The truth about my life

Sat, 13 Nov 2010

I was a very happy owner of a Renault Megane, but after putting about 135,000 kilometers and some recent problems (a diesel injector, front right axle, alternator belt) I paid about 10% of its value to fix, I decided it's time for a change.

Now, I had a budget of up to about 60,000 Turkish Liras (€30,000). I looked at many cars and I've built a spreadsheet of feature comparison like any engineer would do. My primary criteria:

  • 2.0L or smaller diesel engine with an average fuel consumption of 7L/100km or less
  • A boot of at least 400dm3 in volume
  • Cruise control
  • All electric windows
  • Large and comfortable interior
  • Extremely comfortable seats
  • ESP

I don't care about exterior design; all that matters is what I interact with daily. What I'd love to have is:

  • Xenon headlights
  • Electrochromatic (auto-darkening) rear view mirror or a curtain on the rear window
  • Parking sensor
  • Automatic transmission
  • Electric hybrid (there was none available)

I tested these cars:

  • Opel Insignia 1.6 180hp stickshift Edition Elegance (a total disappointment)
  • Citroen C5 1.6 HDI SX PK (great comfy car, weird steering wheel, very complex dashboard and controls, beautiful transmission)
  • Peugeot 407 (kinda old but very nice overall, falls short on fuel consumption and replaced by ugly 508)
  • Ford Mondeo Titanium 2.0 TDCI (very good handling and suspension, feels huge but not really comfy seats)
  • Renault Laguna (I'll get back to it)

And I looked at many other cars including BMW 520d, Honda Accord, VW Passat, Skoda Superb, Audi A6, Seat Exeo, Volvo S60. Some of these were obviously beyond my budget, some failed my primary criteria.

A few friends suggested SUV models but I really don't want an inefficient gas guzzler so SUVs are out. Cross-overs like Nissan Qashqai, Audi Q5, Ford Kuga and BMW X1 are out too. I'm too humble to overlook other people.

I wanted to test drive a Renault Laguna. I did what you'd do and walked into a Renault dealer but they didn't have one because it was going to be replaced with Latitude model in next few months. After paying visits to many other dealers and receiving disappointing customer experience I decided to pull an emergency lever. I like Renault but as a prospective customer I didn’t like how they treated me, and I thought, maybe they don’t know about the problem. Imagine this: you walk into a dealer but nobody notices you, the car you probably will buy is on the website but no dealer has it, you leave your contact details to many dealers but they never call back, nobody knows when the successor Latitude will be available or what it will be like, showrooms and cars are not really clean, cars in showrooms are underequipped etc.

I called out to my friend Cem Batu from Proximity Istanbul and he got me in touch with Renault Turkey and I told them the story and they apologized for the inconvenience and something amazing happened: they got me a fairly equipped 2008 Laguna 1.5 dCi 110hp Dynamique stickshift for a weekend ride, which I enjoyed a lot. They also provided a Megane Sport-Tourer for a day just to cure my curiosity, but I was so upset with it I turned it back after a 10 minute ride and ran away with a cab. Bear with me for the bribery, but just to validate they took my criticism seriously I paid a couple more visits to dealers nearby and all I can say is that Renault has improved the overall experience significantly, they’re still far from perfect but better than many others.

While we're on customer experience, I have to explicitly mention the one Citroen creates. I was test driving a Citroen C5 10 minutes after I walked in the dealer, and I was very impressed with their informative and welcoming sales process. I could have bought one right away.

I’ll also mention Ford’s. It was terrible. Their Turkey website is downright ugly and useless. Their dealer showrooms are designed to sell crops not cars -- just plain dirty. Their salespeople are undertrained. Their pricing figures and feature packages are sad. Their financing options are good and that’s the only good thing about Ford’s customer experience.

