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Renault 21 (1986 - 1995)

FRENCH FOR FAMILY CAR (some text hidden)

BY JONATHAN CROUCH

Introductionword count: 147

Way back before Nicole appeared on our TV screens, Renault were making family-sized cars that had an endearing amount of French character inside them, but not quite state-of-the-art technology powering them. The 21 range carried over the engines of its predecessor, the 20, and added other drivetrains from elsewhere in the Renault empire. It was on the market nine years and was replaced by the now very successful Laguna. People tend to dismiss the 21 as yesterday's technology with driving dynamics to match, but they're mostly wrong. In their day, these cars gave the market-leader Sierra a run for its money on the road and boasted huge amounts of interior room into the bargain. The seven-seater option on the Savanna estate also gave the 21 salesmen something no Sierra (or Cavalier) could match and these models are sought-after even today by buyers who prefer them to MPVs.

Modelsword count: 50

Models Covered: (ESTATE KNOWN AS SAVANNA) 1.7 saloon, hatchback (from September 1989), Savanna estate, 1.7, 2.0, 2.0 turbo, 2.0 turbo four-wheel-drive, 1.9 diesel, turbo diesel, 2.1 diesel, turbo diesel [TL, TS, Prima, RT, GTS, GTX, TXE, Ti, TXi, TXi Quadra, Turbo, Turbo Quadra, TD, GTD, RTD, RT TD, Turbo D]

Historyword count: 277

The 21 landed here in June 1986 as a four-door saloon with 1.7 and 2.0-litre engines. The Savanna followed in October, along with the diesels. By 1988, there was also a fast but thirsty turbo version. These cars lasted until Autumn 1989 and their updated replacements were far more convincing machines. The second-generation cars were noticeably more refined, better built and the styling, though somewhat less distinctive, was generally neater. When Renault gives a model its first facelift, they tend to rename the outgoing original version 'Phase I', and so it was with the 21. The models launched in September 1989 were the 'Phase II' cars and the 'Phase III' was the last version, released in May 1992. Phases II and III are the models to go for, unless price is all. The Phase II cars also brought with them a new five-door body (not offered in petrol turbo form) to finally replace the old Renault 20. It was a success and there are quite a few of these cars around in a variety of trim levels. There was even a four-wheel drive TXi Quadra hatchback in the range but it only lasted from October 1990 to May '91. The Phase III was not as dramatic an update as the earlier one but trim levels changed, equipment increased for most models and the appearance of all models benefited from detail improvements. The Laguna was released less than two years later in April 1994 and the 21 was quietly retired though the Savanna lived on in Phase IV form with minor changes until it too was replaced in 1995 by a car known simply as the Laguna Estate.

What You Getword count: 92

A family car that has somewhat unusual looks and lots of room. Many of the top-spec cars are now cheap second-hand so the 21 is also a bit of a bargain. Bear in mind that the company was developing the Laguna during the last years of 21 production and you'll understand why build and trim quality, as well as reliability, improved markedly towards the end of the 21's career. If your budget can be stretched, go for the latest car that catches your eye. Chances are, it'll be by far the best.

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Pictures (high res disabled)

Scoring (subset of scores)

Category: Spacious Family Cars

Performance
40%
Handling
40%
Comfort
40%
Space
60%
Styling, Build, Value, Equipment, Depreciation, Handling, Insurance and Total scores are available with our full data feed.

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