How the hatch is plot­ted

Re­nault is tack­ling the en­tire small­car sta­ble with the diesel Me­gane

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@cars­guide.com.au

VALUE and econ­omy are pretty good hooks to hang a car on. When that car is a Re­nault Me­gane diesel and it’s tak­ing on every­thing from the Ford Fo­cus to Hyundai i30, it needs more than that to make a mark.

But Re­nault still has some resid­ual ca­chet and the Me­gane is priced and po­si­tioned to carve out a big­ger niche than the 60-odd cars it now sells a month.

VALUE

Re­nault Aus­tralia boss Justin Ho­ce­var has fought the good fight to get the base model Me­gane in at $27,490 and right into the small-car fight.

It comes with a 1.5-litre turbo diesel matched to a com­pe­tent dual-clutch au­to­mated man­ual trans­mis­sion. That gives it an edge against the six-speed man­ual in the Mazda3 diesel for $27,360, VW­Golf Blue­mo­tion for $28,990 and Ford Fo­cus Trend for $30,500, both in man­ual guise.

Hyundai’s i30cw SX un­der­cuts them all at $23,090 for the five-speed man­ual (the four-speed auto adds $2000).

DE­SIGN

The Me­gane is dif­fer­ent enough to stand out in the car park for all the right rea­sons.

As yet Re­nault is still not a com­mon sight and the hatch has been cut from a more stylish French cloth than the util­i­tar­ian shape of the Golf or i30. Ex­te­rior style isn’t matched with in­te­rior space, though. The glove­box won’t stow any­thing big­ger than a clutch purse and the cen­tre bin will strug­gle to do that. The hand-held Tom­Tom sat­nav con­troller chews up one of the front drink hold­ers and the door pock­ets are slim. On the pos­i­tive side, the ma­te­ri­als and plas­tics feel bet­ter than most in this class and there’s a de­cent amount of space.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The dual-clutch au­to­mated man­ual is the news. It’s a dry clutch ex­am­ple, which cuts weight and fric­tional losses and op­er­ates as well asVW’s DSG off the line. It isn’t far off when un­der way but can oc­ca­sion­ally be caught hunt­ing for a gear un­der light ac­cel­er­a­tion or brak­ing. Teamed with the 1.5-litre turbo diesel, the trans­mis­sion helps the Me­gane to an of­fi­cial fuel use of 4.5L/100km and CO emis­sions

2 of 117g/km.

SAFETY

The Me­gane hasn’t yet been rated but the pre­vi­ous model was a five-star NCAP car— it’s hard to see the French brand go­ing back­wards. This is a main­stream ve­hi­cle in Europe from a main­stream com­pany and has been de­signed to gain a top rat­ing, with struc­tural in­tegrity, six airbags and sta­bil­ity con­trol.

DRIV­ING

The Me­gane’s per­for­mance is ad­mirable— a de­cent spread of torque makes it feel big­ger than a 1.5-litre oiler— with­out be­ing close to class-lead­ing. In terms of ride and pas­sen­ger com­fort, though, only the Fo­cus and Golf will match it. A suc­ces­sion of un­avoid­able ruts and potholes tested the sus­pen­sion and while the bumps were felt, they didn’t un­set­tle the car. The same can’t be said for the sil­ica-loaded tyres on the base Dy­namique. They un­der­steered well be­fore the sus­pen­sion was un­der pres­sure and— sur­pris­ingly— weren’t as com­pli­ant as the 17-inch rub­ber on the Priv­i­lege.

VER­DICT

All Re­nault Aus­tralia’s Justin Ho­ce­var wants is for the Me­gane to earn a spot on shop­ping lists. A solid car at a com­pet­i­tive price with a five-year war­ranty and free ser­vic­ing for the first three years should de­liver that.

Niche mar­ket:

Re­nault’s Me­gane will come in un­der

$30,000

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