2012 RENAULT MEGANE REVIEW
Vehicle style: Small hatchback
Price: $32,490 (plus on-roads)
Fuel economy claimed: 4.5 l/100km | tested: 6.6 l/100km
With the current-generation Megane, Renault has pulled the pricing, specifications, and - crucially - the style of its small hatch back into a less-polarising middle ground.
Having shed the bustle-bum looks of its predecessor, it’s no longer a tad freaky. There’s a nice swoopy style to its lines, in fact.
And, always more than a half-reasonable steer, the new Megane can also eyeball its competitors in the segment for substance.
That’s not to say it’s lacking in Gallic individuality, and some of it irritating. Like the cup holders - they’re too small to be useful, and if you use the ash-tray you'll have to do without one while the other is lost to the sat nav remote holder.
(Oh yes, you get out of the car for coffee, and you enjoy the company of friends... that’s the French way.)
And then there’s Renault’s remarkable warranty. With five years of protection and no distance restriction, Renault offers the longest warranty of any European manufacturer in Australia.
So there’s something going on here with the Megane, and its turn-around in sales shows that the market approves. Renault now just has to spread the word.
Quality: Its a case of hits and misses inside the Megane. The dashboard has a high-quality look and feel, with modern switchgear and a good feel to the controls. The plastic on the centre console however is a grade or two lower.
The car TMR tested also had a poorly stitched rear seat, with mismatched seams in the leather trim and the beginnings of a split on the top corner of the seatback. A creaky door grip on the driver’s door also raises questions about the solidity of the build.
Comfort: With generously-proportioned front seats and lots of seat travel, the Megane is relatively easy to get comfortable in.
Over longer distances the seats start to feel a little flat however. The padding is fine but more lumbar support is needed.
Rear seat travellers will be happy with the generous headroom, clear views out of the large rear windows and rear air-vents (a rarity in this class of car).
But a shortage of leg and foot-room means the back seat will lose its shine if your kids are approaching their teens.
Equipment: Renault packs the Megane Privilége with ‘smart card’ keyless entry and starting with auto locking as you walk away.
There is also leather trim as standard, dual-zone climate control, heated power-folding mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels, sunroof, Bluetooth with audio streaming, fog-lamps and rear parking-sensors.
There's also a trip computer, cruise control with speed limiter, steering column audio control wand, satellite navigation with remote control and a four-speaker CD/MP3 audio system with USB and Aux inputs and 3D sound by Arkamys.
Storage: Behind the rear seats there’s a roomy 360 litres of space, but a high loading-lip makes loading and unloading a chore - certainly no fun to try and lift a pram into.
Extra space is available by dropping the split-folding rear backrest, but liberating that space is also a bit of a chore.
To fold the rear seats flat, the front seats must first be pushed forward, the rear seat bases pulled up and and the backrest folded with the headrests down (or removed). In a massive design oversight, the centre console fouls the seatback so there’s no hope of anything resembling a flat floor.
Like Peugeot, Renault persists in filling the glovebox with a relay box, so you can hold the owners manual, and if you’re lucky, another owner’s manual but that’s about all.
The cupholders won’t accept most bottles or coffee cups and the door pockets are trim.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: With a capacity of just 1.5 litres the Megane Diesel offers one of the smallest diesel engines in its class, but its power-per-litre puts it into the middle of the pack.
But with just 81kW of power at 4000rpm and 240Nm of torque from a low 1750rpm, the Megane isn’t especially graced with speed.
It’s most noticeable around town. Here, the Megane dCi struggles keeping pace in the cut-and-thrust of city traffic with a breathless diesel engine that doesn’t like to rev and a firm reluctance to get away from the line willingly.
The EDC auto, on the other hand - Renault’s dual clutch transmission - is exemplary for its smoothness and refinement, both when changing gears and moving off from standstill.
Most unexpected however is the transformation in performance that takes place when the Megane is pointed at the open road. Here, it behaves like an entirely different vehicle.
At highway speeds, with the engine ticking over in the meat of its torque band, hills and overtaking pose no problem for the turbo-diesel dCi Megane.
And it matches its ability to stretch its legs with impressive fuel economy. Although we didn’t match the factory consumption figures overall, our highway stint came close.
Refinement: From start up the Megane diesel clatters and groans like a light commercial diesel. Accelerating around town, there’s no way you’d forget you were piloting a compression ignition engine - noise and vibration are constant companions.
At highway velocities however the Megane manages to ‘outrun’ its own engine noise, but tyre noise takes its place.
Suspension: The Megane utilises MacPherson strut front-suspension and a ‘programmed-deflection’ torsion beam rear-end.
A ride that feels uncomfortable around town swallows rural back-road imperfections effortlessly. The steering however, while lacking feedback, is simultaneously unsettled over ripples and imperfections, making for somewhat tiring progress over long distances.
Braking: With 280mm ventilated front rotors and 260mm solid rears, the Megane’s braking hardware provides a progressive and strong braking feel.
ANCAP rating: Five stars
Safety features: The Megane’s safety suite includes electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with emergency brake assist, six airbags (dual front, side and curtain bags), load-limiting front seatbelt pretensioners with adjustable height.
And all three rear seats feature adjustable headrests and three-point seatbelts.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years, unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: Renault offers $199 capped price servicing plans for three years or 45,000km on vehicles purchased before 30th September 2012. For detailed servicing costs outside of this special offer consult your dealer at time of purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Škoda Octavia 77TDI ($30,090) - Škoda one-ups the Megane with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and offers an additional 10Nm of torque, but can’t match the economy of the Megane.
Inside, the Octavia offers acres more space and provides a genuinely useful rear seat and more accessible boot, but is comparatively short on equipment (see Octavia reviews)
Peugeot 308 Active HDi ($34,990) - While you will spend a little more on the Peugeot, you’ll also score a 2.0 litre diesel engine that is more refined and provides a massive 100Nm more torque.
Interior accommodation is still somewhat tight, and the driving position is frustratingly offset. For use as a city commuter though the smoother and calmer 308 shines. (see 308 reviews)
Hyundai i30 Premium CRDi ($32,590) - The recently renewed i30 impresses with a lavish equipment list, comfortable ride, willing diesel engine and a backseat capable of carting Aussie adults.
Like the 308, the i30 makes more sense than the Megane in town and although not as thrifty on the highway, is a comfortable tourer. (see i30 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Renault has pushed hard for mainstream acceptance with the new Megane. For both aesthetics and build-quality, it’s a vastly improved car over its predecessor.
That impressive warranty is also another feather in the Megane dCi’s cap, and offers genuine peace of mind for buyers on a budget.
We found the small thirst and relative comfort of the Megane on long-legged country jaunts to be its strongest suit. But it’s not without flaws, the poorly conceived rear seat being one of them.
The noisy, unwilling engine around town also takes some gloss off. There are better buys available, but the Megane dCi is not without its charm.
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