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Hits The Spot With Modus Automatic Diesel
Quickshift5 Works Well, Terrific Economy, Only £500 Extra
Makes Modus A Formidable Mini-MPV, But Honda Jazz Still Leads
“Renault must feel a bit like Andy Roddick, knowing it might be the best in the world, but rueing the day Roger Federer was born”
Renault has come up with a terrific new simple and cheap automatic gearbox the Quickshift 5 - which does everything a regular auto box would do for £500, or less than half the price of the conventional device.
And Renault has done something which few other manufacturers have failed to do offered an automatic box with a diesel in a small car.
I’ve been driving the Renault Modus diesel mini MPV with the new gearbox, which has a robotised clutch rather than a more complicated and expensive torque convertor used on conventional auto gearboxes.
When I realised that this was a similar gearbox to that used on the Smart ForTwo little city car I thought that the game was up for the Q5. After all, the auto box on the Smart is a great example of how not to do it. The changes seem to take for ever as you move from say second to third, there’s an embarrassing pause as the car seems to almost hiccup, wheeze, then, finally, moves to the higher gear. This removes whatever performance the Smart had, which is not much admittedly. Then, when you try and park the Smart, it won’t creep forward or backwards, so you have to blip the throttle. This means that over the life time of the car you are bound to misuse the accelerator and bash the little car’s bodywork as you try and inch into small parking spaces. And this is supposed to be a city car.
Thanks for the creep
The Q5 has a gear shift controller set where a conventional manual gear lever would be. You tap it to the right to engage neutral, or tap and pull down for reverse. You can engage manual mode by tapping the gear box to the left, then pushing the lever forward or back to change up or down. This is useful if you want to engage a gear for overtaking. As you rev the engine to overtake, when you approach the rev limit, automatic will engage if you don’t change up manually.
There a five forward gears.
One drawback which I didn’t like; if you are on a hill and in gear, the car, unlike conventional automatics, will roll back. You have to hold the car on the hand brake.
Piece of resistance
Whatever figures are correct, the official data means that the car qualifies for the super-low VED Band B category, which means road tax is only £50 (€75) a year.
Renault has face-lifted the Modus range, but you’d be hard pressed to pinpoint the changes. Inside there is a digital speedometer set in the centre of the dash which gives a big readout of your speed; great for when you spy the speed camera and need a quick fix on your speed. The interior quality was good, but not up to the class leader, the Honda Jazz. The car drove very well, with accurate steering and little roll in bends. The seats were comfy.
When you drive a car like the Modus, or the Jazz, you wonder why people buy more expensive cars. These mini MPVs seat 4 in comfort, 5 at a pinch, with plenty of head and leg room. They drive just fine, with the power to cruise all day on motorways at speeds way past the legal limit. And they have such flexibility that they can be transformed almost immediately into vans for that visit to the dump with the rear seats down, or take in a couple of mountain bikes without having to dismantle them.
I’ve owned a Jazz now for about 4 years, and it is a truly remarkable little machine. The rear seats fold absolutely flat into the rear floor with a minimum of effort. They split one third/two thirds, which frees up a huge amount of flexible carrying space. The quality of the cabin is magnificent. The car hasn’t missed a beat. The Constantly Variable Automatic transmission works well, and will allow you, if you were inclined to be juvenile, to wind up the engine at traffic lights and catapult ahead of the pack. You can switch it to a seven speed manual if you so desire I’d estimate that about 0.25 per cent of the time that has been a useful option. It has a sun-roof and automatic air conditioning. Servicing has been reasonable, and the local Honda dealer actually volunteers a courtesy car.
The Renault Modus will have to be mighty good to compete with this, and the base model is more expensive - £9,145 Modus versus £8,795 Jazz. The automatic Modus diesel starts at £12,200 (€18,100) for the Expression, and goes to £15,100 (€22,100) for the Initiale, via the Oasis, Dynamique, and Privilege versions. This seems expensive. The Modus scores on looks - it is almost lovably cute, with a nice smile at the front and neat curves to the body. The interior is attractive with a colourful blend of good quality materials. The high roof and wheels at the corners means plenty of space above and around you.
The rear seats can be folded back, but only up against the front seats. This seriously cuts back on the amount of load space available. The Jazz is a clear winner here. The Modus seats fold 1/3-2/3 too. There are some really creative ideas for stowing items like sun glasses. How often have you put your mobile phone or sun glasses on the passenger seat when driving alone, only to find them spurting forward into the foot well when you brake suddenly? The Modus has a folding cushion on the passenger seat where you can stow oddments. There’s also a “boot chute” a £250 (360 euros) extra - which is a hinge at bottom of the tailgate which allows stuff to be stowed in the boot in confined spaces. There’s a “Velofix”, a bike rack attachment which can be slotted into the rear bumper and can hold two adult bikes.
There are 6 engines now available with the Modus 3 petrol and 3 diesels.
Poor Andy Roddick
Because of the Honda Jazz, Renault must feel a bit like Andy Roddick, knowing that they might be the best in the world, but rueing the day that Roger Federer was born. You know, Roger Federer, the multi-Grand Slam tennis champion. The Jazz is still the best mini MPV on the market, but because of its lack of a diesel, the opposition is closing fast. When it finally does come up with a diesel, if Honda doesn’t offer and automatic version, I might have to change my rating.
Neil Winton September 20, 2006
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