The new Megane is a bit bigger and a lot smarter than its predecessor, with a tablet-size screen on the dash.
According to Renault’s design chief Laurens van den Acker, “Renault can produce cars with a Latin skin and a German heart”. Is he right? Well, you can be the judge of the aesthetics, but that has clearly been the aim with the new Megane. This is the fourth generation of a car that is central to the French company’s range and has been around since 1995.
Remember the predecessors? The first Megane, which stayed on sale until 2002, was known for its ‘bird-beak’ front grille. The second, which ran from 2002 to 2009, was voted European Car of the Year and was the first small family car to achieve a five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests. It was also notable for its rounded rump, prompting the memorable ‘Shakin’ that Ass’ TV commercials.
Then along came the third generation Megane, with a fresh face and softer body lines, but a bit less character than its predecessor. It shed that distinctive rumpy rear end, but had improved build quality and has been a strong seller, including a spell among the top five best-selling cars in Europe.
So here’s the brand new fourth generation Megane, which has grown a little bigger all round and had a bit more room shoehorned into the cabin. Its body is 64 mm longer, six mm wider and 24 mm lower than the previous model, with a wheelbase that has been stretched by an extra 28 mm. It has a similar understructure to the Renault Kadjar.
There’s a touch more elbow room inside, and enough space for six-footers front and back. The boot is 384 litres, which is just a bit bigger than either a VW Golf at 380 litres or Vauxhall Astra (370 litres), and quite a lot more than a Ford Focus (316 litres). With rear seats folded, the Megane’s 1,247 litres of total carrying capacity is only topped by the Golf at 1,270 litres.
Our test car is the version that’s expected to be the top seller in the UK: the 1.5-litre turbodiesel dCi 110. It’s in mid-range Dynamique S Nav trim, and comes equipped with a multimedia touchscreen and TomTom satnav. It’s very intuitive but happily doesn’t have the handicap some cars now have of forcing you to operate everything via the screen. Temperature and airflow controls, and the rear screen heater have quick access via a row of switches below the screen.
Driving calibre upgraded
The first thing you notice when you get behind the wheel is that the Megane’s driving calibre has taken a step up from its predecessor. It has more poise and a friendly feel that makes it more enjoyable to drive than the model it has replaced. There’s still room for further improvement. The steering isn’t quite as pert and involving as it could be, and there’s some road noise to contend with, but as a family all-rounder, it’s very agreeable company.
It has well contoured and supportive seats that are very comfortable over a distance, and the suspension is quite cushioning too, although its relatively soft damping means that there can be a bit of bounce over coarser surfaces and some lean on the bends.
The overall feel is a car that is set up to prioritise family comfort. It has a classier cabin, and is more involving to drive than before, but is still not quite a match for a Focus or Golf for sheer poise and precision. It’s worth going for a version that lets you select a Sport driving mode, to perk up the responses.
Totting it up
How much is a new Megane? Prices start from £16,600, and there 25 versions in the range to choose between, spread across four engines and six trim levels. Our test car, a diesel in mid-range trim, has an on-the-road price at just over £20,000. That is swelled by a few options, such as metallic paint and full LED headlights, that bring the final price to a whisker below £23k.
That buys a handsome, very comfortable and well-equipped family hatchback that isn’t at the top of the class for driving calibre, but has certainly moved closer. Latin skin and German heart? Not quite, but heading that way.
Renault Megane Stats Review
Model tested: Dynamique S Nav dCi 110
Top speed: 116 mph
0-62 mph: 11.3 secs
Economy: 76.4 mpg
CO2: 96 g/km
Images: Sue Baker