The Renault Modus: Trusty Stalwart Or Disaster-Prone Disappointment?

Renault has for a long time been impressing us with their MPVs. In fact, it was Renault that introduced us to the category. Since then, the market has expanded somewhat. And Renault has found itself competing in all sorts of segments that didn’t exist before. One such segment was the mini-MPV category. This got going in the late 1990s, thanks to French rival Citroen. And since then it has been going strong. In 2004, Renault responded with the Modus mini. And the car proved to be an instant hit.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was how well-reviewed the engine and then drive were. Here was a car that was new to its class, and yet, for the time, did an excellent job of bringing the whole package together. The car came equipped with a relatively impressive 1.5 dCi diesel when it was first released. And, incredibly, it was able to achieve 62.8 mpg. Immediately, it was seen as the go-to option for families on a budget. And it quickly became ubiquitous on streets throughout Europe.

It was also around this time that Renault began to change its image. No longer was the company seen as one that made unreliable cars. Instead, it was gaining a reputation for quality. After all, the larger Espace had proven to be a huge hit. And the Clio? You couldn’t find a street in France where one of these was not parked. The diesel version of the car could go 18,000 miles between services, which was impressive. And Renault also started offering people decent service charge rates for Renault Modus parts. Both of these were necessary changes, given the strong competition from Toyota and Nissan.

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With that said, some Modus models still weren’t up to the standards we would expect today. If you opted for the Dynamique trim, you were in for a treat. But if you went for anything else, you’d regret it. The finish quality just wasn’t there, especially compared to Renault’s recent models. And after only a few years of use, most cabins looked as if they had seen better days. And herein is found the problem for Renault. It’s competitors were making cars for the budget-minded person with far better finishes. Just look at what Audi achieved with the interior of the Audi A1. And, perhaps more important, many owners experienced engine problems.

What’s more, it’s not clear whether the Modus represented good value for customers. It was based on the Clio, of course. But it had a much higher price tag. Yet it isn’t clear exactly where all that additional price is going. Sure, it’s a bit bigger than the Clio. But customers should have been given more than some extra boot space. Having said that, one of Renault’s major competitors, Nissan, had an even more expensive mini-MPV – the Note.

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The Modus hasn’t made a return to our streets, unlike the Espace. And it’s unlikely that it will do now. Renault has put a lot of money into cars that serve the now well-established SUV market, like the Kadjar and Captur. So it’s unlikely we’ll see a return of the Modus anytime soon.

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