So we got a Nissan, err, Renault Safrane
My PR buddy picked up this Renault Safrane and passed it on to me a day later, with a layer of crap on the outside. However, the cabin was spotless, and there was no denying it — it felt like I was driving around in a Nissan.
It didn’t resemble any current or past Nissan. But there are bits of design elements within the interior that could’ve come from the Tiida, the Altima or the Murano. Of course this is no surprise. Renault owns Nissan, whether they care to admit it clearly or not. This so-called Renault is actually a Korean-market Samsung SM5, designed completely by Nissan, and a similar car is also sold as a Nissan Teana in Japan, all based on the Altima platform. Only the Safrane badge is French, taken from a 1990s midsize luxury liftback model by Renault that flopped in the GCC.
Unlike the Altima however, the Safrane seems designed to disappear into the crowd. Even that crane in the background looks more interesting. In such ‘first look’ articles on this blog, I usually cover special features of whatever car I get, but there is absolutely nothing to report on this car. Funnily enough, it is still a fantastic car, only because it is so damn cheap compared to the stuff you do get with it.
First of all, it is a proper midsize sedan, with overall legroom similar to that of the Altima, but possibly with more headroom in the back.
Our mid-range V6 tester came with faux leather and faux wood, all of which looked good. The upper cabin panels were all soft-touch materials. The wide seats have minimal bolstering, signaling its non-sporting intentions. Only the driver’s seat was powered in our car.
A central monochrome screen shows bits of info such as radio stations, dual-zone a/c settings and even outside temperature.
The big card-style ‘intelligent’ remote key is the only thing similar to French Renaults. It is way too thick to fit in the wallet though.
There is no hope for those looking to swap in an aftermarket stereo, but the standard unit is easy to use and sounds pretty decent. It even comes with a subwoofer and an AUX input. Notice the keyless ignition, which has to be twisted to start the car, although a starter button would’ve been better. The covered cup-holders are appreciated.
The door panels were designed by a blind man, but an interesting bit is the pop-out pockets on the front ones, which are usually found in luxury cars. The rear doors even have little cubbies which I think are ashtrays. Maybe the designers smoke a lot.
A minor point for some, but the rear windows only go down by about two-thirds.
The rear cargo area is huge, and even includes a pass-through hole into the cabin.
Our tester also came with little niceties such as fog lamps, 16-inch alloys, rain-sensing wipers, power windows, sunroof and auto headlights, though I believe cruise control and other stuff might be available as options. Even with the relatively tiny V6, it is good value for money, and an indirect way to get a Nissan. About the only competitor I can think of is the impressively-equipped Kia Optima. I’ll cover driving impressions in the full review.