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Cars that were unexpectedly better than you thought


JJ0063

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11 minutes ago, GrumpiusMaximus said:

My partner's sister drove a Seicento Sporting as her only car for well over a decade.  It failed an MOT on rust, got the local garage to weld it (remember that?!) and then it failed on more rust again the next year.  It's still sat on the drive at her parent's house, resplendant in bright yellow and on SORN.  It has two different sets of wheels on it too, hilariously.  The rears from a Cinquecento and the fronts are original to the car.

I secretly quite like it but given the NCAP score on that particular model I wouldn't drive it anywhere, even it was roadworthy.  Plus I'm 6'2" and 21 Stone.

Space isn't an issue in them (and you can fit other seats lower down fairly easily, which gives comedy headroom that would allow even somebody 6ft 6 enough room to wear a 10gallon hat 😂), i'm 6ft 2 as well and have absolutely stacks of headroom on stock seats and no issues with leg room etc, and the whole cabin is so open (doors quite thin, no intrusive door cards or centre console between the seats etc means width isn't much of an issue either.

I was never scared of driving them despite well known scare stories on the crash rating, visibility is so good and it's so small, communicative and placeable you always have full confidence in it... Not much weight to dissipate either should the worst happen. sure it's not going to be much help if a cement mixer driver loses control and ploughs into you, but equally it's not going to be much help for many cars of that era.

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My Rover 45 was stupidly good value for money. £550 paid and in 2 years all I ever did to it was what it needed - only tyres and servicing.

Come to think of it, a couple of splodges of welding for one MOT as well. 

If I'm being picky then it didn't need 2 of the tyres from a legality point of view as I just changed them due to their age. And it would have survived without servicing. So it literally could have been run for 2 years (15k miles covered if I remember rightly) and only needed 1 tyre and a bit of welding. 

It wasn't until 2 years of ownership that the first mechanical breakdown occured which was a faulty alternator. Refurbed it myself at a cost of £15 and then flogged the car on for £600 

#mikebrewer 

Jokes aside, you can't ask for better hassle free motoring than that. Yet I don't think a Rover 45 is going to be anyone's first thought in that category

It hadn't been especially well looked after either, but I may have just been lucky. 

I only bought it because I was sick of the ungrateful pig of a K12 Micra with terrible water ingress and a stretched timing chain that I had before it, I just wanted something to get me out of that and have a bit of breathing room.

Little did I know or ever expect it would be so brilliant for 2 years solid. 

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Rover 200 R8. Remember my mum having a proper shonker of a 216 GSi when I was a kid, so while the 200 series had some nostalgia value for me, I didn't think highly of them as cars. Fast forward a few decades, I picked this shabby 216 SLi up in 2020 as a bit of lockdown boredom relief:

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And frankly, I couldn't believe how nice it was to drive. Comfortable, yet could also corner nicely. Genuinely pleasant motoring. Sold it to a mate in 2022 as he needed a stop gap car. When he came to sell it 6 months later, I bought it back off him! Still have it now.


Also on a slight modern tangent... SEAT Arona. Test drove one of these recently (not this exact one, this is just a pic off the internet) and despite disliking crossovers as a general rule... actually had a lot more fun with it than I thought I would. To the extent I'm considering one as a new daily driver...

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11 hours ago, tooSavvy said:

My 'Korean Washing Machine' is performing admirably...

I liked the idea of a Getz... Bought one... Liking the *experience 🥰

*some people's expectations, Vs mine, may vary 🤣🤣

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Can also vouch for the Getz, worked at a Car Hire company where one of the employees used to abuse everything he drove!

He used to thrash a pair of these 1.1 Getz's and I mean thrash them. I think he reached a 111mph flat out in both, he used to redline them through every gear too. Unlike the Ford's, Rover's, Vauxhall's even Mitsubishi's they never broke once.  

These cars will forever have my respect, for being tough and also fun little cars to drive imo, I'd happily have one myself if I was in the market. 

I also once had a miserable job working at a Nissan dealer as a valeter. But the only good part was that I got to drive all the old part exchanges too.

Had a early Skoda Favorit in one day, same shade of Green as this one pictured below. Expect with rotten rear arches and rusty wheels. 

Nobody else wanted to be seen driving it, so I thought I'd drive it back to the valeting site. Mainly as it would make a change from yet another Micra.

Drove much nicer than I expected, handled well too on the mixed budget tyres it sat on.

Cleaned up well and with a quick splash of wheel silver on the rims, it sold for £300 almost straight away. 

