How the hatch is plotted
Renault is tackling the entire smallcar stable with the diesel Megane
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Renault’s Megane will come in under