First Renault defined the C (lower medium) segment MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) with the Mégane Scénic. Now, despite shying away from calling it an MPV, it has launched the Modus, a tall B (super-mini) segment car.

Having being unveiled at the Paris Motor Show last September, the Modus is now available in Malta, thanks to local agents Auto Sales Ltd - Kind's of Lija.

Renault are calling it a "big-hearted little car", an alternative to classic hatches in the A and B segments, like the Twingo (that could never be accepted in Malta because so far it has been produced only in left-hand-drive) and the Clio.

My feeling, however, is that thanks to its roomy interior, seating four in full comfort or five at a squeeze (the rear seat can be adjusted both laterally and longitudinally, accordingly), it will also attract customers from the C segment and those wishing to downsize without wanting to feel cramped.

Do not be deceived by its size - the Modus is a highly sophisticated car with the very latest technology in every sense: design, specification, build and safety. So, this is understandably reflected in the price - the entry level 1.2-litre 16-valve petrol costs Lm7,290 and the 1.5-litre DCI diesel, Lm8,250.

Although it may look like a scaled down Scénic II, it does have a character of its own - notice the side indicators located handily below the door mirrors. With its centrally positioned, digital dashboard that can be viewed by all its occupants, the Modus makes for a convivial driving experience.

The large glass areas and an optional sunroof inspired by the Mégane II, ensure the Modus is light, airy and, thanks to its higher seating position, with good all-round visibility for both driver and passengers. Low noise plays an important part in driving pleasure. They were factored into engineering at an early stage, with the result that noise insulation is best in class. As well as its low fuel consumption (six litres/100 km in the combined cycle for the petrol and 4.7 litres/100 km for the diesel), Modus also boasts low external noise levels, with measured emissions of only 71 dBA (3 dBA lower than the current official requirement).

The Modus's suspension draws its inspiration from the Mégane II, itself a benchmark of comfort and efficiency. Both its comfort and road handling match best-in-class levels, Renault said. In terms of safety, the Modus has achieved five stars in the Euro NCAP test, obtaining 32.84 points out of a possible 37.

Passive safety includes numerous strengthened programmed-deformation zones and the restraint mechanisms of Renault's third-generation System for Restraint and Protection (SRP3).

The two engines are a 75 bhp (at 5,500 rpm) petrol with multi-point fuel injection and maximum torque (pulling power) of 105 Nm at 4,250 rpm; and a 65 bhp (at 4,000 rpm) diesel with common-rail direct injection and maximum torque of 160 Nm at 2,000 rpm.

Standard equipment includes the latest generation of anti-lock braking system (ABS - Bosch 8.0), incorporating new-generation ESP with understeer control and a tyre pressure monitoring system; a five-speed manual transmission; immobiliser; black upholstery; tinted glass; 60:40 split 'Triptic' rear seat; power steering; air-conditioning; radio-cassette with two speakers (four-speaker radio CD is standard on the higher EX model); electric front windows; driver, passenger and side airbags (curtain airbags are standard on the EX); and central locking with remote control.

While the entry level version comes with black upholstery, there is red upholstery on the EX, plus a host of options, including metallic paint and, on the EX only 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, double opening tailgate, climate control air-conditioning, cornering lights, a purposely designed bicycle rack and sunroof (electric or manual).

In terms of exterior dimensions, the Modus is 3,792 mm long (19 mm longer than the Clio), 1,695 mm wide, 1,589 mm high and has a 2,482 mm wheelbase.

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