2013 RENAULT MEGANE REVIEW
What’s hot: Sharp new pricing, sharp new GT-Line models, and razor-sharp 220 GT Wagon
What’s not: Bulgy instrument binnacle, manual shift a bit woolly, road noise in the GT 220 Wagon
X-Factor: Nice hatch, nice wagons; the sleeper is the diesel wagon – Euro style with family practicality
Vehicle style: Small Hatch and Wagon
|Model||Power/Torque||Fuel (claim)||Fuel (tested)|
|2.0 litre petrol/CVT auto||103kW/195Nm||7.8 l/100km||9.2 l/100km|
|1.5 litre diesel/6spd dual-clutch EDC||81kW/240Nm||4.7 l/100km||6.2 l/100km|
|2.0 litre turbo petrol/6spd manual||162kW/340Nm||7.3 l/100km||11.7 l/100km|
Sales up 44 percent this year; a mad, tempestuous, Megane RS 265 steamrolling the hot-hatch sector, Kangoo and Traffic finding a solid footing among commercial buyers, and now a new Megane range kicking off at a tick under $21k… yes, things would seem to be looking up for Renault here.
You wouldn’t know it now, but Renault – when manufactured here – was once a top ten brand in Australia. Thirty or so years back, every High School in the country could count at least a couple of Renault 12s and 16s in the car park.
That market was ‘nuked’ by a string of lack-lustre products, which few liked, and French Government insistence on testing its atomic bombs on Muraroa Atoll, which no-one liked.
Of course, the new Megane is not going to drag the brand back to where it once was, but it is priced right, drives very well, and adds some interesting new models.
In arguably the most price-competitive segment of all, the small car segment, if you may have previously only considered the contenders from Korea and Japan – like the Mazda3, Corolla and Hyundai i30 – you can now add the Megane to your shortlist.
We think you won’t be disappointed by what you find.
And the new addition to the range, the limited-run GT 220 Wagon is going to win lots of friends. It goes like the clappers, looks mighty and is priced like a hot-hatch.
Starting at $20,990 for the entry-spec Megane Hatch Expression, it’s hard to argue with the price.
For value and appeal, we think there are two stand-outs: the Megane Hatch GT-Line diesel EDC automatic, at $28,990, and the Mégane Wagon GT-Line Premium Pack Petrol CVT at $31,490. (More about them later.)
Right across the range the seats are terrific: they’re well-shaped, comfortable and very nicely trimmed. The GT-Line buckets in particular are a cut-above for a sub-$30k small car.
There’s nothing special about the look and feel of the slabby dashboard and instruments, nor of the textures to the moulded surfaces, but it all works well ergonomically, and controls fall nicely to hand.
The wheel is good – sized and shaped just right – and the big clear dials add a nice sporty ambience.
Not so good is the bulbous binnacle cover that intrudes into the field of view: I like to sit low and found myself looking up and over it.
Smart seats aside, on a general impression the new Megane lacks the sense of style that pervades a Golf interior, but is a notch up on the i30, betters the current Mazda 3 (but the new one will have something to say there) and, in the red-highlighted GT-Line cars, has a sporty and individual feel.
It is well-featured across the range though. Standard features include halogen daytime running lights, CD/MP3 radio, Bluetooth, USB and aux-in sockets, manual key card, electric folding mirrors, six airbags (dual front, side and front/rear curtain airbag, ABS and stability control, emergency brake assist and understeer control, plus height-adjustable front seats.
The GT-line adds really smart hip-hugging sports bucket-seats, dual-zone climate control (with air-quality sensor), sat-nav, hands-free entry and start, auto headlights and wipers, boomerang style LED daytime running lights, electronic park brake, rear parking sensors, tinted rear windows, 17-inch Celsium alloys wheels and hill-start assist.
Further up the food chain, the Premium pack adds grey leather upholstery, heated driver and front passenger seats, Renault’s ‘Visio System’, front parking sensors, rear-view camera and panoramic sunroof.
