Renault Megane Sport Tourer

Revised family estate offers improved styling and better efficiency

The Megane Sport Tourer has always been one of the best-looking estates on the market, and thanks to its strong engines and slick handling it nearly beat the VW Golf Estate in Issue 1,147. Now, Renault has given it a major overhaul – following in the footsteps of the Grand Scenic and Twingo – to bring it back in touch with the class leaders.

From the outside, it’s clear to see where Renault got its inspiration for the 2012 styling tweaks. The new grille – with its gloss black inserts and integrated LEDs in the bumper – is borrowed straight from the Renaultsport Megane hot hatch, while the ‘boomerang’ tail-lights and anthracite roof rails instantly stand out against our car’s Malta Blue body.

This GT Line model gets extra badges and a plastic diffuser that won’t suit all tastes, but overall the styling changes make the Megane ST look even sharper than it did before. The changes continue inside, where the GT Line comes with a thick-rimmed sports steering wheel. A low-slung driving position and figure-hugging part-leather seats also help it deliver on the promise of the racy exterior. Other design cues like the red stitching and carbon fibre-effect dash insert add a further sense of excitement that’s missing in the sensible SEAT.

The attractive climate control and stereo switches are slightly better than before and the extensive equipment list includes built-in sat-nav, Bluetooth and USB connections and parking sensors all round. The wide range of adjustment on the seat and steering column makes finding a comfortable driving position simple, too, but the small rear window means all-round visibility isn’t as good as it is in the squared-off Exeo ST.

For all its flair, the Megane is remarkably  spacious inside. Despite being shorter than the SEAT, it has a higher roof and a longer wheelbase, so there’s a decent amount of knee and headroom for rear passengers. The boot has been cleverly designed, with a low lip that makes it easy to load bulky items. And even though it’s slightly shorter than the Exeo’s luggage bay, it’s deeper, so it can carry more bags. Hard-to-reach catches make flipping up the rear seatbases quite tricky, but once they’re up the boot floor is flat and the Megane has a 1,600-litre capacity.

So it’s desirable and practical, but does it still drive as well as the previous car? Three new engines have been added to the range: a 1.5-litre diesel with 90g/km CO2 emissions, a small turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol, plus the 1.6-litre dCi 130 engine we’re testing here. The 1.6 is a direct replacement for the old 1.9-litre diesel, and standard stop-start and regenerative brakes ensure it’s 20 per cent more efficient: it emits only 104g/km of CO2 and claims 70.6mpg fuel economy.

However, the benefits of downsizing the engine don’t just come at the pumps, and with 320Nm of torque from just 1,750rpm the Megane showed an impressive turn of speed during our track tests. Shorter gearing meant it was working harder at 70mph than the Exeo, but the well spaced ratios make its performance far more accessible on the road. Plus, while the six-speed gearbox has a long throw, the shift action is pleasingly accurate – this combines with quick steering and the balanced chassis to give an involving drive.

The Renault is more agile than its rival – no doubt helped by the fact it’s 245kg lighter, at 1,320kg. But the trade-off is the jittery ride, which can get tiring. That’s a pity as there’s not much road, wind and engine noise. We’d sacrifice some of the handling poise for a more composed ride – and on that basis, the cheaper Megane Dynamique TomTom – with smaller 16-inch wheels and standard suspension – is the pick of the new range.

The £21,100 Dynamique undercuts the Exeo by £505, yet still comes with plenty of equipment as standard. And the lower price makes up for the lower residuals – the Renault is predicted to retain only 34.9 per cent of its value after three years. But all models benefit from the company’s 4+ package, which throws in four years of free servicing, warranty and roadside assistance. So the Megane ST is a temptingly different estate, and looks odds-on for the win.

Details

Chart position: 1Why: The Megane has been given a thorough styling overhaul, more kit and a powerful yet efficient new 1.6-litre dCi diesel engine.

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