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. The Renault Megane is probably Renault’s best-built model yet; it’s the culmination of years spent developing models and improving quality. It feels solid and sturdy and the interior styling, like the soft touch material, gives the Renault Megane an upmarket feel.
The new Renault Megane 2013 model is due to be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show later this year. This new car will be available as a five-door, three-door Coupe and an estate. And while details of the Megane line-up remain secret, we expect the new model to share many parts with a Golf rival being planned by sister company Nissan.
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 current Renault Megane has done away with the curvaceous and quirky styling of the previous generation, and replaced it with a more conservative feel. The five-door Megane still looks good, 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 with interior touches that create a more luxurious feel, like the soft touch plastics on the dash. 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 Renault Megane RS, 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. However, the wind whistle that you get at motorway speeds can be a bit annoying.
The Megane handles reasonably well; there’s loads of reassuring grip and there’s hardly any body roll through the corners. 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 awarded for child protection. The safety test commended the stable body that helps to protect passengers well.
The Renault Megane 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 Renault 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 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. When the rear row of seats are in use, boot space shrinks to 372 litres. Although the Renault Megane boot space is a little short of the Volkswagen Golf, it’s a square shape, which makes it very useable.
There are some weaknesses with the way the Megane utilises the interior space. The glovebox may look massive but it’s actually rather tiny and there's just a single small cupholder in the centre console that obstructs the stereo controls. Space in the back could be better, too, with head and legroom tight for taller passengers. Anyone who wants to squeeze adult passengers in the back would be better to opt for a model like the Ford Focus. 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.
One Renault Megane problem is depreciation; this car won’t hold its value as well as a VW Golf. The trade-off is that it doesn’t cost as much as a Golf in the first place and the model options come very 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. 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.