The top-deck Privilege spec adds special 17-inch Sari alloys, electric driver’s seat, sunroof and smart charcoal and white leather seats; among a range of premium features.
Ditto for the feature list for the Wagon range, which begins at the second tier with the Mégane Wagon Dynamique Petrol CVT (at $26,490).
It looks good – the Wagon – and offers a huge and practical cargo area. It’s also got a couple of nifty features in the back like a small tubbed nook (with elastic strap) for holding shopping bags and to prevent milk and drink bottles sliding around.
All up, behind the very low loading lip, there is 524 litres there with the seats in place, opening up to 1600 litres with them folded. The rear seats fold flat and, for really long items, the front passenger seat also folds flat.
The big surprise at launch though, and the party-trick of the Megane Wagon range is the Megane GT 220 Sport Wagon.
We’re only getting 220 of them, but that figure relates to the brake-horsepower output, not the allocation.
Under its bonnet is a detuned version of the turbo petrol engine in the Megane RS 265 Sport.
It thumps out a very racy 162kW (220bhp... hence the tag), makes all the right noises from under the bonnet, and gets the Renault Sport-engineered Sport chassis, 18-inch gloss black alloys and high-performance Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres.
At $36,990, it’s a lot of performance car with the kind of practicality you may be able to ‘sell’ to the family.
Option it up with the Premium Pack (at $41,990) and you get two-tone leather upholstery and trim, heated driver and front passenger seats, a stop/start fuel-saving feature, camera, sunroof, lane departure warning, ‘Visio System’ and more.
ON THE ROAD
Mégane Wagon GT-Line Premium Pack Petrol CVT
CVT automatics? You can’t escape them. The fuel consumption efficiencies of a variable ratio drive means they’re now everywhere.
In the new Megane line-up, all 2.0 litre petrol models except the entry $20,990 Expression Hatch manual, and top-dog GT 220 Sport Wagon, are mated to CVT automatics.
With 103kW and 230Nm underfoot with the 2.0 litre petrol, neither manual nor auto is going to set the place ablaze.
But for normal driving, it doesn’t feel especially underdone.
In the wagon we drove, with a really neat two-tone leather interior, we found there’s enough power underfoot for around-town driving, or when needing to get ‘out and around’ when overtaking.
If looking for a quick burst, it's best to manually tap it back a ‘ratio’ or two to get the revs up and wake up the CVT.
Despite the dynamic shortcomings of the CVT, it manages to make the most of its ‘virtual’ ratios, and sounds more like a conventional auto in normal driving.
Get hard on the accelerator out of a turn though and you won’t fail to miss the familiar surge of revs that typifies a CVT. While apparent, it’s not coarse; mechanical noise and harshness is quite well-attenuated in the Megane.
Fuel consumption? On a tight engine, and a willing drive, we returned 9.2 l/100km.
Mégane Hatch GT-Line Diesel EDC
Choose the diesel, and a Getrag-sourced six-speed dual clutch automatic is the only transmission of choice.
But it’s a very nice pairing. This drivetrain – the diesel and the EDC transmission – is the pick of the range (at a $2500 premium over the petrol).
The diesel, just 1.5 litres but outputting a reasonable 81kW and 240Nm, is well up to the task of hustling the Megane along.
We drove the Hatch GT-Line diesel (at $28,990), and were surprised by its willingness and smoothness.
It will remind it’s there by the ‘diesel tick’ from under the bonnet when driving, but it is otherwise quiet and vibration-free, and we like it a lot.
Mated to the six-speed dual-clutch auto, it has the right gear underfoot with just a quick prod of the accelerator and there’s little advantage to fiddling with the plus/minus shift gate.
It commands a $2500 premium over the equivalent petrol model (which you will probably never get back in fuel savings), but is the better drivetrain choice – especially if you carry a bit of a load about.
Mégane GT 220 Sport Wagon Premium Pack
Lastly, we were able to give the GT 220 Wagon an extended lash.
