As estate cars go — and regular readers will know that I like the format — the current version of the Renault Megane Sport Tourer is one of the more beautiful on the mass market, writes Brian Byrne. A fact of which I was reminded when I collected one a couple of weeks ago. It was a model which I have reviewed in the past, but there was good reason to go again.
I’ll stay with the style for the moment. Renault has very much bedded down its brand ‘face’ in recent years, and there’s no way of mistaking this one with its large ‘lozenge’ logo centrepiece in swept to the sides grille and lights ensemble. The profile view is where the Sport Tourer shines. An estate that is well executed is as elegant as it is practical, and the this Megane oozes it in spades. There’s often a sweet spot in a car’s styling that catches my attention, and it this case it is how the detailing in the C pillar at the back is done. A pearl in the overall beauty of the car.
Inside the Megane is familiar, but still fresh in feel. The overall sense is high quality, something that the brand made conscious decision to reach for around a decade ago. I’ve never subscribed to the complaint that plastic as a material is inherently inferior — there are very good, good, and poor plastics, and in the case of Renault usage it is very definitely that first. The dashboard and trims are well styled, well fitted to close tolerances. The detailing is enough to add glitz without going tacky. The vertical form of the centre screen is a good use of space, but more importantly is used effectively in the graphics interface design. Full marks too for using real buttons and knobs for climate control. The main instruments use digital tech well too, being bright, clear and uncluttered.
It goes almost without saying that the seats are comfortable, because that has been a Renault thing since way back in the 1960s when other aspects of their cars then were, well, often problematical. Since this generation Megane came along five years ago, the model has been distinctive for its passenger space in the rear. Leg-room is excellent, and the estate variant offers a bonus of more airy headroom there too. For luggage and whatever else needs to be brought along, there’s a pretty good capacity even without down-putting the back seats. And when you want to do that, it can be done by simply pressing a couple of buttons from inside the tailgate area.
One of the reasons the Megane Sport Tourer is back in the review lists is the plug-in hybrid powertrain, dubbed e-Tech, in the review car. With technology learned in the brand's F1 experience, the standard hybrid version operates in electric mode from start and for much of the time depending on conditions. With this plug-in version, up to 56km of electric-only range is possible. There are different modes available, including a 'save' function which keeps a minimum of 40pc electric charge that can then be used when the driver reaches an urban area where the car can be used with highest efficiency. Of course, the hybrid also brings automatic transmissions, another bonus.
The whole combination of 1.6 petrol with electric drive is seamless and smooth. A really nice car to drive. When using it in standard hybrid mode, without the plug-in element, it returned 5.8L/km on one long run, which for the size of the car is a good result.
The Iconic grade review car comes very highly specified, including navigation, usual connectivity, and driving assistance that included lane departure warning ... but thankfully without the 'lane assist' nudging that I personally find annoying. It's a car I'd certainly consider for myself if I was back in the stage of needing a good practical family car with style and economy.
PRICE: From €25,690; review car with extras including parking pack, premium sound system, and paint choice, €31,865.