French brand Renault does not have a strong presence over here in the Middle East, but the marque believes all that is about to change. Underpinned by its new shared chassis architecture called Common Module Family (CMF) C/D is a fresh flotilla of models that is expanding Renault’s product offering, and one of the company’s key conquest areas in our region is the D-segment.

Two vehicles are coming in this class, one of which is the Koleos SUV that shares a lot with the Nissan X-Trail; sounds good. For now, let’s look at Renault’s large four-door saloon, the Talisman. Along with the Koleos, Renault hopes the Talisman will drive it forward to achieve its singular goal: to become the bestselling brand in the D-segment in the Middle East.

A bold mission statement, then, from the French outfit, but does the Talisman convince in a market sector where it goes into battle against the Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, Kia Optima and Toyota Camry? Time to find out.

The front-wheel drive Talisman will be sold in PE, SE and LE specifications here, with a choice of two petrol drivetrains. There’s a 2.0-litre normally aspirated four-cylinder motor rated at 138bhp and 193Nm, which is coupled to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Or there’s a turbocharged 1.6-litre mill with 187bhp and a healthier 260Nm; it’s a derivation of the motor powering the latest Megane GT warm hatchback and the Clio Renault Sport hot hatch, although it’s slightly detuned from its 197bhp specification for the French-market Talisman. Nevertheless, power for the UAE’s forced induction motor is fed through a sophisticated seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

PE buyers will be given the 2.0; LE customers, the 1.6 turbo. It’s only on the mid-ranking SE Talisman where you can choose between the two, but we cannot conceive why you wouldn’t bag the smaller capacity lump. The weight difference might, bizarrely, be in favour of the 2.0 Talisman — 1,409kg plays 1,444kg for the 1.6 — but that sluggardly CVT and the NA’s dearth of torque means there’s a huge difference in 0-100kph times; the 1.6 is competitive in class at 7.7 seconds, but the 2.0-litre takes a 12.3-second age to crawl to the benchmark figure.

Luckily, the 1.6 is a willing little thing and not lost in the Talisman’s lengthy body. The engine doesn’t need to rev very high to hit peak power at 6,000rpm and its 260Nm kicks in at just 2,000rpm to ensure it always feels brisk. The seven-speed dry-clutch gearbox is also far better and more responsive than the CVT, meaning it’s our preferred choice of motive power.

Along with the Koleos, Renault hopes the Talisman will drive it forward to achieve its singular goal: to become the bestselling brand in the D-segment in the Middle East.

The rest of the Talisman experience focuses on luxury ahead of any particular dynamic brilliance. Keen drivers will find the electrically assisted steering too light and lacking feedback, while there’s little in the way of cornering throttle adjustability with the Talisman.

Having said all that, the ride is excellent, suppression of noise is really good and when you’re not thrashing the living daylights out of the 1.6 Talisman, it’s a muted and refined companion.

The Talisman has a bestin-class wheelbase of 2,808mm, concomitantly leading to best-in-class rear knee-room of 262mm.

Where it most stands out is in the looks department. Its front end is dominated by the C-shaped LED daytime running lights, which are Renault’s design boss Laurens van den Acker’s signature, and they give it real presence — but bear in mind that PE Talismans don’t get this feature. However, its low roofline, long body and the rump defined by light clusters, which almost meet in the middle, give it a strong identity. The Talisman has a best-in-class wheelbase of 2,808mm, concomitantly leading to best-in-class rear knee-room of 262mm. There’s also generous headroom (902mm) and shoulder-room (750mm) in the front, while there’s a 608-litre boot sitting at the rear of the car.

Indeed, talking of the interior, the cockpit finishing of the Talisman displays all the improved qualities of recent Renaults, although there are still one or two scratchy, cheap-feeling plastics lower on the dash. Once again, there are spec-dependent features here — the 7.0in TFT instrument cluster and the 8.7in portrait-aspect R-Link 2 infotainment screen in the dash — that only appear on higher models. But overall, it’s an attractive, roomy interior and that R-Link 2 system works superbly well.

Which is where we come to the crux of the matter. Renault is not yet revealing the Middle East price of the Talisman, keeping that under wraps until the September on-sale date. Reckon on it being in the thick of the action with the rivals listed earlier in this piece — so hopefully anywhere between the Dh66,900 starting ticket of the Kia and the Toyota’s Dh83,900 — but it will need to be well-specified and aggressively priced to tempt buyers out of its Asian rivals. Renault also mentions a five-year warranty for all Talismans — with cars for this region being built in the Busan plant in South Korea, rather than Renault’s Douai facility in its homeland. Value for money will therefore be the key to whether Renault really can dominate the D-segment in years to come, because the Talisman is quietly proficient without being really remarkable in any way, save for its sharp-suited exterior.