Foibles are standard
Pricing the Megane against the Volkswagen Golf is a brave move but Renault reckons its hatch is just as well equipped as its European rival. In the case of the Zen, that runs to a seveninch screen with satnav, dualzone aircon, electronic park brake, reversing camera, tyre pressure monitor and cruise control. Renault backs the Megane with a five-year warranty and the first three annual checks will cost $299 each, which alleviates concerns about European cars being expensive to service.
The Megane is reasonably composed in corners but there is an occasional suspension crash over ruts when the pace is on. The steering is far better sorted with good feeling for what the front wheels are doing and a light weight that won’t become tiresome in car parks. Ergonomics are effective with the exception of the cruise control switch (hiding between the seats) and the audio control “block” (lurking behind the steering wheel). Still, it wouldn’t be French if it didn’t have some foibles.
ANCAP hasn’t rated the Megane but it should be structurally sound and has six airbags. Autonomous emergency braking, a notable omission, will be available next year. The same holds true for adaptive cruise control, while even something as rudimentary as a blind spot warning is reserved for the more expensive GT-Line version. It’s not a dealbreaker but it is something to consider come resale time.
A turbocharged 1.2-litre engine and seven-speed dual-clutch automatic drive the front wheels and perform admirably in daily duties. Acceleration on take-off isn’t going to set the world or the rubber on fire but, under way, the Megane makes the most of its mid-range torque to more than match the traffic flow. The rear seats will take a couple of tall adults, though leg room is limited.
There’s no shortage of capable cars in this class. The Golf is the obvious rival and a similarly equipped 92TSI Comfortline is $28,340, plus $1500 for adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert. The Golf also has a narrow performance and fuel economy edge. Quicker than both but thirstier, the Mazda3 GT is $25,690 (six-speed auto adds $2000). Active driver aids are standard on the Mazda.
The Megane is a class act but it needs to be at this price. The absence of AEB doesn’t do it any favours with the safetyconscious but otherwise it competes pretty well on specification and performance.