Renault Megane review
The new Renault Megane is the best yet, and an excellent choice for family car buyers
When Renault introduced the third-generation Megane in 2008, it dropped the edgy styling of the outgoing generation in favour of a more restrained look. The three and five-door models have different styling, and continual updates have kept it fresh. The latest revisions include new styling inside and out, as well as a simplified range.
The facelifted Renault Megane 2013 model was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and went on sale in the UK in January 2014. It features the new Renault 'familiy' look that was introduced with the Clio and Captur, plus adjustments to the trim and equipment levels.
The standard five-door Renault Megane 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 Renault Megane has been relatively popular in the UK, so it’s a common sight on our roads. That means any updates need to be distinctive to help the new model stand out.
The facelifted car’s nose takes inspiration from the Clio launched last year, so it features a big Renault badge, a slim grille and large headlights. Considering that the Megane was originally designed with a smooth front end, the addition of the grille is quite successful, while the large opening under the bumper completes the stylish look.
But as distinctive as the new front end is, there isn’t much else to mark out the revised Megane. Although it benefits from new alloy wheel designs, it has the same side profile and rounded rear as the old car, while the tail-lights are carried over, too. That’s a real shame, because the Megane looks quite ordinary next to its rivals.
Inside, the layout remains much the same as it was before, albeit with a new flash of trim across the dash and a larger sat-nav screen. The seats have also been given a racy makeover, with Alcantara-style cloth that features a sporty pinstripe design.
As with the exterior, it’s clear that Renault has tried to do the bare minimum to update the Megane – the mix of digital and analogue dials is the same as before, as are the audio and climate controls. That means it can’t match its rivals here for quality, with harder plastics and flimsy switchgear.
Renault has a great reputation for building dynamic hatchbacks, thanks to its range of Renaultsport models. Thankfully, some of that DNA has filtered through to the standard Megane.
In corners, it feels lively, with sharp turn-in and a light rear end that gives you confidence to attack twisty roads. However, the Renault relies heavily on its electronic stability control to keep things in check, and it never feels as stable as either of its rivals. The steering is accurate, but lacks feel and consequently will leave keener drivers a little underwhelmed.
This lively nature translates into an unsettled ride when you’re cruising, however, and city driving is upset by thumps and bumps. Some of this is due to the optional 17-inch alloys on our car, though.
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.
The fact this is a facelifted Megane – rather than an all-new car – should mean it’s reasonably reliable, as any problems should have been ironed out in the years since its original launch. Outsourcing the sat-nav to TomTom should ensure reliability for that part of the car, and you can get the software updated regularly if you pay £150 to get a three-year data subscription.
There are signs that Renault is turning around its reputation for reliability and service. It came 21st in our Driver Power 2013 manufacturer ranking (ahead of Ford and SEAT) while its dealers scored a creditable ninth-place finish, too. The Megane itself came fourth – well ahead of the newer Focus.
The car has a five-star Euro NCAP score, although it was tested back in 2008, and its newer rivals have earned five stars under tougher test conditions. Because it’s based on older technology, the hatch doesn’t provide the city safety or lane keeping aids available on the other models here, while tyre pressure monitors (standard on the SEAT Leon) aren’t offered.
Unlike some rivals, the Megane allows you - with some careful manoeuvring - to flip the rear seats forward, which means they fold down almost completely flat. Once the row of seats are packed away, the boot space expands to 1,129 litres.
There’s 405 litres of luggage capacity with them up, although this figure includes 33 litres of under-floor storage. But the boot lip is too high, which makes loading and unloading harder than in rivals. Although the Renault Megane boot space is a little short of the Volkswagen Golf, it’s a square shape, which makes it very useable.
Rear passenger space isn’t great, and you feel as though you’re perched on the back seat. Storage is nothing special, too, with only a big open bin and a 12V socket for back seat passengers, a narrow centre console that’s taken up by the multimedia controller and a single cup-holder.
Plus, as it was designed primarily as a left-hand-drive model, the glovebox is half the size of the other models in this test because the fusebox is located behind it.
It’s very easy to get comfy in the Renault Megane, thanks to the adjustable driver’s seat and reach and rake adjustment of the steering wheel. What’s more, the driver’s position feels nice and sporty.
Renault offers a four-year, £299 fixed-price servicing deal, while intervals of 18,000 miles are good as well. Steep depreciation means the Megane will be worth less than the cheaper SEAT Leon after three years, though.
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. It’s also cheap to run. 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.