Renault Megane review
The third-generation Renault Megane is the best yet, and an excellent choice for family car buyers
The Renault Megane is a flexible all-round family hatch that's designed to rival the likes of the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. This third-generation model represents a big improvement in terms of quality over previous models, and comes in a dizzying array of bodystyles. They range from the sporty three-door coupe and five-door family hatch, to a practical estate and a four-seater cabriolet. If you want even more space, there are also five and seven-seat Scenic and Grand Scenic MPVs, which take practicality up a notch again. The standard five-door hatch is available with a wide variety of engines, with the higher-powered DCi diesels providing a good blend of performance and economy.
Our choice: Megane Dynamique TomTom dCi 110 ECO 5dr
The current Renault Megane has done away with the curvaceous and quirky styling of the previous generation, and replaced it with a more conservative look. The fove-door Megane still stands out, but it feels a little plain compared with the sleeker coupe and Sport Tourer estate models. Renault has scrapped the old base-spec model and replaced it with the well-equipped Expression. As a result, all cars now get alloy wheels as standard, while Dynamique and GT Line trim levels build on this further, with the latter available in unique paint colours and with 18-inch anthracite alloy wheels. Sit behind the wheel and you're greeted by an array of soft touch plastics that feel sturdy, but despite the clean layout some of the controls are needlessly fiddly - especially the stereo.
Those seeking the ultimate in driving thrills will be easily convinced by the storming Renaultsport Megane, which gets 265bhp and a beautifully balanced chassis. The rest of the Megane range impresses most when cruising on the motorway, where the low driving position, comfortable suspension and lack of road noise make it very easy to drive. The steering is accurate, but lacks feel and consequently will leave keener drivers a little underwhelmed. The entry-level engines feel sluggish and have to be worked hard, while the rest of the line-up, especially the top-spec diesels, have enough power to provide good performance. Currently you can only spec an automatic gearbox with the dCi 110 diesel engine, but the EDC dual-clutch system is a pleasure to use and costs almost the same to buy as a manual car. The only consequence is the slight premium you'll pay at the pumps.
Safety is a hallmark of the Renault brand and the Megane received a full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, with an impressive four stars for child protection. It was also one of the first cars ever to feature anti-submarine airbags, which prevent the driver and front passenger from slipping under their seatbelts during a crash. The Megane's top 40 finish in the 2012 Driver Power survey also proves that reliability has much improved over the previous generation, with faults few and far between. However, the brand itself finished a disappointing 27th out of 30.
Unlike some rivals, the Megane allows you - with some careful manoeuvring - to flip the seat bases in the back up and away, meaning that once you fold the rear seat down, the 1,129-litre load bay is almost completely flat. With the seats up, boot space shrinks to 372 litres, which is a little short of the Volkswagen Golf. Up front, though, some weaknesses start to show through. The glovebox is tiny and there's just a single small cupholder in the centre console which obstructs the stereo controls. Space in the back could be better, too, with head and legroom tight for taller passengers.
With capacities ranging from 1.2 to 2.0-litres, all of the engines are relatively efficient. The two that strike the best balance between performance and economy are the 1.2 TCe turbo petrol, which manages 53.3mpg and emits 119g/km, and the 128bhp 1.6-litre dCi diesel, which manages an impressive 70.6mpg and 104g/km. If you want to eliminate your tax bill completely you should opt for the special ECO versions, which manage an incredible 80.7mpg and drop CO2 figures to only 90g/km. With only three trim levels, all cars come well equipped. Expression cars get alloy wheels, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, while Dynamique TomTom cars add sat-nav and automatic lights and wipers. Top spec GT Line cars get a sportier look and dual-zone climate control as standard.