Small wagons are rare beasts in Australia, pushed to the point of endangerment thanks to the popularity of compact SUVs that promise to deliver the same practicality but with added soft-roading abilities to escape into the great outdoors.
If weekends in the wilderness aren’t your thing though, the Megane wagon could be just what you need - compact enough for urban environs, but still big enough for young families or active couples to load up when needed.
The Megane keeps company with other Euro-wagons including the Volkswagen Golf, Peugeot 308 and Holden Astra amongst Australia’s limited small-estate choices, which have been slightly narrowed down now that the Skoda Octavia has moved into the medium segment alongside the Subaru Levorg and the Hyundai i30 has left the wagon sector entirely.
In sporty GT-Line trim it’s dressed like a performance variant, but is purely mainstream underneath, giving a sophisticated look with the kind of pragmatism a compact wagon deserves.
Vehicle Style: Small wagon
Price: $33,990 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 97kW/205Nm 1.2-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.2 l/100km
As an accompaniment to the Renault Megane hatch range, the wagon arrives in three trim levels, skipping the entry-level Life specification and starting with the mid-range Zen, GT-Line, or more sporting GT.
GT-Line specification starts at $33,990 (plus on-road costs) when opting for a wagon making it a $4500 step up over the cheapest Megane Zen wagon. Despite the sportier styling the GT-Line shares its mechanical package with base models cars meaning 97kW of power from a turbocharged 1.2-litre four cylinder and a standard seven speed ‘Efficient Dual Clutch' automatic.
That doesn’t exactly make the Megane wagon a bargain buy, but Renault has positioned (and equipped) the megane range as a semi-premium mainstream alternative, with discerning buyers sure to see the value in some of the GT-Line’s standard inclusions
- Standard Equipment: Black Alcantara trim, dual-zone climate control, heated front sports seats, Nappa leather steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and start, 7.0-inch TFT instrument cluster, automatic lights and wipers, one-touch rear seat folding, 17-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.7-inch touchscreen, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Aux and USB inputs, Bluetooth connectivity, eight-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 580 litres to rear seats, 1504 litres to front seats
To go with the exterior body styling and grey alloy wheels that comprise the GT-Line package, the interior gets deep front sports seats, black Alcantara trim, a black headlining, and blue interior highlights.
The ambience is certainly sporty, and configurable LED accent light inside helps push the premium feel even further.
The fixed headrest front sports seats could be a love-or-hate proposition for some drivers as they are deeply bolstered for lots of lateral grip but also a little hard to climb in and out of, and restrictive around the shoulders for shorter occupants.
The rear seats aren’t as aggressively shaped, and rear passengers are sure to appreciate the Megane’s rear air vents and centre armrest, but legroom isn’t as generous as it should be, and the tapered roof can impose slightly on headroom.
Tech fans are sure to take an interest in the portrait-oriented touchscreen and it’s bigger than average size, but thumbing through the menus reveals an unresponsive interface with long load times and a bewildering depth of menus.
Want to do something simple like change from listening to the radio to a media device? That will take four taps of the screen. The matte-finish surround also draws derision for being an oil-magnet, making the interior look shabby after a few hours of use.
Importantly the Megane wagon can pack in 580 litres of cargo, making for a decent bump in practicality compared to the 434 litre hatch boot, but that’s still smaller than either the Golf or the 308.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, 97kW @4500rpm, 205Nm @2000rpm
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
- Brakes: 280mm vented front discs, 260mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering, 11.4m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1300kg braked, 705kg unbraked
At just 1.2-litres, the Megane’s engine doesn’t sound like a match for other members of the small car class, but the addition of a turbocharger does wonders for helping boost outputs to a more competitive level.
Crucially torque output peaks at 205Nm, vital for getting the Megane rolling along with some enthusiasm, while power is rated at a below-average 97kW. Looking at acceleration times reveals a leisurely 11.7 seconds from rest to 100km/h.
Of course outright speed isn’t the point of the GT-Line (for that, the more powerful 1.6-litre GT lives up to its sporty looks) which still needs to be a perfectly practical family wagon.
Set loose on an urban environment the Megane copes well, with suspension supple enough to deal with train and tram tracks, and speed humps embedded in the road surface.
Renault has included multiple driver modes (a system it calls Multi-Sense) that can adjust the transmission programming and steering assistance, to allow the GT-Line to go from feeling effortlessly light on its feet, to more wound up as you move from Eco and Neutral through to Sport.
The car we tested wasn’t without problems though. Renault’s start-stop system often didn’t reignite the engine with any kind of grace and at one set of traffic lights even completely shut the vehicle down and failed to restart without quickly having to select Park, and repress the starter - that doesn’t sound like much but in busy peak hour traffic it’s hardly what you’d like to have to deal with.
Renault also needs to invest a little more time and effort into the programming of its seven-speed dual clutch automatic. In slow-moving traffic the Megane bunny-hops like it has a first-time driver at the wheel.
Every so often the transmission would let out an embarrassing mechanically-pained crunch when slowing to a stop, indicating that something in the downchange procedure wasn’t as accurate as it should have been.
Consider the package better for long and undemanding rides through the countryside then, a shame considering very few are unlikely to used in such a way.
ANCAP Rating: The Renault Megane range has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety Features: All Megane models come with six airbags (dual front, front seat side, and full-length curtain), ABS brakes with emergency brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, and tyre pressure monitoring.
The GT-Line adds additional advanced safety features including autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, and automatic high beam.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Service intervals occur every 12 months or 30,000km (whichever occurs first) with Renault capped-price servicing covering the first three services for a fixed $299. Consult your renault dealer for full terms, and conditions.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
With a surprisingly similar approach to plushness and interior tech, the Peugeot 308 could only be a French car. A light facelift has just arrived, but even that doesn’t detract from what is an otherwise very decent small wagon - as long as you’re prepared to deal with a diesel-only engine.
Volkswagen provides Aussie buyers with an opportunity to get into a Golf with a bigger boot, and be it hatch or wagon the class benchmark still rests with VW’s small car. More power, more equipment and a lower price (for the mid-spec Comfortline) also make it hard to justify Renault’s efforts.
Holden has brought the Astra wagon back, and the good news is that it’s based on the Euro-designed and built hatch, not the underwhelming Korean-sourced sedan. There’s no sporty version either but value pricing gives the Astra Sportwagon a competitive edge.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Fortunately for Renault the limited pool of available small wagons in Australia means that almost by default the Megane becomes a primary contender.
There is a glaring problem though, and it’s the Megane's competitors. Both the Golf and Astra are cheaper and as for the Peugeot 308 even though it asks more money it also comes with a more grunty diesel engine to offset the difference.
Couple that with the niggles we experienced like difficult to use infotainment, and the worrying operation of the automatic transmission and stop-start system, and the Megane GT-Line hardly stands-out in its segment.