RENAULT has released its fourth-generation Megane onto the Australian market. The sharply styled hatchback is expected to win over more new car buyers for the French brand in the hugely important small car segment.
TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
The 2017 Renault Megane is all-new, and built on the same modular platform that underpins its larger sibling, the Renault Koleos SUV. Compared with its predecessor, the fourth-gen Megane is 57mm longer, 25mm lower, has shorter overhangs, and is 29mm longer between the front and rear axles.
The five-door Megane’s bodywork has also transformed from ‘anonymous’ to ‘glamorous’, with a sharper set of panels and distinct front and rear LED light elements giving the hatchback a bolder look to help it stand out from the small hatch crowd.
Four model grades are offered – Life, Zen, GT-Line and GT – and two engines power the range. The Life, Zen and GT-Line all receive a 97kW/205Nm 1.2-litre turbo inline four, while the range-topping GT receives a 151kW/280Nm 1.6-litre turbo similar to the one used in the Renault Sport-tuned Clio RS 200.
All models power the front wheels, with the 1.2-litre models using a six-speed dual-clutch automatic (the base Life also has a six-speed manual option). The Megane GT uses a seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
Prices range from $22,490 for the Megane Life manual (add $2500 for the auto), through to $27,490 for the mid-grade Megane Zen, $32,490 for the Megane GT-Line and $38,490 for the range-topping Megane GT.
- Design is a standout feature of the entire Megane range, with every model benefiting from an assertive and stylish look that’s bookended by C-shaped LED daytime running lights at the front and a W-shaped LED tail-lamp graphic that spans almost the full width of the car. In traffic, there’s no mistaking it for any other small car.
- Driveability is surprisingly good on the 1.2-litre models, even though its 97kW power output is significantly behind many rivals in the segment. The 1.2’s 205Nm of turbocharged torque gives the engine more twist than a 2.0-litre Mazda 3, and enough pull to keep up with traffic.
- The Megane GT is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Its 1.6-litre engine produces 151kW and a stout 280Nm. Drive goes to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch auto, with rear-wheel steering helping agility. The GT also features launch control and grippy Continental tyres, plus a unique suspension tune to help it hang on in corners.
- Fuel economy is a respectable 5.6L/100km for the 1.2-litre automatics and 6.0L/100km for the 1.6-litre Megane GT.
- Go for the GT-Line or GT, and you score a pair of supportive and deeply-bolstered front seats. Sculpted to hold you tightly in corners, they also offer great long-distance comfort and complement the Megane’s superb driving position.
- Interior quality is variable. While the upper dash is made of finely textured soft-touch plastic, the lower dash is hard, shiny and coarse-grained. The glovebox lid is also a poor fit, with misaligned gaps on either side.
- The Megane’s glovebox is laughably small, while its front cupholders are also fairly undersized and shallow. These are typical French car complaints.
- Renault claims rear-seat accommodation has improved, but knee and foot room still could use some improvement. Headroom isn’t huge, either, but things are not as tight as some rivals.
- Renault’s new R-Link 2 infotainment system is responsive, intuitive and offers plenty of customisation, but some buyers may lament the omission of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. On the flipside, sat-nav is standard on all models bar the base Life.
- Though European-market cars have auto emergency braking and active cruise control as available equipment, Aussie-delivered cars don’t have the potentially life-saving tech as yet. It’s expected to become available later in 2017.
ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD CONSIDER?
Key rivals for the Megane range include French fare such as the Peugeot 308 and the very polished Mazda 3 range, though it’s the Volkswagen Golf that is its stiffest mainstream-premium competition.