and offered instant response to inputs, as it had no pretensions of being anything fancier.
The handling is acceptably decent, with noticeable body roll but without the type of awkward rebounds that plagues the outgoing Toyota Camry. The 225-width tyres offer better-than-average grip, with safe understeer following. The steering is light at low speeds, and it firms up with speed, but offers only a little feedback. The ABS-assisted disc brakes seems adequate for hard stops, but the pedal feel is soft.
To sum up, the new Safrane certainly is a better car than before, and offers certain features that even much pricier cars don’t have. It deviates from the previous model, which is expected, considering this is now purely a Renault design, but it fulfils its aim in giving off a European vibe, something the old Japanese-designed version did not bother with. Even if still built in Korea, this new one is much closer to being a true Renault.
Current Model Introduced in:
Test Acceleration 0-100 kph:
Observed Test Fuel Economy: