Renault Megane

After testing the waters with its radically designed Avantime and Vel Satis, Renault took its biggest gamble in 2002 with the new M�gane. The bold styling and striking rear split opinion, but with its five-star Euro NCAP crash test result, the car won fans.

After testing the waters with its radically designed Avantime and Vel Satis, Renault took its biggest gamble in 2002 with the new M�gane. The bold styling and striking rear split opinion, but with its five-star Euro NCAP crash test result, the car won fans. There's a choice of three or five-door hatch, estate, saloon and coup�-cabrio - and that's before engines and trims. Critics say the hatch's rear limits room, but the longer wheelbase of the saloon and estate models offers more space. While the dCi diesels are the best engines, cheaper petrol powerplants such as the 1.6-litre are a competent enough compromise. Equipment levels are generous, but check that everything works properly, as it's not always reliable. The good news is the prices, which start at less than £7,000.Checklist * Interior: keyless entry card can play up, and while trim is better than on the previous M�gane, rattles from the glovebox lid, door trims, boot and seats are not unknown. * Windscreen: some owners have reported the car's windscreen steaming up or leaking water. Check the surround and dash for any evidence. The warranty covers the faults. * Electrics: operate every control to see it works correctly, as electrics are a common complaint. Gear linkage can also be a problem area - avoid examples with excessively loose or reluctant shifts. * Brakes: squeaky brakes are a regular grievance, often caused by new linings not having bedded in properly. Be sure the car doesn't pull to one side while braking. * Exterior: there's no model badging, so check the V5 closely. Even then, you can be caught out as the 1.5-litre dCi diesel engines come with various power outputs.Driving Impressions The M�gane rides superbly, soaking up imperfections well. Handling is competent, but the steering is remote and the car rolls more in bends than many rivals. Avoid the 1.4-litre petrol and 65bhp 1.5 dCi diesel, which feel slow. The 2.0-litre petrol is outdone by the 1.9 dCi, which is nearly as powerful, yet more frugal. The seats are superb and controls well laid out, but stereo is fiddly.Glass's View Although the love-it-or-hate-it rear end remains a talking point, the new Renault M�gane has now attracted sufficient sales for it to be regarded as a success. Depreciation is in line with that of most other models in the sector, but diesel versions hold their value better. That said, availability of oil-burning variants is only recently improving, and petrol cars are more common on forecourts. High-specified versions such as the Privil�ge are the pick of the bunch. Jeff Paterson, senior editor, Glass's GuideLife With A M�gane I love the styling of my M�gane, and the diesel engine is great. However, the service from my dealer is well below par, and every time I take the car in for a check-up, the garage tries to sell me a new one! Doug Haverham, Wisbech, Cambs I bought the M�gane because of its top crash test rating. Safety is a priority as I drive my kids 30 miles to school. It's also been problem-free. Dee McIntyre, Newry, Co Down

Verdict

It would be easy to dismiss the all-new M�gane as simply another oddball Renault design. However, beneath the quirky styling lies a seriously competent car. It certainly feels solidly put together. Plus, it copes well with most road surfaces, and only particularly rough tarmac will unsettle the hatchback's poise. Sport Saloon and Tourer models are smoother still, with the latter boasting a boot that's even bigger than that of the Laguna estate.

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