Pity the poor Modus. It came along because Renault, having invented the original MPV with the Espace, and then re-invented it with the more compact Scenic, thought that it could hit a hat trick and invent another new niche – the compact MPV. That was how the Modus was pitched – a hugely innovative, ultra-compact people carrier. What it actually turned out to be was a Clio with a loft conversion and some back seats that slide around a bit. Buyers were underwhelmed and the subsequent sales slump put Renault off innovation for quite some time.
Which is all a bit unfair, as the Modus is a pretty blameless car. No, it’s nowhere near as exciting and genre-busting as Renault proclaimed it to be, but it’s comfy, spacious, quiet and useful family transport. Just don’t go expecting any excitement.
There’s the regular Modus and the Grand Modus, which was introduced in 2008 and had a 100mm longer wheelbase for extra rear legroom. That rear legroom was always adjustable anyway. The rear seats could slide back and forth, depending on whether you needed more space for people or parcels, and the centre of the rear seat flipped down to allow for club-class elbow room in the back. It was actually quite a nice car to travel in the back of…
If that sounds like faint praise, well it is, but actually the Modus wasn’t bad to drive. It loped along pleasantly enough with a very comfy ride quality and a sense of refinement. The front seats were always very comfortable too. A 1.4-litre petrol and 1.5 diesel were available but most were sold with the 1.2-litre petrol engine, so don’t expect scintillating performance.
Renault was going through a bit of a reliability slump when it made the Modus, but the model seems to have escaped relatively unscathed. The suspension, especially at the front, can be fragile, so get the bushes and mounts checked. Electric bits give bother, especially the electric windows. Warning lights can be on and off at random and the fuel filler cap has a habit of jamming shut. The optional automatic gearbox is also best avoided – it has a habit of needing rebuilds.
Shop around for a low mileage 2009-2010 Modus 1.2 with good history and you should pick it up for about €5,500. Cheap for all the space on offer.
Renault Modus 1.2 Expression
Engine: 1,149cc four-cylinder petrol
Maximum speed: 160km/h
0-100km/h: 13.5 seconds
Fuel consumption: 6.0 litres/100km
Euro NCAP: *****
• Lots of legroom
• Versatile back seats
• Refined and comfy
• Lots of electrical gremlins
• Lack of excitement or innovation
• 1.2-litre engine is pretty slow
It’s no hot hatch, but then it’s not supposed to be. Actually, the Modus is a hugely pleasant car to drive – bright and airy inside, gentle and refined on the road and pretty affordable to run.