4 October 2016

Review: Renault Megane

When the latest iteration of the Renault Megane was launched here last June, I was certainly impressed, writes Brian Byrne. Though I had seen it at its motor show debut, there's nothing like experiencing a new car where it's supposed to be. On the road.

So I'll admit straight up that I was looking forward to spending a little more than launch time with a car that could be a gamechanger for Renault in the most important compact family segment.

I wasn't disappointed. If you like, you can stop reading now and head straight down to your local dealer if you're currently in this market space. You won't be disappointed either.

But if you're staying with me, well let's look in more detail.

The car certainly has a presence, much more so than any of the earlier generations of Megane. Presence is hard enough to define in automotive terms, but let's say it looks more than might be expected in the segment. Some might feel the front details to be a little overdone, but to my aesthetic sense it looks nicely strong without trying to dominate.

In profile, the new Megane has been cleverly styled. Sometimes it can be tricky to get proportions right in a car from the side, but there's a sense of having hit a 'golden mean' at some level here. Long wheelbase, short overhangs, especially at the back. The lower doors sculpting that carries the car's familial identity from other recent models in the brand's range. A hint of haunch at the rear suggesting ready to rock power. And an unusual line in the rear window spoiler that does anything but spoil the shape.

Yep, it's an overall good looker. And overall looks strong.

That sense of strength is continued inside in an interesting dashboard treatment that creates a place where an owner will be happy for quite a long time. The driving position is good, very good. The tactiles are excellent thanks to good choices in trim materials. And in the GT Line grade of the review car there are nice blue touches here and there which make it feel special.

I think I mentioned the instrumentation at the launch event, simplicity with a touch of attitude perhaps. I reckon it's my favourite layout and implementation of essential information readout of any car I've driven in the last year. The traditional knobs for radio volume and heating/aircon are also welcome, especially since there could have been temptation to incorporate them in the large touchscreen.

The long wheelbase gives decent rear passenger room and since the car is wider than its predecessor it gives them good shoulder room too.

This is the first Megane to share the new platform underpinning the carmaker's Kadjar SUV, and driving it on a good mix of road surfaces and twists as well as motorway gave me very secure feeling about the car's ride and handling capability. Plenty of comfort but nothing soft is the short line on it.

The available engines are 1.5 and 1.6 diesels, the former with 110hp powered the review car and proved, perhaps surprisingly, quite peppy. The 1.6 dCi pumps 130hp, as does a 1.2 turbocharged petrol which powers the entry level car … and that's one I'm hoping to get a spin in soon. A GT variant with 205hp is powered by a turbo 1.6 and has 4-wheel steering.

The starting price is €19,490. My GT Line review car is available from €25,990. The full-blown GT is €30,690.