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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For Cheap, roomy, with impressive kit, including many safety features

Against It's poor to drive compared with its rivals, and some of its ergonomics could be better

Verdict It's a quirky, well specified French executive car with plenty to recommend it

Go for… 2.2-litre diesel

Avoid… Both V6s

Renault Vel Satis Hatchback
  • 1. There’s good room for three in the back, although headroom is a little tight
  • 2. The interior is let down by the layout of the controls, and by irritatingly small audio buttons
  • 3. There are three trim levels, but go for Privilege if you can find one
  • 4. The boot is large, and you can fold down the rear seats for even more space
  • 5. Go for the 2.2-litre diesel - it's the most common and most fuel-efficient engine in the range
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Renault Vel Satis Hatchback full review with expert trade views

Following in the long and proud tradition of large French saloons that nobody in Britain buys new, here’s another. The Vel Satis is a five-door executive car with lots of standard kit and Renault’s reputation for excellent safety.

The Vel Satis is a great motorway cruiser with impressively little wind and engine noise at the national limit. However, it’s not so great if you attack the corners, and on uneven surfaces the soft, generally smooth ride gets choppy.

It’s very comfortable behind the wheel: thanks to firm seats wuith plenty of adjustment, the Vel Satis provides an ache-free drive. However, the interior is let down by the layout of the controls, and by irritatingly small audio buttons.

Space is another of the car’s strong points. There’s good room for three in the back, although headroom is a little tight, and a large hatchback boot allows luggage to extend into the cabin if required.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Only the 2.2 dCi Privilege has any chance on the forecourt

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The petrol line-up consists of the 165bhp 2.0-litre and the 245bhp 3.5-litre V6, while diesel choices are the 150bhp 2.2-litre or the 180bhp 3.0-litre V6.

Launched on an 02 plate, all cars come with the usual executive features, including climate control and alloy wheels. There’s also ESP, anti-lock brakes, twin front and side airbags, plus a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating.

Our pick is the 2.2-litre diesel. It has just enough under the bonnet to gain speed smoothly, but there’s no trace of the torque steer that affects the more powerful models. It was the UK best seller in the three years the Vel Satis was available to buy new, which means there’s more chance finding one second-hand, and it’s got the best fuel economy.

Trim levels are Expression, Privilege and Initiale, although the latter was only available on the V6s. Go for Privilege if you can find one.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Only the 2.2 dCi Privilege has any chance on the forecourt

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The Vel Satis is extremely cheap to buy. So few were sold new in the UK – just 1400 in three years – that there’s little reliable information for dealers to base a valuation on. They’ll just want to shift them, and that means bargains for used buyers. Get a decent price for a good example, and it should be a lot of car for the money.

Insurance ratings range from groups 13 through to 16, which is about average for the executive sector. Meanwhile, fuel economy goes from the poor (24.6mpg for the 3.5 V6 petrol) to the very acceptable (our favourite, the 2.2 diesel, returns 39.8mpg).

Parts could be a problem, although more in terms of delay than cost. The car is still on sale in Europe, but it’s likely that UK dealers won’t have many parts in stock, and what you need may have to be imported specially.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Only the 2.2 dCi Privilege has any chance on the forecourt

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Reliability data on the Vel Satis is hard to come by for the same reason that it's hard to set its residual values – not enough were sold in the first place – but it’s worth noting that Renault rarely does very well in customer satisfaction surveys.

There haven’t been any Vel Satis recalls, and we've heard nothing from owners about major glitches or faults.

Many cars were leased out to fleet users, so beware of purchasing a high-miler where the service schedule has not been kept to religiously.

Make sure someone locally – be it a main dealer or independent garage – can service the car properly for you. So few were sold that it’s possible not every franchised workshop will still be geared up to give them the regular maintenance they will need.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Only the 2.2 dCi Privilege has any chance on the forecourt

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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