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I owned a Ford Escort MK4 1.4L. Brought it when I was really desperate for a cheap working car. Paid £150 with 6 months Mot, but it was rough looking!

Similar to this one, expect rust on every panel including round the sunroof and a dented offside wing. Had it for about 12 months and it never put a foot wrong, even got me through a flooded road that wrote off 3 cars. [including a brand new Range Rover] 

Was a typical Ford, engine felt lively with a nice gearchange and decent handling. Was nothing about it that was particularly amazing, but it did just A to B without fuss.  Was really gutted to sell it though, I'd have another if I could afford to buy a tidy one. 

$_86.JPG

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23 minutes ago, Cookiesouwest said:

Vectra C 1.8 vvt

Bought despite everyone saying they are shit.

Thought it was a great car. Decent engine, good mpg, nice interior, comfy seat, bloody massive boot.

Would have another, but good ones getting hard to find.

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Great shout.

Had mine for ages, 1.9 CDTI with a bit of work made 212bhp and when I had it over 10 years ago now it felt like the fastest thing on the road 😂 loved it. 
 

Can’t find any pics but I used to tow a mk2 golf track car on a trailer made from an old caravan chassis and I’m sure the trailer weighed more than the car, even with just the empty trailer on the back the Vec would be squatting. Never gave me any grief though! 

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Last year we hired a "medium sized van" from a local hire place we've used in the past. Had a 66 regTransit Custom previously from them, which was not very pleasant. So wasn't looking forward to having a 400 mile round trip to do. Got a 22reg full fat RWD Transit, which apart from an extremely low first gear, presumably to give a big towing limit, was a really good drive. Much better ride than the FWD Custom.Got not far off 40mpg as well. Quite fancied one with rear windows and seats and autobox, till the lady at the hire place told me that very basic one had cost £42k!

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I bought my Saab 9000 as a 6 month stopgap, but quickly realised it did everything the BMW 1-series that preceded it but with more comfort, better space and also not £270 per month! It was a far better all rounder than I expected. Hence why 6 1/2 years later it’s still here and I probably count it as my best car purchase ever! 

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Chevrolet Lacetti - not shit! 

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Korea’s finest Green Laner on the Old Coach Road in the lakes. Managed it better than a LWB Trasnit, which I had to reverse 5km because I couldn’t get it turned. 

IMG_3007.thumb.jpeg.2cc234e4819ce59885b3831b1c331306.jpeg🎼Something something levee wasn’t dry.  No problem for a Chevy. 

IMG_1699.thumb.jpeg.326b9adf26605353105d51356bd18a5d.jpegWhile very good off road, it wasn’t very good at being reversed into a ditch. Windows were steamed up - thought I had more room. Only time it ever got stuck. 

We bought one as a work vehicle after our second gen Megane shat it’s AC unit. The electrics had a gone very French (boot would open itself, and was held down with a bungee round the wiper, and we had to pull the window fuse as they had a mind of their own), and then we discovered we had been driving around for 6 months with no MOT due to my boss thinking he had bought it with a years ticket. It also had no rear brakes,  and the strut tops were done, so it was bridge time. 

I was pushing for a MK2 New Edge Mondeo TDCI, but having very Autoshite sensibilities my boss wanted something less mechanically complicated (i.e petrol), and most importantly cheap. So I reluctantly went to see a reasonably priced car and unfortunately it was perfect, and I had to buy it. 1.6 pez manual estate in sort-of-green. 

As it was going to get used off road a lot (we also had a Ford Ranger, but most places that was overkill, and we needed two vehicles for three staff) we fitted some winter tyres with a +5 profile for extra ground clearance. It had a high sump and not much that could catch on stuff underneath so it performed amazingly off road without getting  ripped to bits. In most situations it would but climb over stuff just over idle in first - just enough power to move but not so much it would spin too easily.

On the road it wasn’t exactly sporty, but could be hussled along very nicely, spending most of it’s time flat out around the highlands. It outhandled the Megane easily, although having intact suspension, brakes and non shit tyres probably helped. 

I always felt it an XUD9TE or something would have suited it perfectly, but the 1.6 was decent.

The interior was kind of grim, but as a work vehicle it was always covered in muck, lunch detritus and rolling tobacco anyway, and the seats were comfy and it had plenty of room. 

It was far from perfect - it never needed much maintenance aside from needing the sills patched but there were some issues. The rear footwells would fill with water, and it ate about one headlight bulb a month. The bonnet lock was dodgy, I ended up having to strip and refit it in a service station somewhere in England one night, but it was never right. I think they are common issues, after we got this one my dad also bought a lacetti. It was wet inside and got written off when the bonnet flew open at speed one day! 

