Our snappers are exchanging cars – but does Korean crossover represent better part of the deal?
I’ve waved goodbye to the Renault Mégane – but only for a couple of weeks. Staff photographer Pete Gibson and I cover more miles in our long-term cars than any of our colleagues in the Auto Express office, and we decided to swap to see how the models compare.
I couldn’t wait to load my gear into the back of Pete’s Sportage, as I’m a big fan of the Korean brand. Before getting the keys to the Sport Tourer, I covered in excess of 40,000 miles in one of Kia’s Soul superminis. I loved it, and was looking forward to taking a couple of steps up the ladder.
After living with the Mégane for four months, I feared that I would be disappointed by the kit on offer, as our well equipped Renault has everything from an integrated TomTom sat-nav unit to cruise control and full iPod integration. But I needn’t have worried, as the top-spec Sportage is brimming with toys.
Heated front and rear seats, a double sunroof, touchscreen sat-nav, stop-start, cruise control and leather upholstery ensured the Kia was more than a match for the French carrier. So it passed the first test with flying colours, but how does it compare to the sporty Renault on the road?
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The first thing I noticed was the improvement in ride comfort and refinement. My biggest complaint with the Mégane GT is the crashy ride, which is tiresome on long journeys. Add the excellent visibility provided by its taller ride height, and the Kia is a far more enjoyable long-haul companion. I’ve noticed the shortfall in performance, though.
The Sportage is fitted with a 1.7-litre diesel engine. Its 114bhp power output trails the Mégane by 44bhp, and it soon becomes apparent out on the road. The crossover suffers from a lack of mid-range punch, which means you have to plan ahead when joining fast-moving motorway traffic. That’s not something I’ve had to worry about in the Renault, with its punchy responses.
I’m a big fan of the Kia’s looks, though, and the boot easily swallowed the camera kit and crates of cleaning gear that accompany my every move. So, how do I feel about getting back into the Mégane after a few weeks away?
Well, after the initial guilt – I felt as though I was cheating on the hard-working estate to begin with – I can’t wait to climb behind the wheel again. While its big alloy wheels and firm suspension make the drive home at the end of a long day a bit of an endurance test, I’ve grown used to the rewards they bring; I’ve missed the Renault’s pace and sporty handling.
So although I appreciate the Sportage, I’m looking forward to the return of the Mégane. I wonder if Pete feels the same?
“Only a few hundred pounds separate these cars on price. I must be getting old, because I prefer the comfort and refinement of the Kia to the Renault’s sportier performance and handling – although I think the Mégane looks great.”
Ross Pinnock, road test editor