Renault hasn’t had a great deal of success with sedans in Australia with the mid-size Latitude and small Fluence both failing to ignite buyer passions in the past.
This time though the Megane sedan, successor to the Fluence, lines up with handsome styling and a list of features that give it a more confident standing in the declining car park of small sedans in Australia.
See, the problem may not be Renault’s alone. Small cars are on the nose here, sedans in particular, as buyers flock to SUVs in droves leaving a veritable treasure trove of passenger cars undiscovered on dealer forecourts around the country.
Vehicle Style: Small sedan
Price: $33,990 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 97kW/205Nm 1.2-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 7spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.1 l/100km | Tested: 11.2 l/100km
Renault isn’t alone in the segment, with four-door small cars including the Toyota Corolla, Holden Astra, Mitsubishi Lancer, Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Mazda3, Kia Cerato and Subaru Impreza among the more popular in the segment.
To help distance itself from the pack, Renault has positioned the Megane sedan as the kind of car you might aspire to own when you retire. A roomy, comfortable, plush sedan to offer the finer things in life as your nest empties and your need for a large car declines.
With a two-variant range, the Megane sedan lineup is less comprehensive than those of the hatch or wagon, with the just the mid-spec Zen and top-shelf Intens doing battle in Australia.
Both share the same 97kW turbo 1.2-litre engine, both come standard with a seven-speed dual clutch auto, and both offer a particular French flair that’s not available elsewhere in the market, but with a starting price of $28,490 plus on-roads for the Zen and a $33,990 (plus ORCs) for the Intens, neither is angling for a slice of the budget market.
- Standard Equipment: Leather seat trim, dual-zone climate control, 7.0-inch TFT instrument display, LED interior lighting, proximity key with push-button start, sunroof, Nappa leather steering wheel, rear privacy tint, auto headlights and wipers, power-folding heated exterior mirrors, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.7-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, Bluetooth connectivity, Aux and 2x USB inputs, eight-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 503 litres, expandable via 60:40 folding rear seat
Small car interiors can often be a potluck of surfaces, finishes, and quality but Renault has aimed at the higher end of the class, aping cars like the famed Volkswagen Golf for its interior presentation.
The layout is simple and the quality feel and fit of the interior certainly impart a premium feel, yet the flimsy feel of the climate controls and the milky plastic of the touchscreen detract from the otherwise excellent presentation.
Space is not an issue, with a wider than average cabin making the Megane feel more like a family car than a small sedan. The sedan also benefits from a 41mm longer wheelbase than the Megane hatch freeing up extra rear legroom.
Common to both Megane sedan variants are dual-zone climate control, auto lights and wipers, proximity key entry with push-button start and hands free boot opening, but moving up to the Intens brings extras like leather trim, a Nappa leather steering wheel, TFT instrument cluster, and larger infotainment screen.
Renault’s interior configuration means there’s a passable amount of storage, particularly in the front door bins and centre console, but the cupholders are small, loose item storage scarce, and even the glovebox is half the size it appears once you open it.
Thre's no such qualms with the boot though. At 503 litres there’s plenty of space for prams or golf clubs, but an oddly shaped and narrow opening makes loading more fussy than it needs to be.
As with other Megane models the large 8.4 inch tablet style screen is a class leader for size, but is hugely complex to operate and understand, slow and laggy to load, and poorly conceived.
At a time when technology rules, Renault has fallen flat on its face but has at least included Apple CarPlay connectivity which alleviates some of the stress of trying to do simple things like listen to music or use navigation, which become a hair-pulling experience using the built-in R-Link system.
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 vented rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering, 11.3m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1300kg braked, 700kg unbraked
As one of the smaller engines in its class, the 1.2-litre four-cylinder in the Megane may not sound stirring and a power output of just 97kW is one of the lowest in the class. That’s not as important as the robust 205Nm of torque that’s available though.
It’s torque that provides useful low speed pull, and in the cut and thrust of churning urban traffic the Megane moves along better than you might expect.
While the Megane hatch is offered with an available manual option, neither the Interns sedan not the cheaper Zen sedan can be ordered with a manual transmission, coming with a seven-speed Efficient Dual Clutch (or EDC) automatic instead.
Together the engine and transmission work well, though neither is a standout among rivals, with an often slow-shifting feel from the EDC and an at-times breathless feel from the engine. Although with the Megane sedan aimed at more mature buyers the restrained drivetrain is up to the task.
The Megane Intens also scores Renault Multi-Sense - a fancy name for drive-mode select - that allows the driver to select Sport, Eco, or Comfort modes for things like engine response, transmission, and steering (plus interior lighting).
The effect of each mode is noticeable, and for the zestiest Sport mode is a must, but Comfort and Eco modes tend to dull the engine and transmission response too much. Leaving the car in Neutral mode will probably be all you’ll ever really need to do.
Refinement isn’t always a strong point with an occasional wobbly gear change, noticeable engine vibration and accompanying road noise setting the four-door Megane back.
City commuting is a happy enough experience, with a pleasant urban ride and effort-free light steering. Head out of town and the ride becomes sharp at the front and brittle at the back, while the steering doesn’t add any weight at speed and results in a twitchy and nervous nose at highway speeds.
The 18-inch alloy wheels of the Intens definitely lend it a sharp visual appeal, but further impact the ride quality with low profile tyres that catch every small road imperfections. Given how Renault is pitching this car, a set of 17-inch wheels and some plumper sidewall tyres might have been a better fit.
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 Intens sedan 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: Renault schedules 12 month/30,000km service intervals (whichever comes first) with capped-price servicing covering the first three services for a fixed $299 each. Consult your renault dealer for full terms, and conditions.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Small sedans with European heritage aren’t the norm without venturing into prestige marques with premium prices to match, but if a plush four-door with high levels of equipment is on your shopping list there’s a few solid choices.
The Mazda3 SP25 Astina isn’t the newest in its class by any means, but still delivers a modern look and feel, sharp dynamics, high levels of equipment and technology, and better power and torque.
With a moderate focus on performance, the Hyundai Elantra SR Turbo turns up the heat without punishing passengers. Although the interior may not be top-tier standard there’s still plenty of upmarket touches, and a strong value standing.
Holden reintroduced the Astra sedan in 2017, but despite the European name, the Korean-sourced four-door isn’t as plush and full-featured as its hatch counterpart. If you’re after something a little bit flash on a small budget, the Astra LTZ fits the bill.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Some cars do things well, some cars do things poorly, and others, like the Renault Megane occupy a middle territory that allows it to comfortably fade into the background, commanding no attention, either positive or negative.
Although it doesn't sound like a strong selling point, the Megane’s nothingness will be its appeal for mild mannered commuters who don’t need a high tech flagship or sharp handling hero.
A quick trip to the store here, the ability to carry a neighbour or grandchild there, and an understated elegance all the while - those are all valuable traits. And that’s exactly what the Megane Intens delivers with a fuss-free calmness.
MORE: Renault News and Reviews
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