Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good The current generation MkIII model arrived in Australian in October 2010. The styling is non offensive and from some angles (i.e. rear three quarter) it even has a touch of crossover, which should be a good thing considering the strong sales growth of compact SUV’s of recent years. The previous generation Megane’s unusual rear end has been exchanged for a more conventional design which is expected to hold more appeal for Aussie buyers.
Not so good Although we welcome Renault’s mainstream features and pricing with the latest model, some of us will still miss the Megane MkII. On the styling front, if the previous Megane hatchback was your sophisticated, quirky distant cousin from Paris that you’ve never met, the new Megane is more akin to your own sister who happened to speak fluent French.
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good The interior is light, calming and airy. It exudes a sense of spaciousness, thanks to the use of a light colour palette and a rakishly angled dashboard surface. The instruments are clear and well laid out. Some variants feature a digital speedometer with arguably one of the biggest and clearest displays you will find in any car on sale today. The climate control system features a unique ‘Soft’ and ‘Fast’ mode. We particularly like the ‘Soft’ mode as it offers a gentle, softer blow of air, and yet still adjusts fan speed accordingly as part of the ‘Auto’ program. In most cars, the ‘Auto’ mode can be a noisy, windy experience as the fan speed goes to eleven during the first few minutes to adjust to the desired temperature, and even after a while you will find yourself often wanting to turn the fan speed down a notch or two, which would disable the ‘Auto’ mode. ‘Fast’ mode is not that uncommon (it’s often labelled ‘MAX’ in other systems), and it does what its name suggests, to achieve the desired temperature in the shortest time. The steering wheel is adjustable for both rake and reach and the seats adjust for the usual attributes plus the addition of lumbar support. This car has an average amount of space for a small segment hatchback, and it is set out to favour those sitting in the front seats, although back seat passengers are provided with a bench that is set nice and low, with adequate legroom. The cargo area is respectable for this class, and the rear seats and seat squabs fold flat a la Honda Jazz.
Not so good The interior design retains typical quirkiness of controls and switches exclusive to French automobiles, and though this can be overcome in the long run, the Megane is not a car that you can simply hop on, tune to your favourite radio station, put the front demister on and set the cruise control at 110km/h while talking on your Bluetooth-paired mobile. Reading the manual is highly recommended. True to its roots, the Megane’s controls are unashamedly idiosyncratic. Some of the quirks we came across included: bonnet release on the wrong side of the car (It’s in front passenger foot well, presumably a legacy of its LHD origin), steering column mounted remote audio controls having a steeper learning curve than French pronunciation, the cruise control main switch is located near the hand brake lever, and the rear wiper switch does not tell you its status (whether it’s on or off). The seats could use wider range of height adjustment, particularly at its lowest setting. Finding a comfortable position was a little hard at first, due to seats that don’t go low enough. In the Megane, you sit on, not in however this is normal for a non sporty family car. We also found the driver seat squab is a little short for our liking, and the headrests are not securely locked in place (you can push it up with the back of your head, without having to push its release button).
Performance

Performance

Good The Megane’s 2.0L petrol unit is smooth and tractable, with enough low down torque for everyday driving. The automatic style gearbox is actually a CVT and is also impressively smooth. Overall, the engine is perfectly adequate, feeling neither sluggish nor overtly sporty. Overall, the willing engine and CVT transmission make for smooth, real world drive-ability.
Not so good During sudden, short-burst acceleration (e.g. in-city driving), the CVT transmission can sometimes get caught by surprise and its immediate response is a little disappointing. For those with a more aggressive driving style we would recommend sticking with the manual transmission. Fuel economy is quite disappointing. We averaged 9.5L/100km for inner city driving and 9.0L/100km for mixed after spending a week with a CVT transmission Megane. Though these figures are not exorbitantly high in any way, we expect better figures from a modern 2.0L engine. Which begs the question, where in the name of Otto are the diesels?
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good The Megane rides and behaves acceptably for a small hatch. The suspension is comfortable over bumps and road imperfections and the EPS steering is pleasingly light for parking and inner city manoeuvring. Renault’s engineers should be applauded for their effort in tuning the Megane’s rear ‘programme-deflection flexible beam’ (read: Torsion Beam) suspension; it rides with aplomb with none of the bouncy-tail syndrome experienced by some other cars in this class with the same set-up.
Not so good Though Renault never portrays Megane on its sporting credentials (save for the brilliant Megane RS250 which is a substantially different car), we would welcome more controlled body movement and less suspension travel, especially at higher speeds. During our testing, a quick lane change on freeway speed was not exactly confidence inspiring. For someone who does a lot of driving on freeway and winding country roads, there are other small hatches out there with a more disciplined chassis.
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good The Megane, which was once to be found trailing far behind competition in terms of pricing and features has suddenly morphed into one of the most competitive, riding high at the forefront. There’s no such thing as a ‘base’ variant when you’re talking about this generation Megane. The entry level Dynamique comes with six airbags, Bluetooth, 16-inch alloys and naturally, ESP. At its RRP, we are confident that the Dynamique represents good value any way you look at it, especially as it comes with that pedigree European badge. Among its other features, the Privilege adds a sunroof, leather, parking sensors and 17-inch alloys. When you compare this with other similarly priced European equivalents, you can see the Renault offers more standard features for your hard earned money.
Not so good That it is not available with diesel certainly dampens the appeal of the Megane, we’ve seen what Renault Diesels can do (the previous generation RenaultSport Megane dCi 175, for example), and would like to have more options in terms of engine / transmission combination on the new Megane. Although the CVT transmission is smooth and suits most driving styles, at times it can be awkward and is not for everyone. A conventional automatic or better still, a dual clutch gearbox would certainly enhance the buying proposition.