France has a valid Mazda3 rival for those who don’t want to run with the pack
HAVING a good car isn’t good enough to be a winner in the small car class. Just ask Renault, whose Megane is earning a trickle of interest amid a torrent of sales. Put that down to lack of knowledge in the brand— Renault is starting off a small base in Australia and is still educating the public that French flair is a no-cost option, not an extracost one.
In the Megane, buyers get a solidly built hatch that rides well and has enough standard gear to be value for money. The downside is a continuously variable transmission in the petrol models that drone like a seminar speaker. The diesel, a better engine, is too noisy under load.
The bottom line is $26,000, which buys a base model Megane Dynamique with 16-inch alloy wheels, a sixspeed manual gearbox and most of the features you want except satellite navigation.
That’s about what it costs for a Mazda3 MaxxSport but the Mazda does come with satnav.
Spend $2500 more for a Megane with the 1.5-litre turbo diesel and a six-speed auto. The Privilege spec level raises the bar by $4000 for the petrol and $5000 for the diesel.
The dual-clutch automated manual transmission works well with the diesel. There’s a moment of hesitation off the line but the torque rolls on early and gives the hatch decent performance around town. It doesn’t have the punch of a Ford Focus TDCi but it also uses a litre less
diesel every 100km, with Renault claiming fuel use of 4.5L/100km.
The front end of the Renault is distinctive without straying too far from the accepted small car formula. The bumper sweeps up to the top of the wheel arches where it neatly blends in with the wraparound lights.
Rear seat legroom is on the tight side— pack no more than two adults in the rear for a lengthy trip. However, it’s very easy to load the boot, with its 360 litres of space.
The interior is just starting to date. Renault persists in putting the sound system controls on a block behind the steering wheel where they can’t be seen or easily used. Putting a cupholder in front of the USB input isn’t a Eureka’’ moment, either.
Good deal: The Renault Megane is an impressive all-round performer