Renault has been “shaking that ass” with its big-bottomed Megane for the past six years. Now, with the arrival of the third generation model, it has put all that behind it
The new Megane has shed the rump and acquired a cleaner, more streamlined look. It is not as bold, but classier and less likely to polarise views. There are two body styles: a five-door Hatch, and a sportily-styled three-door Coupe, both of them good lookers with silhouettes reminiscent of the new Volkswagen Scirocco.
Under the skin, the new Megane has the same chassis as its predecessor, which also means the same suspension set-up, with McPherson struts at the front and torsion bar rear suspension. This is a less sophisticated layout than its arch-rivals, the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, however, it doesn’t show in the ride quality, which is excellent. But the Megane’s handling, though pretty good, is not quite in the same league as the others.
Safety-wise, though, it is very well equipped. ESP is standard across the range, with ASR (Anti- Skid Regulation) and CSV understeer control. The array of airbags includes two-stage adaptive front ones, front lateral, front and rear curtain, and anti-submarining airbags that pop up in the front seats. Also on the standard kit list are electric front windows, heated door mirrors, air conditioning, height adjustable driver’s seat, remote central locking, keyless entry and 16-inch alloy wheels. Controversially, a digital speedo replaces the previous model’s analogue one. The range of engines is similar to the previous Megane. Initially there are three diesels: 1.5 dCi 86, 1.5 dCi 106 and 1.9 dCi 130. The 1.5 litre engine is teamed with a five-speed gearbox. The higher-power 1.5 and the 1.9 litre engines have a particulate filter and come with a six-speed box. From the middle of next year, sportier diesels will join the range: a 2.0 dCi 160 with a sixspeed manual transmission, and a 2.0 dCi 150 with an auto box. Pricing for the range sees the diesel models carrying a £1,000 premium over petrol versions, and the coupé is £400 dearer than the hatch.
This quintessentially French car is actually made in northern Spain, at Palencia. So the launch was also in Spain, around Madrid. Disappointingly, only one of the diesel engines was available to try, the 1.9 dCi 130 in the five-door hatch. First impressions inside were of a much-improved car. Soft-touch surfaces and more elegant colour scheming have raised the game in the Megane’s cabin, which seems inspired by the latest Laguna. On the road it’s a much better car too. Steering is sharper and more communicative than in the previous Megane. Braking is light and positive.
Gear change quality is good, and noise levels are low. The hatch rides 12mm higher than the coupé, so the three-door car is tauter on the bends with less body roll, but it’s well-controlled in either. Rearward visibility is a bit of an Achilles’ heel in both versions of the new Megane. The rear pillars are very wide, and the view through the rear-view mirror is shallow. My other complaint is the air-vent dominated dash design, with heater and audio controls rather too low down. The previous Megane was criticised for its boot space, so the new one has more and leapfrogs to best-in-class. The Hatch’s 405-litre boot is 23 per cent larger than its predecessor’s, and the Coupé has 377 litres.
ON SALE: NOW RANGE STARTS AT: £14,995 FOR MEGANE EXPRESSION 1.5 dCi 86 5-DOOR
- Price: £18,795
- Engine: 1870cc, 4 cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 130bhp at 3,750rpm
- Max Torque: 221lb ft at 1,750rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,300kg
- Combined Consumption: 55.4mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 134g/km (C)
- 0-62mph: 127mph
- Max speed: 9.5secs
- Insurance Group: 10