THE 2017 RENAULT MEGANE HAS BEEN A LONG TIME COMING, BUT THE NEW FRENCH HATCH HAS FINALLY ARRIVED IN AUSTRALIA.
Officially, it’s a ‘small’ car, which sees it play off against two sales juggernauts in the Toyota Corolla and the Mazda3.
But buyers are more likely to cross-shop the Megane against the likes of Peugeot’s 308, the BMW 1 Series, Audi’s A3 and the Citroen C4.
For this reason, Renault has sought to positon the Megane as a ‘near premium’ model in Australia, occupying a middle-ground with pricing that kicks off in the mid-to-high $20,000 bracket.
So then, has it worked?
Vehicle Style: Small hatch
Price: Zen $27,490, GT-Line $32,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 97kW/205Nm 1.2 litre 4cyl turbo petrol, 151kW/280Nm 1.6 litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.6 l/100km (1.2 litre), 6.0 l/100km (1.6 litre) | Tested: 9.7 l/100km
With four models to choose from the 2017 Renault Megane stretches right from entry level with the $22,490 (plus on-roads) Life all the way to the powered-up and premium finished GT at $38,490 (plus on-roads).
Though Renault didn’t have the entry-level Life on hand (we’ll review it separately as soon as we can), the mid-spec Zen, sports-styled GT-Line, and warm hatch GT were all available to be put through their paces.
The base 1.2-litre engine is familiar from before, and the 1.6 turbo of the Megane GT comes courtesy of the Clio RS. The platform, and the interior architecture are all new to Megane - though the platform itself is a variant of what you’ll find under a range of Renaults in Europe.
There’s more space than before, and the car has grown externally by a considerable amount, with refinement and available technology to match Renault’s upmarket aspirations.
- Zen: Fabric seat trim, dual-zone climate control, height adjustable front seats with driver’s lumbar, analog instrument cluster with digital trip computer, cruise control with speed limiter, walk-away proximity key with push-button start, 16-inch alloy wheels
- GT-Line: Black Alcantara upholstery, front sports seats, Nappa leather steering wheel and gearknob, 7.0-inch TFT instrument cluster, rear armrest with cupholders, powered sunroof (GT-Line only) 17-inch alloy wheels
- GT: Black and blue Alcantara upholstery, steering column paddle shifters, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch landscape touchscreen, eight-speaker audio, Bluetooth connectivity, USB (2x) and Aux inputs, fingertip audio control wand
- Options Available: Premium pack (led headlights, audio upgrade, 8.7-inch portrait touchscreen) $1990, Electric sunroof $1990, 18-inch alloy wheels (for GT-Line) $990,
- Cargo Volume: 434 litres minimum, 1247 litres maximum
With the new Megane growing in size thanks to a new platform that is 57mm longer overall, with a 29mm longer wheelbase the interior dimensions have also grown - Renault claims an extra 20mm of rear legroom, class-leading shoulder width, and a generous 434 litres of boot space.
The larger dimensions compliment a new interior design that marks a huge departure from the old - more mature in design, with added technology and an ergonomic redesign that banishes most of the issues with the outgoing model.
Regardless of the spec the Megane is a well-rounded small car with generous space, comfortable seats, a large boot, and useful small item storage within the cabin.
The dash design seems a little hit-and-miss, depending on the specification: The general ambience is of good quality thanks to soft touch materials on the dash and, overall, it feels well built, but the flat panel designed to house the large, tablet-style screen in the top models looks empty without it.
Quirks like a digital speedo disappears from the TFT instrument cluster of the GT-Line and GT models when they are in comfort mode (when you’re most likely to need them to keep an eye on city speed limits) and unusual ergonomics like audio and cruise control switches behind the steering wheel still remain, despite the complete redesign.
While the Zen presents smartly, with quality fabric trim and a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, it’s the GT-Line and GT, with Alcantara trim, a TFT instrument cluster and optional 8.7-inch touchscreen that really feel upmarket in the small car class.
