The Renault Megane has been competing against cars such as the Vauxhall Astra and other similar sized hatchbacks since 1995. Now in its fourth generation, it faces stiff competition from hatchbacks and crossovers alike. Jonathan Crouch drives one.
Every new version of the Renault Megane seems to change significantly from the last. The fourth generation is no different. Much greater interior quality is promised along with technologies not seen before in this segment. Is it enough to topple the Focus and Astra though?
Ordinary family cars can no longer be ordinary. People want polish these days, a smarter feel and hi-tech features that make them feel pampered and premium. Which means that in the Focus-sized family hatchback segment, they may well find themselves looking at cars like this one, Renault's latest fourth generation Megane. This more sophisticated design now has a more mature look to match seriously grown up technologies under the skin. Luxury car touches such as a massaging drivers' seat and full colour head up display merge with sub-90g/km CO2 emissions to make for a very interesting package. Keen drivers may be even more interested to hear that a warm GT variant with over 200PS and four wheel steering will be available from launch too. With the French maker's position as one of Europe's biggest car makers severely under threat and a slimmed-down range of conventional models forced upon dealers by this brand's commitment to electric power, it's hard to over-state the importance of this car if you happen to run a showroom with the yellow-backed silver diamond above the door.
As with the vast majority of cars such as this, a big part of the driving experience will depend on the engine you've plumped for. From launch, there are two TCe turbocharged petrol options with capacities and power outputs of 1.2 litres/130hp (manual and EDC auto) and 1.6 litres/205hp (GT). The turbodiesel alternatives are the usual 1.5-litre dCi 110hp and 1.6-litre dCi 130hp units. Plus there's a twin-turbo 1.6 dCi 165bhp variant. The top petrol and diesel derivatives feature 4-wheel steering. While the GT's ride and handling benefit from the Formula 1 experience of Renaultsport engineers, all versions of this Megane promise to be precise and responsive while still being supple and comfortable thanks to extensive work on the suspension dampers, bump stops and bushes as well as the steering. Refinement is also significantly better thanks to a stiffer body shell, thicker window glass, improved door seals and greater use of foam and felt in areas where road, wind or powertrain noise could be transmitted into the cabin. A more individual driving experience is offered by Multi-Sense technology, which allows drivers to personalise the accelerator pedal and engine response, engine sound, steering weight and interior lighting ambience through a choice of five colours, plus - where fitted - the speed of the gear changes through the Efficient Dual Clutch (EDC) auto gearbox.
The fourth generation Megane is longer, lower and wider than its predecessor to give a more assured stance on the road. Helping give the impression of width are pronounced wheelarches similar to those on a Clio and striking light graphics front and rear. These scribe a 'C' shape up front, with the rear lights barely separated by the centrally mounted Renault badge. This echoes the large diamond logo up front with a typically large grille surrounding it. GT models ramp up the aggression further with specific alloy wheels, a more aggressive front bumper and twin tailpipes out back. Step inside and you'll find a step up in quality compared to the old car, with a distinctly Germanic feel to the ambiance. Higher end versions get a smattering of chrome trim, along with Nappa leather trimmings to help lift things further. While a 7" touchscreen infotainment system in the traditional landscape format is fitted to most models, plusher trims receive something a little different. Aping the Tesla Model S, Renault offer an 8.7" touchscreen in a portrait orientation. Boot capacity is an impressive 434-litres, significantly more than the class average. If you want more, there's a more versatile Sport Tourer estate bodystyle available with a 580-litre boot capacity and the longest loading length in the class.
Megane buyers get the choice of a five-door hatch or the Sport Tourer estate bodystyle. Prices range in the £16,500 to £25,500 bracket and trim levels range from 'Expression+', through 'Dynamique Nav' and 'Dynamique S Nav' to 'Signature Nav', 'GT-Line Nav' and 'GT Nav'. Across all these levels, to compete in the Focus family hatch segment, this car will need to be very well equipped - and is. All models get Bluetooth connectivity, an automatic electronic parking brake, LED daytime running lamps, tinted windows, a 7-inch TFT instrument panel with digital speedometer, all-round electric windows, a leather steering wheel and a DAB radio with fingertip controls and an AUX input. Higher specification models benefit from such niceties as full LED lights front and rear, TFT instrument display, a driver's seat with massage function and a nine speaker BOSE stereo with an amp and subwoofer. Safety is covered by a range of available technologies on top of the usual electronic aids. These include autonomous braking for emergency scenarios, adaptive cruise control that can increase and decrease the speed of the car in traffic plus warnings for speed limits, braking distances and lane departure. Those that struggle to park will appreciate the front, rear and side parking sensors and the hands-free parking ability of higher end models.
Economy and emissions figures look promising. The 1.2 Tce 130 petrol version manages 52.3mpg and 120g/km. Even the top 1.6 TCe 205 auto petrol model manages 47.1mpg and 134g/km. The 1.5 dCi 110PS diesel variant is capable of 76.4mpg while emitting 96g/km of CO2. Even the top diesel model, the twin turbo dCi 165 variant, manages 61.4mpg and 120g/km in hatch form. If that isn't impressive enough, Renault has also developed a 'Hybrid Assist' diesel version that should be capable of 97mpg with emissions of 76g/km. This means free tax while features such as autonomous braking should mean insurance costs won't be too steep. As for the warranty, that's good for up to four years or 100,000 miles. Years one and two are unlimited mileage.
Renault is on pretty good form at the moment. The Captur has been a sales success, the Clio doesn't do too badly while the Kadjar is a serious threat to its sister Crossover, the Qashqai. At last, Renault seems to be focusing on selling cars the UK really wants. Will this MK4 Megane be one of them? Well, it's certainly now a much more credible alternative to the usual Astra and Focus-class choices in the family hatchback segment. The question is though, whether buyers in this segment who might have already dismissed this Megane out of hand will take another look at its much improved proposition. They'd do well to consider it. This may not be the European market leader it was a decade or so ago but it remains roomy, quiet, safe and pleasantly plush, even in entry-level form. In other words, a compact family five-door that ticks an awful lot of boxes. And one an awful lot of people we think, would rather enjoy owning....
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