As I have argued before, the Mexican Car Market is the best one in the world. Mixing European quirkiness, American bruteness and eastern European natstiness you can have pretty much any style of vehicle of your preference. The number of brands is also higher here including departed Japanese brands such as Suzuki, sporty Europeans such as Seat and the odd French twins, Peugeot and Renault. Although not sales kings, they do have a very important place in the market with loyal following form a certain group of people. I have no idea who these people are, but they coexist, survive and drive Renaults.
But, as the Mexican car market itself, Renault is a mixed bag of the good, the horrid and the very best the brand offers worldwide. In this simple guide, I will show you what we are offered and you will decide if like a great deal of Mexicans it is worth it or not to cross the border.
- Renault Logan
This is the most recent Renault to be introduced and its aimed squarely at the best selling car here, the apocalyptically horrendous pile of un-engineered horse-scabs that is the Chevrolet Aveo. Unfortunately, Renault didn't offer the single biggest selling point of the Aveo, an automatic. Still, its distinct styling (read different) and more modern features including a touchscreen interface could sway customers to the french side. Mechanically, it has a 1.6 litre engine from which they could extract all of 100 hp. Before you laugh at the mediocrity of this achievement, let me tell you the torque figure since it will probably make you laugh even harder. 106 lb.ft., all sent to a 5 speed manual only. How would this fare against a Fiesta 1.0L? Yeah, you guessed it.
2. Renault Sandero
GREAT NEWS. With that joke out of the way, I can explain the discrepancy that is this car compared to the Logan. The entry price of this car is less, whilst the car is bigger in every dimension to the Logan except in trunk space. So, you pay less for a less spacious bigger car. It gets even weirder when you see the specs, since it seems that the same 1.6 engine is shared between the two. In the Sandero though, it makes 10 more HP and 3 lb.-ft. of torque more through a 5 speed manual or 4 speed auto. Features-wise, it has the same highlights as the Logan which include the touchscreen and a trip computer. Again it isn't the most competitive subcompact but the James May recommendation may be enough to convince you.
3. Renault Sandero Stepway
This is getting expensive. Ha! This little lifted Sandero gives the promise of ruggedness thanks to its black plastic accents, raised height, tough roof racks and instruments that just scream jungle for some reason. It doesn't have 4WD, nor it has any difference to the Sandero mechanically, but in the pothole landfill that is Mexican roads I would definitely want those extra inches. Accessories include your array of roof boxes, because this car means expeditions. The love affair of Latin America with these raised up hatches claiming to be SUV's is very strong and honestly I find them way cooler than CUV's which are pretty much as capable.
4. Renault Kangoo
The little van that could! This quirky little European workforce is a cool way to distribute anything of your liking in the small streets and dangerous ghettos of town. My father actually owned one of these and, whilst he loved the concept of it, it didn't quite live up to the torture that his employees gave to it (The van died in a trip and was left in a ditch. It was Tsurus from there on). This van offers an array of helpful features, including a wide loading area. This is what you normally see as standard equipment when the options sheet of a car includes both ABS and Air Conditioning. All I can say is its a basic van, power-train of a Sandero and cool doors. Flower market owners out there, here is your car.
5. Renault Duster
By far and away my favourite Renault of them all. This little SUV is probably more honest than most of your college professors, more utilitarian than your plumber and rougher than your aunts CR-V. Its a no-nonsense practical SUV priced RIGHT. If it weren't for this car Renault would be in big trouble, but this has given hope to the brand and blew the competition out of question when it came to affordable family vehicles. Sadly, it doesn't offer 4WD (If it would i'd probably currently be driving one) but its exterior bull bar and silver roof racks just make smile when I see one on the road. Engine is thankfully a more powerful 2.0L with 133 HP and 141 lb.-ft. of torque. mated to either a 4 speed auto or a 6 speed manual! I have driven the manual, and whilst it isn't sporty, its just utilitarian and ready for action. This is the car that rescued Renault, and damn is it good.
6. Renault Fluence
The compact offer from Renault is really just an old Sentra with enough refreshes and digital dashboards to still have something to write about on the ads of the fashion magazines where this car appears. Its a pretty mundane car, but with enough difference to have bragging rights compared to you neighbour who just bought a Cruze. Engine-wise its pretty underwhelming compared to the goddess of the segment, the Mazda 3. 140 HP and 143 torques mated to either a 6 speed manual or a CVT is pretty lacking now a days, but this car is more about being the other choice than being the obvious one. Your choice if you'd go for this over previously mentioned Cruze.
7. Renault Koleos
If I had to have a crossover, this would probably be at the top of my list. The Koleos is a European market Renault with an underwhelming engine and CVT. So why am I choosing it? Because look at its classiness. Seriously, the RAV-4 looks like a pubescent teenager with bad makeup and the Rogue looks too big and ungainly. This just had the right proportions, the right details and the aura of sophistication its competitors can't match. Its elegance follows to the interior with a controller knob for the radio, huge dual sunroof and a Range Rover like 2 piece tailgate. Thanks to quirky features and a great price I think this would be a fantastic choice, even if 4WD is not offered (It once was). French elegance, one you don't take for granted until you truly notice it.
8. Renault Clio RS 200
This is the forbidden fruit everyone was waiting for. Its the only Clio sold here since more than 5 years and its a good one. The engine makes 200 HP as it is designated in the name which sadly can only go though a twin clutch automatic. If you have seen the Top Gear review of this car then you know it is a tech-fest of a hot hatch. Forget simplicity, forget lightness and welcome the future. It offers a GTR-like screen where you can see your G's, power output and all sorts of cool data you want to show off to your passengers. All the European equipment is offered at a fairly reasonable price, but then again a Fiesta ST is very hard to beat. Its your choice if you really want that French flair.
9. Renault Safrane
The toughest sell for Renault, a semi-luxurious mid-sizer. This large car is actually a Korean car named Samsung rebadged as a Renault, and after several refreshes it looks quite handsome. Ironically, even if this car is as rare as it is I know of 2 relatives who own them, one of them being my girlfriends father. I got to drive his car in one occasion, but it was a previous gen. so the feel of it is completely different to this new one. hopefully, this 2015 model is better although the specs don't look great to be honest. 240 HP from a 3.5 V6 which a Camry will devour. This though is a great bang for the buck due to its Bose audio system, dual sunroof, leather, intelligent everything and all important LED accents. If what you want is the most features for the least amount of money, as well as decent power this big French sedan may be a good choice.
So this is what you're missing out, the "Chew-Mix" approach to the French brand. Whilst it has its low point in the lineup I think its fairly competitive in each segment and offering some surprises along the way. If you have any doubt of any model feel free to comment it. A bit of "Merci" mixed with Latin blood and Korean influence to brighten up your day.