ON THE ROAD
- Zen and GT-Line: 97kW/205Nm four-cylinder turbo petrol
- GT: 151kW/280Nm four-cylinder turbo petrol
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
- Brakes: 280mm ventilated front, 260mm solid rear discs (Zen, GT-Line), 320mm ventilated front, 290mm solid rear discs (GT)
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering, 11.2m turning circle (Zen, GT-Line) 4Control four-wheel steering, 10.4m turning circle (GT)
- Towing Capacity: 1300kg braked, 670kg unbraked
The 1.2-litre engine fitted across the majority of the range doesn’t present the most exciting on-paper stats with 97kW of power at 4500rpm, but thanks to 205Nm of torque from 2000rpm the Megane fares better than base model Corollas and i30s.
That decent mid-range punch, in concert with the well calibrated seven-speed automatic makes the Megane a nimble urban run-about. It is noticeably more sluggish in Eco mode though, which dulls the throttle response and keeps the transmission from quickly downshifting under heavy acceleration.
The steering is excellent with positive feedback, good on-centre stability, and a linear weight across the ratio.
The suspension is tuned for a reasonable balance between secure handling and touring comfort and was able to shrug off some of Australia's, bumpiest roads without becoming imbalanced on our introductory drive. Only the occasional mid-corner bump unsettled the back-end, and coarse-chip road surfaces transferred into the cabin as road-roar.
Thanks to its slightly larger tyres the GT-Line offers a little more grip and brings a more sporting character due to the addition of a sport setting in its multi-mode drive selector. To back that up the more heavily bolstered front seats provide more support in the bends.
But it’s the more willing GT that is the pick of the bunch, not just for its more powerful engine but the Renault Sport tuning of the suspension and the four-wheel steering system makes it more fun to drive when you want it to be and more comfortable in every other scenario.
Despite it larger 18-inch wheels, the GT manages to absorb bumps better and is more compliant than the lower variants. And the 4Control rear steering system, a first in the small car class, makes it more agile at slower speeds and while increasing stability in faster corners.
The engine is also more willing, with a stronger mid-range surge though it isn’t quite grunty enough to overcome the front tyres with torque steer or wheelspin. It also sounds rorty at higher engine speeds but the in-cabin noise is artificially generated by the audio system.
It’s not quite at the same level of grunt as genuine hot hatches like the Volkswagen Golf GTI or Ford Focus ST, but sits one rung down the performance ladder ladder, similar to the Peugeot 308 GT.
ANCAP Rating: The 2017 Megane has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety Features: all Megane models feature six airbags (dual front, front side, curtain), ABS brakes with emergency brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic stability and traction control, and tyre pressure monitoring - the Megane GT-Line also includes standard blind spot warning.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Service intervals are 12 months or up to 30,000km as monitored by the vehicle’s oil condition sensor. Capped price servicing covers the first three services with a maximum price of $299 per service, consult your local dealer for full terms, conditions, and exclusions.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
For a sophisticated and upmarket feel, the Peugeot 308 sets the tone for the segment, and it’s obvious that Renault has followed the same playbook.
Though it may not have the same Euro appeal, the Mazda3 handles well, drives fluently, and comes with a premium look and feel throughout the range.
With a sensible style and well-featured cabin the Volkswagen Golf began the trend of well specced near-premium small hatches, and despite being a little older, still holds its own against contemporary opposition.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
This latest instalment of the Megane is more convincing and more conventional than ever before, and steps-up from a quirky small car choice to a genuine mainstream offering.
Pricing, while not the cheapest in its segment, now represents strong value akin to other small hatches, and the more accessible and approachable style is sure to win more friends than the often polarising predecessors.
As for the Megane GT, it offers a promising glimpse of Renault’s tuning potential for a future hot-hatch, but even as it stands the GT is a fun drive, with an extra power boost and unique style to separate it from the rest of the range.
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