2012 RENAULT MEGANE REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small convertible
Price: $45,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.1l/100km | tested: 10.9l/100km
Renault is serious when it comes to ‘open-air appreciation’. Serious enough to have stuck with the convertible Megane in its Australian line-up for three generations.
As with its competitors, the Megane CC is based on the mechanical base of a mainstream hatchback.
But that’s where the relationship ends. Convertibles are all about style; and style - when it involves taking a can-opener to the roof, and adding a couple of hundred kilos of bracing and folding mechanism for the flip-top - comes with its compromises.
While the hard-top convertible segment isn’t as populated as it was just a few years ago, the competition is fierce and the quality of opposition high.
So, where does the CC shine? Where - and how deep - are the compromises?
Quality: The interior of the 2012 Megane CC is better than some Renaults of our recent experience. For the most part, the dash is pulled straight from the hatch, but the centre console is changed to facilitate the folding top controls.
The most impressive part though is how well put together everything is.
In a convertible the expectation is to find a few squeaks, rattles or loose trims. But no such nefarious sounds did we hear in the CC’s cabin. Here, everything is secure and tight.
Comfort: There’s ample room up front and plenty of headroom with the roof in place. And, a major boon over the previous Megane CC, is that the windscreen header-rail no longer arches over the heads of front seat occupants.
This greatly improves the open air sensation with the top down.
For the two-place rear seat there’s deep bolstering and ,surprisingly, a small amount of rear legroom. But don’t be fooled into thinking grown adults will be comfortable there. They’ll fit, with a bit of seat-shuffling, but it’s only for short trips.
We found the glass roof was a great ‘winter warmer’ on sunny days, come summer though the air-conditioning is going have its work cut out. There is a retractable sunshade, but its light mesh construction offers little respite from the sun.
Equipment: The Megane CC comes standard with ‘smart card’ keyless entry and start, auto locking, dual-zone climate control, heated power-folding mirrors, Bluetooth with audio streaming, fog-lamps and rear parking-sensors, auto lights and wipers, cruise control with speed limiter, electric parking brake, steering column audio control wand, satellite navigation with remote control and a four-speaker CD/MP3 audio system with USB and Aux inputs.
Summer Edition cars also score 18-inch alloy wheels and leather trim. All Megane CC models feature a satin silver windscreen surround and gloss black mirrors and roof, regardless of body colour.
Storage: While no hardtop convertible offers a vast boot, the Megane CC allows just 211 litres of shallow cargo volume with the roof down.
Top up, boot volume grows to 417 litres. Inside the cabin the centre console is generous, but for such long doors the door pockets are minimal and the glovebox is of little use for anything beyond documents.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Megane’s 2.0 litre four-cylinder petrol engine is shared with the regular hatch range and produces the same 103kW at 6000rpm and 195Nm of torque at 3750rpm.
With the extra weight of the roof mechanism and body bracing, there’s an extra 197kg to carry over a Privilege hatch, and performance is blunted as a result.
Around town acceleration is best described as leisurely. You’ll keep up with other traffic, but the Megane CC always feels a little reluctant to gather its skirts. Renault’s CVT transmission is no help here either.
This CVT feels outmoded by newer offerings; it suffers from the ‘stretchy’ feeling of early CVTs. It will keep revs as low as possible for superior fuel economy, but is slow to kickdown, and, if left in drive, never lets the engine rev to the redline.
Refinement: With the roof in place, noise suppression within the cabin is good. The roof and windows are well-sealed against road noise, and tyre noise isn’t too bad.
The whole package is smooth and composed and - at the price - it has the feel of a classy tourer.
Press on quickly though and the engine loses some of its charm. When working hard the engine becomes thrashy, and the CVT’s determination to hold a bucket of revs while speed builds will make you think you’ve got mixmaster running under the bonnet.
The body too isn’t all that firm with the top down. We found that scuttle shake wasn’t a problem, but there was noticeable diagonal flex. With the roof up the structure feels a lot more secure.
Suspension: MacPherson struts up front team with a torsion beam rear axle. It’s a proven formula but the spring and damper tuning seems off for Australian roads.
While the suspension isn’t firm, the Megane struggles with rough surfaces, becoming jittery over rough surfaces and crashing over bigger bumps.
The steering also feels somewhat disconnected. The wheel is light and there’s not much in the way of feedback from the road surface.
Braking: Vented front rotors with solid rears are again borrowed from the hatch, but instead of pulling up as smartly as the hatch, the CC we tested felt a little more sluggish through the pedal.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
Safety features: The Megane CC features electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with emergency brake assist, driver and passenger front and side airbags, load-limiting front seatbelt pretensioners and pop-up roll over hoops.
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
Peugeot 308 CC ($52,990) - Peugeot put together a damn good CC. It may be a little older than the Megane, but the 308 still offers a comfortable interior that gives a perception of luxury.
On the road a more lively turbocharged engine and conventional six-speed automatic more than make up for the pricing difference. The 308CC also comes with the largest boot in its class, top up or down. (see 308 reviews)
Volkswagen Eos ($51,990) - With the Eos, Volkswagen manages to pack in a five-piece roof that can also function as a sunroof. The interior doesn’t have the panache of the French pair but the Eos is peerlessly assembled.
The Golf GTI has donated its engine to the Eos and, as a result, it’s the friskiest of these convertibles to drive. Boot space is marginally smaller than the Megane but more user-friendly. (see Eos reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
We find the look of the Megane CC quite pleasing in the metal. And we were surprised to find that the interior is more useful than the cramped and compromised confines you usually find in folding drop-tops.
Come summertime, the CC will no doubt be a lot of fun with the top tucked away and an ocean breeze in your hair.
However, we have major concerns about how enjoyable the interior will be with the roof up. Parking your bum in those leather seats after a few hours baking under glass in the hot sun doesn’t sound like our idea of a good time.
But where the Megane CC really disappoints is on the road. Between a limp engine and soggy transmission, progress just isn’t that inspiring.
When, for just a little more, you can choose the torquey turbocharged engines of the VW Eos and Peugeot 308CC (and not to mention better steering and suspension), we’d have to recommend them over the Megane.
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