Renault Megane Sport Tourer 1.9 dCi 120 Dynamique

Let's face it - looks are important. No matter what qualities we admire in others, attraction is largely based on whether or not we like what we're seeing.

The UK medium-sized estate sector isn't huge, but Renault's latest offering could buck the trend. It's one of the firm's most stylish cars, and is highly competent in all respects. And, sensible prices and a wide model range mean it will appeal to families who don't feel they need a compact MPV.

Let's face it - looks are important. No matter what qualities we admire in others, attraction is largely based on whether or not we like what we're seeing. Posters of Hollywood stars, for example, grace many a teenager's bedroom wall, but you'll never see a youngster pinning up pictures of someone deemed 'uncool' - however talented they may be.

The same is true of cars. While the old Renault M�gane estate was capable enough, it was never imported to Britain, as Renault didn't think there would be a demand. If you've ever seen one while driving on the Continent, you'll understand why. But times have changed, and now an estate model of the Megane is finally available here.

Thankfully, the new Sport Tourer has undergone something of a 'frog to prince' transformation. Whereas the old estate was ungainly and top-heavy, the newcomer is a good looker, taking the best styling cues from the Megane hatch and matching them to a low-profile rear end similar to that of the acclaimed Laguna Sport Tourer. This is complemented by neat graphite-effect door handles and roof rails, which accentuate the Renault's status as a purpose-built load-lugger, rather than a saloon with a box bolted on.

These stylish, compact looks give the impression that the Sport Tourer will be small and cramped inside, but that couldn't be further from the truth. A longer wheelbase than the hatch means rear accommodation is better than in the five-door, while the front is just as spacious and well packaged.

The load bay is bigger than in many cars in the class above, including the Laguna Sport Tourer. The luggage area is user friendly, too. A low lip and wide opening mean it's easy to get bulky goods on board, while the 60:40 split rear seats can be tumbled flat into the floor with the minimum of effort.

On the road, the Megane Sport Tourer is a highly rewarding drive. The 120bhp 1.9 dCi driven here is definitely the pick of the estate range, with a slick six-speed transmission and lively performance, coupled with excellent fuel economy. The brakes are incredibly effective, if a little too sharp, while the power-steering is pleasantly light without feeling vague.

The driving position isn't the best - the front seats lack lower thigh support, and could do with more height adjustment - but the cabin is comfortable enough and well laid-out. Only a fiddly stereo and door bins that require a long stretch to reach let it down. But these are trivial matters. Overall, the Megane Sport Tourer is the new star of medium estates, and an automotive pin-up of sorts. Not only is it a fine looker, but it's also very talented.

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