The abs would kick it when braking normally at low speeds - you just had to brake through it. When you were used to it was fine, but if you let someone uninitiated drive it they would shit a brick! That’s what eventually killed it, my boss was up from down south when we were moving offices, took it on a tip run and upon returning told me to take it straight to WBAC!

We got a whole £50 for it, and with the Ranger also retired at that point I started a long period of hire cars. And that’s when I discovered Qashqai’s aren’t the heaps of shit I thought they were - genuinely great cars. 

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I once bought a series one 1300SDL Allegro complete with quartic steering wheel back in 2008ish for a laugh, believing the Clarkson drivel about BL. It cost me a grand on eBay, it had 45k miles from new and was immaculate.

Well the joke was on me: After giving the thing a birthday service and upgrading the ignition to electronic using a kit of parts from a Mini specialist, it was 100% reliable, drove really well and would cruise easily at 65-70mph no bother. It also turned heads everywhere it went and I couldn’t get it to do less than 40mpg no matter how I drove it. At the time I lived in west London and it would make even more sense in London now, being tax and Khan exempt.

I turned from a BL basher into a believer- so when a low mileage series 1 1800HL Princess came up on eBay a year later down in south Devon I bought that too - and once again was astounded at how good a car that actually was compared with the rep, once I’d given it the same birthday + electronic ignition upgrade treatment.

Bear in mind I was in my twenties and my expectations of a car were somewhat lower back then, but nonetheless I still correct obviously biased bollox about BL if I ever hear it now using my actual experience of their products.

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Ford Fusion - also not shit.


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A properly brilliant little car. 

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Great off road but also not immune to ditches. I was going too quickly and hit a deep patch of pine needles. Drove itself out unscathed. 
 

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Towed nicely too  - it was a very light boat, the back end was still sagging! The was the second trip after I convinced the boss the driving to the north coast on the bumpstops might not be a good idea, and we should take a second car to lighten the load. 
 

IMG_1710.thumb.jpeg.cc3678f7dc7017eaeac1e9fd56b52d3c.jpegThe lesser sibling. 
 

Many jobs ago we had a Ford Fusion and Fiesta. Both 2004’s with the 1.4 TDCI. Both bought pretty much new and were abused daily to 200k. They were both great, but the fusion was the star of the show. 

The fiesta was a bit quicker and felt sharper, but could the back end could be twichy. The Fusion was well planted, despite copious body roll. Both were good off road, but the fusion’s ground clearance was a life saver, I did once dent the sump but luckily didn’t hole it. It could swallow kit and to the point of being massively overladen and shrug it off.

Yeah, it was slow and overtakes required planning but it was an absolute joy to drive. The wee 1.4 TDCI revved quite happily - getting up the hill coming south from Inverness required 3rd gear and redline to keep it at 70, but it did that hundreds to times without complaint. 

I was young, stupid, drove it like an arse and had some of my best driving experiences in it. I spent a lot of time up north, and this was back before the NC500 was the NC500 and you actually enjoy the drive without being blighted by crampervans. 

And never got a speeding ticket in it. I got three in the Fiesta, and I’m pretty sure it was cursed. That thing must have accrued 30 points in it’s lifetime, when none of the other vehicles in the fleet ever got a ticket. 

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51 minutes ago, leakingstrut said:

While very good off road, it’s isn’t very good at being reversed into a ditch.

Looks like it was very successfully reversed into the ditch to me!  I'm guessing it was less good at driving out again.

Anyway, I nominate the 2007 Volvo V50 that I had until last month and only replaced because of the bastard ULEZ.

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I thought it would be worthy but dull.  Actually quite a decent drive.  2 litre diesel gave it a decent turn of speed and it actually handled quite well too.  Decent amount of space in the back but quite compact overall. 

Of course Volvo gave up making these smaller estates years ago, so I've ended up with a Seat as its replacement!

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49 minutes ago, Dj_efk said:

I once bought a series one 1300SDL Allegro complete with quartic steering wheel back in 2008ish for a laugh, believing the Clarkson drivel about BL. It cost me a grand on eBay, it had 45k miles from new and was immaculate.

