THE arrival of the new Laguna Coupe to Britain in January could prove to be more than just an important launch for Renault.

It could also provide a valuable insight into just how the executive sector is responding to the economic downturn and the cost of buying, and running, a luxury coupe.

Because, vitally, the Laguna Coupe is massively cheaper than the top-seller in this particular car segment, the BMW 3-Series Coupe, and its success will show just how much inward belt-pulling is going on out there.

If it takes off and quickly goes to the top of the two-door, four-seater coupe pile, it will provide the best barometer yet of how buying habits are faring in the middle-class motors market.

Renault’s entry-level petrol version, the Laguna Coupe 2.0 Turbo 205, undercuts the equivalent BMW 325i SE Coupe by a whopping £6,805, yet the Laguna has £1,000 more equipment.

That’s a serious saving, plus more to be shaved off the cost of insuring the Renault, which will sell for between £20,995 and £27,995 depending upon model.

Yet standards remain very high with the stunning new French offering, so it will also stand close comparison with its German rival. Renault is putting out seven versions across two trim levels, Coupe and Coupe GT, and cabin and equipment standards are high – as befits the flagship of the Laguna range.

All versions get a quality audio system with MP3 CD reader, eight airbags, automatic lights and wipers, dual-zone climate control, rear parking sensors and xenon headlights.

The GT specification adds a 4Control chassis, an automatic parking brake, heated folding-door mirrors, leather upholstery and a hands-free entry/ignition keycard. There are two petrol and two diesel engines at launch, including a new 2.0-litre diesel and a 3.5-litre V6 petrol.

A 3.0-litre V6 diesel will join the Laguna Coupe range in late spring.

Renault showrooms will have their UK order books open by now, and atop the generous kit lists with the Coupe and GT variants comes an array of options, ranging from a ten-speaker BOSE sound system (£700) to full-colour 3D satnav/audio upgrade (£2,200) and even a tyre pressure monitor (£250).The aforementioned 4Control chassis is an important part of the Laguna Coupe’s on-road armoury, and brings many benefits.

It improves manoeuvrability, sharpens responses and steering precision, and gives the driver – with little input needed – excellent control over the cornering line.

Developed jointly by Renault engineering and specialists from Renault Sport Technologies, it also makes the car easy to drive on both town and country roads, and the car corners with very little body roll.

What will draw fleet buyers in particular is the Laguna Coupe’s uncluttered lines, racy look, long bonnet and slim headlamps.

It certainly drew the crowds when it was first unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival in France back in May – and should easily pull in canny British buyers when it appears here at the start of the New Year.