Renault’s Megane dCi 106 beat its rival in a head to head test earlier this year. This time, Ian Robertson takes the wheel of the more powerful 1.9-litre version
French cars can be a bit of an acquired taste, but I’ve been bitten by the bug, and I love their bold styling and quirky nature, which is why I was disappointed when I first clapped eyes on the new Megane. Where was the distinctive rear rump that the old model had become so famous for? Where were the interesting design cues? At first glance, the latest Megane seemed to have a similar silhouette to the Citroën C4. I reckon the Megane is a bit of a grower though, and as each day passed while it was on test, I warmed to it more and more.
Quality has never been a particular Renault watch word, yet the French maker has been beavering away, attempting to make improvements. The firm made bold claims at the launch of the new Laguna, and, while many were sceptical, it seems to be working. The quality of materials is vastly improved, with the medium hatch adopting many of the Laguna’s interior styling touches. The design is clean, modern and is broken up by a large metallic strip that dissects the soft-touch mouldings. The steering wheel is pleasing to hold and the digital dials are attractive, despite the fact that they have divided opinion elsewhere.
Big digital readouts are, in our opinion, a handy piece of innovation, as you are always aware of your speed, which is useful with so many cameras about. There’s plenty of room up front but things aren’t so generous in the rear. The shapely rump robs rear passengers of headroom, while legroom is poor compared to rivals. Boot space is plentiful, though. The spec sheet says that there should be 130bhp on tap, but I wasn’t convinced, and actually checked to make sure that I hadn’t been given a dCi 106 by mistake, but everything was present and correct. The 1.9 dCi engine is an ageing unit. While it doesn’t feel perky at first, once you get to learn its attributes, quick progress can be made. It’s a shame that it isn’t a little more refined, as it sounds raucous and strained at high revs and the noise permeates throughout the cabin. Fingers crossed that the upcoming 1.6 dCi engine that will replace it in 2011 will offer greater levels of refinement. On the twisty stuff, the Megane handles well and the ride is nicely judged, soaking up pot holes with aplomb.
Dynamique trim is half way between the top-level Privilège and entry level Extreme models and comes equipped with 16-inch sports alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control and front fog lights, together with automatic headlamps and wipers. Our test car came with a few extras, namely dual-zone climate control and satellite navigation with a Bluetooth hands free system. This was easy to use, but the controls were mounted a little low on the dashboard. Standard fitment of parking sensors would have been nice, as the bulky rear pillars restrict the driver’s view over the shoulder.
RIVALS: FORD FOCUS ZETEC 2.0 TDCi, PEUGEOT 308 SPORT HDi 136, VAUXHALL ASTRA SXi 1.9 CDTi
- 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 (E)
- 0-62mph: 9.5secs
- Max speed: 127mph
- Insurance group: 9
Quality much improved, value for money, low emissions, tidy dashboard design
Poor leg and head room in the rear, engine noisy when extended, parking sensors extra