Austin Allegro 1300 SDL 1979 - South Western Vehicle Auctions Ltd

^^ This isn't the one I used to drive but it is the same colour : 1300 SDL **automatic** don't you know. Belonged to an old couple in the village and they would only drive it as far as the paper shop in the morning. Anything longer then I was 'the chauffeur'. Eventually it just sat down at our house and I had the use of it - still in my teens, I was Niki Lauda - in orange.
If you really booted it and used the selector in semi-manual mode the little car would really fly (or so it felt) - once it got over 30mph. Stick four adults and some beer in it and it became rather woeful but still willing. No idea how I never wrapped it around a tree but it was a lovely little car (my next 'own' car was the Vitesse Mk 1. 2.0 litre and, tbh, the Allegro was a better car on anything other than a straight, level road).

I left home in 1980 and the Allegro soldiered on until around 1985 or so when the sea air finally killed it. Less than 20,000 miles when it went over the bridge too.

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My nomination is the Zanussi white 1994 Ford Escort 1.8 diesel L saloon I bought in April 2010.

So good a car it was for £250 that I posted a thread about it here: Unsung hero: in praise of the Escort.

This photo is shortly after I picked it up and removed the off white damaged Ford wheel trims:

1994 Ford Escort 1.8 LD diesel
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2 hours ago, brownnova said:

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I bought my Saab 9000 as a 6 month stopgap, but quickly realised it did everything the BMW 1-series that preceded it but with more comfort, better space and also not £270 per month! It was a far better all rounder than I expected. Hence why 6 1/2 years later it’s still here and I probably count it as my best car purchase ever! 

Love these.  Please tell me it's a turbo!

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56 minutes ago, adw1977 said:

Looks like it was very successfully reversed into the ditch to me!  I'm guessing it was less good at driving out again.

Anyway, I nominate the 2007 Volvo V50 that I had until last month and only replaced because of the bastard ULEZ.

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I thought it would be worthy but dull.  Actually quite a decent drive.  2 litre diesel gave it a decent turn of speed and it actually handled quite well too.  Decent amount of space in the back but quite compact overall. 

Of course Volvo gave up making these smaller estates years ago, so I've ended up with a Seat as its replacement!

Great cars. A friend had one and drove back from the South of France in one in one go - only stopping for fuel - and flat out all the way. Tough cars.

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A last of the line (circa 2001) Fiesta with the 1.3 pushrod engine and power steering.  The latter was a godsend, given the standard fitment of a stupid, small-diameter steering wheel.  It wasn't glamorous or well equipped but it could nudge the ton in fourth gear and go round any corner one chose to turn at sixty odd.  The engine was noisy and lacked refinement but provided reasonable pulling power round town and just kept going.  Less is more, often.  

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AVAS, and all that. However, my Vectra B has been a great daily driver so far. Carrying 8ft planks of wood on one occasion, and has managed a month's worth of shopping for two households in the boot and all the seats filled with passengers, and it just lapped it up fine. It took me by surprise at how capable it is, it's not terrible on fuel either.

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I am, however, most likely a Vauxhall apologist, and will echo comments about the Astra J, I had a shot of one when I was valeting for that big company with the hideous yellow stickers (former sticker applicator here, sorry). 15 plate, 1.6 NA manual, one up from base trim. Working air conditioning, and not a bad driving experience either. Sadly no photos of it, but it was rather good. I quite liked it, so much so I went to inquire at the dealer about buying it, but had sold between it leaving the prep centre and being at the dealer.

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Phase one Volvo V70 - bought because I like estates, and it was a decent price. Didn't mind that I thought it would be a boring plodder, because it fitted the bill anyway. Turned out to be one of the best cars I've ever owned; quick enough, ridiculously comfy, never failed to lug mountains of stuff around, munch long distances at speed, and even shrugged off a T-bone from a blind old biddy in an X5. The BMW came off second best. And I could just sit and listen to five pot idling burble all day long.

Of all the rental vehicles, it would have to be the Fiat Marea. Wasn't expecting much, but it was light years ahead of any other Fiat I'd driven. Well made, solid, planted on the tarmac, and still begged for its' neck to be wrung, as a good Italian car should. Pity I never got round to buying one.

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I know they were much hated at the time but an Allegro 1300 super.1975 vintage so an early one.Bought as emergency transport in 1986 when I took a job bus driving for London Transport.  I was at Merton garage sarf London and it did the trip from Chertsey for 18 months needing just a s/h radiator.Never let me down and was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting.Sold to a mates gf to learn to drive in.She loved it,nicknamed it Guppy.(reg was GPE 558N).Oh,and yes it did have the square steering wheel.

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Renault Megane II.

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I heard the horror stories, but it was a lot of car for £800 when I bought it in 2014 - the equivalent Astra/Focus in my price range had nowhere near the level of kit. A couple of months after I bought it, I met my dad in a hotel car park to pick something up from him, after he'd just had an interview for a role at a new garage, which was an authorised Renault service centre - the chap interviewing him took one look at me stood by the car and said to my dad "Christ, why did you let him buy one of them?".

