What is it? Fourth generation of Renault’s signature family hatch.
Key features: All-new styling, interior upgrade, new direction dash layout.
Our View: The new Renault Megane is a big step forward, boasting the right mix of style and technology to pitch the French make right back into family hatch contention.
Type of review: First UK drive
That distinctive second-generation Megane made way for a more conservative version in 2009, and in total the first three generations of the car have found 540,000 UK buyers. But when a floundering Renault announced a major reinvention of itself in 2012, culling several well-known models including the Laguna and Espace and promising a completely new range, we knew the next Renault Megane would be something different. It’s taken four years, but the car has lived up to the billing.
Arriving on UK roads from July, the new Megane instantly draws attention. The body is longer by 6cmm, its roof an inch lower than its predecessor. It might be the same width, but the front wheels sit some 5cm wider apart, the rears 4cm, on a wheelbase extended by 3cm.
All this comes courtesy of the bang up-to-date CLF platform of the Renault-Nissan alliance – architecture that will be under 70% of the two brand’s products by 2020. It already underpins the recently-launched Kadjar SUV, the soon-to-launch Scenic MPV, and the Talisman from the next class up, a car that has donated quite a bit else to the new Megane.
Notable among these gifts are the visuals – the new Renault Megane is far bolder than its predecessor, with edgy styling, sharp creases and a highly purposeful front end, dominated by a perhaps slightly too in-your-face big diamond logo and the distinctive LED edge lighting, fitted both front and rear.
Slip inside and the lower proportions are not particularly noticeable, but a feeling of space and particularly quality is. The fit and finish is another element donated by the Talisman, as Renault tries very hard to move its appeal upmarket.
It’s the dash, however, that most will notice, so long as they choose the third of five trim levels, Dynamique S Nav, or raid the options list. From these models upwards, the typical seven-inch centre console touchscreen makes way for an 8.2in unit, rotated 90 degrees to a portrait format.
This screen looks as if it has come straight out of the Volvo XC90, though Renault personnel on the launch event preferred to name-check the Tesla supercar. Turned off it looks a bit of an unattractive slab dominating the console, but turn it on and it becomes a very user-friendly unit that is both easier to operate and much easier to read the information from.
Initially the new Megane is going on sale with a four-strong engine choice. By far the biggest seller is expected to be the 1.5-litre dCi 110 diesel unit of 110hp, with its plus-70mpg fuel economy and sub-100g/km CO2 emissions. This is also expected to revive Renault’s fortunes amongst fleet buyers who have had no interest in the brand in recent times.
There’s also a more powerful diesel, a 1.6-litre 130hp unit which will only be offered to those who choose the top, RenaultSport inspired, GT Line trim level. Petrol fans, meanwhile will have the choice of a 1.2-litre unit of 130hp, or the range-topping 1.6-litre with 205 horses on tap and again only available to GT buyers.
The Car Expert tried both the dCi 110 and the sporty GT Nav 205 variant. The diesel is familiar territory – it is already in the Megane’s sister crossover the Kadjar, so it is of little surprise to be served up refined progress, the unit virtually silent while negotiating the busy towns of the Yorkshire test route and accelerating smoothly once out on the open road.
The 205, meanwhile, is quicker – 62mph comes up in 7.2 seconds compared to the 11.3 of the dCi 110. But it doesn’t really feel as quick as a car that has had the RenaultSport brush waved over it should do. And it also comes only with an EDC auto gearbox, albeit with a manual shift option, accomplished through some of the longest steering wheel paddles this reviewer has yet seen. One feels this is a car in waiting for a no-doubt forthcoming proper RS model.
On the road, the Megane is accomplished and will fulfil everything most buyers require. Its chassis is very well set up, smothering bumps and undulations with confidence.
The steering is very light, which is great for in-town manoeuvres, but becomes devoid of feel, particularly if one has driven the likes of prime rival the Ford Focus. Renault’s Multi-Sense system, standard from Dynamique Nav models upwards, allows changes in the steering amongst its many personalisation options, but dialling it up produces an improvement rather than a solution.
Notably, the GT models come fitted with 4Control, which adds a degree of steering to the rear wheels – well it does above 37mph, or 50mph in sport mode. Below these speeds its input is up to 2.7 degrees, providing extra stability in the twisty bits.
As with virtually all today’s releases technology occupies a large number of the Megane headlines. Renault’s R-Link tablet control accesses much of the tech and in particular driver assistance systems that can include adaptive cruise control, blind spot and lane departure warnings and a host of other aids so recently the preserve of the premium segment.
Renault states that the dCi 110 in Dynamique Nav trim will be the best seller, and for prices starting from £19,400 this model will include as standard much of the driver aids grouped together as the Visio safety system, parking sensors, auto high/low beam headlamps, dual zone climate control, the Multi-Sense system and quite a lot more. We’d be sorely tempted, however, to pay an extra £1,000 for Dynamique Nav S trim, because while this adds smarter alloys and a rear parking camera, it also provides that so much better vertical touchscreen.
Overall, the new Renault Megane is a big step forward, boasting the right mix of style and technology to pitch the French make right back into family hatch contention.
Renault Megane – key specifications
Models tested: Renault Megane Dynamique S dCi110, GT Line 205 Auto EDC
On sale: July 2016
Range price: £16,600-£25,500
Insurance groups: 14E-27E
Engines: Petrol 1.2, 1.6. Diesel 1.5, 1.6
Power (bhp) / Torque (lb/ft):129/151, 202/207. 109/193, 128/236.
0-62mph (sec) / Top speed (mph): 10.6/122, 7.1/143. 11.3/116, 10.0/123.
Fuel economy (comb mpg) / CO2 (g/km): 52.3/120, 47.1/134. 76.4/96, 70.6/104.
Keyrivals: Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 308
Test Date: July 2016.
* All figures with manual gearbox where available