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Renault Megane ST

Is our Renault Megane Sport Tourer ‘tres bien’, or do we wish it a ‘bon voyage’?

I’m getting into the spirit of our car swap by brushing up on my French. So, will my time with the Renault be ‘tres bien’, or will I be wishing it a ‘bon voyage’ after only a few miles?

There’s nothing between the two cars when it comes to style. While I love the concept car looks of my Kia Sportage SUV, I’m also a big fan of the French estate’s sleek lines – to my eyes, the Sport Tourer is the best-looking model in the Mégane line-up.

Once inside, I have to grudgingly admit that the Renault has the upper hand by the smallest of margins. It lacks the commanding driving position of the high-riding Kia, but the Mégane’s cabin is attractively designed and has a more upmarket feel, thanks to the generous use of soft-touch materials.

Other highlights include the supportive front sports seats and chunky leather-trimmed steering wheel, with its contrasting white stitching. Star of the show is the standard-fit sat-nav. While it doesn’t have the touchscreen facility of the Kia’s unit, the TomTom device in the Renault scores for its excellent postcode entry system and safety camera alerts. Only the fiddly centre console-mounted rotary control lets it down.

I’ve also been impressed by the Sport Tourer’s spacious boot. In the Kia, I usually have to pack one or two bags on the back seat, but the Mégane estate’s wide and long 479-litre load area swallows all of my work gear in the space beneath the load cover.

The Renault has more engine capacity, too. Over the last few thousand miles, the Kia’s 123bhp 1.7-litre CRDi diesel has loosened up noticeably, but it’s still no match for the muscular 158bhp 2.0-litre unit in the French car. As a result, I’ve been revelling in the oil-burner’s hefty mid- range punch, which helps take the strain out of overtaking.
 
The Mégane also has the upper hand in corners, where its racy Renaultsport-tuned chassis serves up lots of grip and hot hatch-rivalling agility. The price you pay for this sharp handling is an extremely firm ride, which is really uncomfortable over poorly surfaced roads – the Kia is a much more cosseting long-distance companion.

The Sportage is also more at home around town, where its supple suspension and excellent stop-start system come into their own. I’ve grown used to the engine cutting out every time I come to a halt, so I feel a bit guilty as the Renault powerplant continues to run at traffic lights. Not that the economy seems to suffer.

The Mégane is perfectly suited to my long-haul lifestyle, and is returning 44mpg – more than the Sportage. All of this means that I’m really enjoying my time with the Sport Tourer. It’s proving to be fast, stylish and flexible family transport.

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Yet that doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to waving ‘au revoir’ to it and getting back behind the wheel of the Kia. For all its performance, the Renault’s unyielding suspension is too much for me. And with the odometers on both cars whirling round at a hectic rate, you can’t put too high a price on comfort.

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