35k and 3 and a half years later, it was only a lengthy commute that made me part-ex it for my first Qashqai. Had I known two months later it would pass an MOT, a year after that I would have moved and cut my commute in half (probably moved sooner not spending £350 a month on a new car...) and that eventually I'd use the bus, I would have run it into the ground. Only ever left me stranded once with a seized alternator that caused it to throw the aux belt (see profile pic).

I'd happily have another. I'd even risk a Laguna II.

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9 hours ago, Dj_efk said:

I once bought a series one 1300SDL Allegro complete with quartic steering wheel back in 2008ish for a laugh, believing the Clarkson drivel about BL. It cost me a grand on eBay, it had 45k miles from new and was immaculate.

Well the joke was on me: After giving the thing a birthday service and upgrading the ignition to electronic using a kit of parts from a Mini specialist, it was 100% reliable, drove really well and would cruise easily at 65-70mph no bother. It also turned heads everywhere it went and I couldn’t get it to do less than 40mpg no matter how I drove it. At the time I lived in west London and it would make even more sense in London now, being tax and Khan exempt.

I turned from a BL basher into a believer- so when a low mileage series 1 1800HL Princess came up on eBay a year later down in south Devon I bought that too - and once again was astounded at how good a car that actually was compared with the rep, once I’d given it the same birthday + electronic ignition upgrade treatment.

Bear in mind I was in my twenties and my expectations of a car were somewhat lower back then, but nonetheless I still correct obviously biased bollox about BL if I ever hear it now using my actual experience of their products.

There was nothing wrong with Allegros . Cheap to run, comfortable,they could have done with a hatchback option. They could rust, but were a big jump forward from the ADO16 in that respect.

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16 minutes ago, artdjones said:

 

 

There was nothing wrong with Allegros . Cheap to run, comfortable,they could have done with a hatchback option. They could rust, but were a big jump forward from the ADO16 in that respect.

My dad and uncle both worked in the garages at whitbreads in Blackburn and used to get the pick of whatever they were casting aside (trucks, vans, cars). Was quite a healthy sideline and put my grandad in many a car. A 1500 allegro in that orange was the first 5 speed boxed car in the family. I can still remember the excitement of sitting next to my grandad and him saying "wait for it, there it is" as he slotted in to 5th 😆

Set me up nicely for a life of being easily pleased.

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Skoda Felicia 1.3 Pacific. My kid bought it as a runaround when he had his Z4MC and was out of work. Had proper 90s patterned seats, a sun roof and solid plastics. Only had 50k miles on the clock though and was immaculate. I had to drive it a few times and it was such a nice simple car. 

Sadly he didn't give a toss about the car and it ended up getting a few battle scars and losing a wing mirror during his ownership. Pretty sure it was scrapped by him too

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3 hours ago, Markeh said:

Renault Megane II.

FB_IMG_1473153793643.thumb.jpg.cfa8d1ce09474cdb6eda8f3b00fb70d0.jpg

I heard the horror stories, but it was a lot of car for £800 when I bought it in 2014 - the equivalent Astra/Focus in my price range had nowhere near the level of kit. A couple of months after I bought it, I met my dad in a hotel car park to pick something up from him, after he'd just had an interview for a role at a new garage, which was an authorised Renault service centre - the chap interviewing him took one look at me stood by the car and said to my dad "Christ, why did you let him buy one of them?".

35k and 3 and a half years later, it was only a lengthy commute that made me part-ex it for my first Qashqai. Had I known two months later it would pass an MOT, a year after that I would have moved and cut my commute in half (probably moved sooner not spending £350 a month on a new car...) and that eventually I'd use the bus, I would have run it into the ground. Only ever left me stranded once with a seized alternator that caused it to throw the aux belt (see profile pic).

I'd happily have another. I'd even risk a Laguna II.

Exceptionally lucky that the timing belt didn't eat the aux belt, always a worry on petrol Renners, especially the K4M if that's what it had, as they often did.

They're brilliant cars, just heavily let down by the utterly shit electronics. Crank sensor wiring, window motors, electric power steering motors, electric parking brake (where applicable) to name a few.

Everything else, even the engines when looked after, was brilliant. But all of those faults are ubiquitous and not just stereotypical with the Mégane II, Scenic II, Laguna II etc. Count yourself lucky

All cars have flaws, but Renault just tried too hard to advance them and made them overcomplicated for what they needed to be. 

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