It might be detuned from 195kW to a still tasty 162kW, but, mated to the six-speed manual, this is a quick little wagon in any language.
Fire it up (there’s a push-button starter), and you’ll find a nice light clutch that is easily balanced for a squirt off the line.
That squirt will see 0-100km/h coming up in 7.6 seconds, and 240km/h on a long straight.
On the road, the gears are spaced just right for dancing through the cogs as you set up for a corner, and the feel of the shift is good.
Not so precise is the throw: it’s not bad, just a tad woolly through the gate.
The GT 220 is tuned by Renault Sport, but the elastic isn’t stretched as tight as in the Megane RS. Though firm down below, the sports-tuned suspension works surprisingly well in the real world of Aussie roads.
It might lack the hot hatch's special front diff and suspension geometry, but it’s very well connected to the road, pulls like a train if you really turn up the wick, and tucks in sharply when cornering.
The 18-inch alloy rims and Dunlop Sport Maxx rubber clearly helps when push comes to shove around a tight set of corners. There’s some squirreling at the wheel when accelerating hard, but nothing like the torque steer of powerful front-drivers of old.
The only apparent downside is the road noise from the low-profile Dunlop rubber. On coarse bitumen, it can be pretty intrusive.
But, crikey, at $36,990, this small French hot-wagon is about as appealing as a ‘sensible family car’ can get.
You can do the groceries in the morning, and hit the track in the afternoon... and it will acquit itself well for both. We managed 11.7 l/100km on this test against a quoted 7.3 l/100km (but were giving things a bit of a stamp).
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
Renault would like to have a brand new conversation with you about its updated Megane. It’s got a new ‘value proposition’ for you to hear about.
You’ll get this Megane comfortably on the road for under $25k, and have a very nicely built, robust, and individual European Hatch into the deal.
You will also get a full five-year unlimited warranty, capped-price servicing, and ‘zero-percent’ finance to sweeten the deal.
To further sweeten it, Renault Australia has an ‘approved used vehicle program’ to protect used car values when it’s time to trade in.
But we reckon spend a little more and get yourself into the diesel. We think you will like this car; you will like the way it drives and the sporty feel to its accommodation.
And maybe, if you’re quick enough off the mark, you might be able to jag a 220 GT Wagon.
On road, this is a very tasty piece of work, and there’s room in the back for a couple of flat-packs from Ikea (to keep you entertained with a hex-key for the next six weeks, or until you explode).
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Mégane Hatch Expression Petrol MT - $20,990
- Mégane Hatch Expression Petrol CVT - $22,990
- Mégane Hatch GT-Line Petrol CVT - $26,490
- Mégane Hatch GT-Line Diesel EDC - $28,990
- Mégane Hatch Privilege Petrol CVT - $29,990
- Mégane Hatch GT-Line Premium Pack Petrol CVT - $29,990
- Mégane Hatch Privilege Diesel EDC - $32,490
- Mégane Hatch GT-Line Premium Pack Diesel EDC - $32,490
- Mégane Wagon Dynamique Petrol CVT - $26,490
- Mégane Wagon GT-Line Petrol CVT - $27,990
- Mégane Wagon GT-Line Diesel EDC - $30,490
- Mégane Wagon GT-Line Premium Pack Petrol CVT - $31,490
- Mégane Wagon GT-Line Premium Pack Diesel EDC - $33,990
- Mégane Coupé-Cabriolet Petrol CVT - $36,990
- Mégane Coupé-Cabriolet GT-Line Petrol CVT - $41,990
- Mégane Coupé-Cabriolet Privilege Petrol CVT - $43,990
Mégane GT 220 Sport Wagon
- Mégane GT 220 Sport Wagon - $36,990
- Mégane GT 220 Sport Wagon Premium Pack - $41,990
Megane RS 265 Hatch
- RS 265 Cup - $42,640
- RS 265 Trophy - $47,140
- RS 265 Trophy+ - $51,640