The problem with Laguna was its unavailability, and that's what turned me to shop around the second hand market. I called my good friend Selçuk Bertan from Bimexcar and in just a week I was test driving the 2009 Laguna III 2.0 dCi Privilege I bought the day after. I either buy stuff from people I know or I get to know with people I buy stuff from. It was top of the line with every optional feature but satellite navigation (even my cell phone has it). I did some 5000km with it already and I'm very, very happy with these:

  • The 150hp M9R engine puts out a torque of 340Nm/sec, takes the 1620kg me excluded giant to 100km/h in just 9.3 seconds and adds more oomph than enough to my daily commute. It's also fitted with a DPF.
  • The 6-speed AJ0 automatic transmission is a smooth operator. It does exactly what I'd do if I was to shift it up or down, but it's quicker than me and gear changes are barely noticeable.
  • Fuel consumption is, well, let's just say it's slightly better than the class average. With very careful driving I was able to get as good as 6.8lt/100km, but as I said to many of my friends, if you feed a lion you don’t worry about its food. I suspect it can be improved with a software change though.
  • Handling (and also braking) is excellent, but for the educated driver who loves digging for details, Ford Mondeo is a tiny bit better in this area. The difference between Megane and Laguna is huge though.
  • I can talk all day long about how comfortable all electric adjusted heated beige leather seats are. You sit "in"to seats unlike "on"to them like you do in a Volkswagen or a Ford. Seats are the most welcoming component of Laguna's interior.
  • Keyless-go is by far the most useful feature. The keycard is in my wallet in my pocket, I walk in and it unlocks magically and I just push the start button to go -- without inserting any key. I stop the engine and walk out and it locks itself and folds up side mirrors. The relationship between the car and me was always hi and good-bye so far.
  • Automatic bi-xenon headlights adapt beams to vehicle speed and direction to provide light at the point where my eyes are focused on the road. It's very natural.
  • All glass electric roof and dual-zone climate control are nice to have.
  • The parking brake is fully automatic but in case you want to control it, there’s a tiny little on/off button located at the armrest where you’d expect an ugly stick to occupy.
  • The cabin is very quiet compared to other cars I tested even at speeds higher than 150km/h.

What I don’t like is:

  • Fuel consumption could be better. If 2011 BMW 520d can do it, Renault can do it too.
  • Curtains on dual window roof could be electric controlled too.
  • No front parking sensor: I added a little scratch on my first day, the nose is huge! No proximity display for parking sensor. Apparently this is fixed on Latitude.
  • Warranty period is just 2 years/100,000km. For comparison, Honda is 6 years/150,000km.
  • Service intervals could be more stretch; Laguna wants to be serviced every 15,000km in Turkey. I’ve sent an e-mail to Renault about this and I’ll keep you posted.
  • White Power-LEDs could be used for low-dipped lights, instead of yellow old little bulbs.
  • It doesn’t drive itself. As Eric Schmidt of Google says, it’s a bug that cars were invented before computers.

Any questions about my tests or perceptions about other cars and Laguna, you know where to get me and you’re free to prove me wrong :-)

Fri, 12 Nov 2010

Davut and me in Gölcük, Bolu

I’m very sad to write this, Davut passed away on Friday evening last week and lost the battle against the stomach cancer he was diagnosed with more than 3 years ago.

I received the news on Saturday morning and I was fortunate enought to attend the funeral in Manisa after a 5 hour drive. His family was devastated as you might expect.

I felt what’s going to happen in late August when he was transported to Istanbul with an ambulance from Manisa because his intestines stopped functioning. I told him to take a plane next time and abusing ambulances to avoid horrible Istanbul traffic is unethical when I visited him at the hospital. He looked like he’s going to pull it off.

Davut left detailed information about his last few years on his blog. He even wrote a book that will be printed soon. Both the blog and the book is in Turkish and a few volunteers with golden hearts are working on an English translation. He worked very hard. He was always like that.

Friends say that he suffered badly in the last week and was on a very high morphine dose.

There was a lot of grief and love in social networks and groups he was active in, but what gave me chills was his last tweet, asking me where I am. He was loved by many thousands of people.

He will be missed.

About me

I'm Enver ALTIN. I'm from the other side of the river.

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