Re­nault’s fam­ily plan

Prac­ti­cal and good value sedan and wagon sib­lings join the small Me­gane hatch. They’re well-equipped and well-built, says Craig Duff

Mercury (Hobart) - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE -

CONDIMENTS don’t make a meal but they do en­hance the flavour. With that in mind, Re­nault has added a Me­gane wagon and sedan to com­pli­ment the vol­ume-sell­ing hatch in the small car ranks.

The move is equal parts aim­ing to present a com­plete range of prod­ucts and to gain in­cre­men­tal sales in a fiercely com­pet­i­tive seg­ment.

Re­nault Aus­tralia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Justin Ho­ce­var says the three-pronged range now means po­ten­tial cus­tomers who ap­pre­ci­ate the looks and the five-year war­ranty have no ex­cuses for over­look­ing a Me­gane.

“Un­til now we could only sell to hatch cus­tomers. They’re the big­gest buy­ers in the seg­ment but it also meant we didn’t have an op­tion for the other 35 per cent of small car buy­ers who wanted the style of a sedan or the ver­sa­til­ity of a wagon body. Now we do,” he says.

Ho­ce­var reck­ons the Me­gane beats its key Euro­pean com­peti­tor, Volk­swa­gen’s jus­tre­freshed Golf, on price and spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

“This is the best-value Euro­pean-built car in the class,” he says.

On face value it is hard to ar­gue with. Key gear in the base Zen ver­sion in­cludes a sev­en­speed dual-clutch au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor, auto lights and wipers, sat­nav and eight-speaker au­dio, 16-inch al­loy wheels and a footswip­ing sen­sor to open the boot.

More im­por­tantly, the drive­away price is just $29,990. For $700, add au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, lanede­par­ture warn­ing and auto high-beam head­lamps.

Spend $35,990 to drive off in an In­tens sedan and the de­fault spec in­cludes the Zen’s op­tional ac­tive driv­ing aids plus adap­tive cruise con­trol and blind-spot warn­ing, semi-au­to­mated park­ing, leather up­hol­stery, panoramic sun­roof, LED head­lamps, 18-inch rims, 8.7inch ca­pac­i­tive in­fo­tain­ment screen and five driv­ing modes af­fect­ing steer­ing weight, trans­mis­sion, en­gine and ac­cel­er­a­tor re­sponse.

The wagon will be sold in Zen, GT-Line and GT ver­sions. The first two share the 1.2-litre four-cylin­der turbo en­gine from the sedan; the GT beefs up with a 1.6-litre turbo mill good for 151kW/280Nm.

Zen buy­ers will still need to fac­tor in $700 over the $30,490 drive-away deal for the ac­tive aids; the GT-Line and GT mir­ror the In­tens spec and roll out of the show­room at $36,490 and $42,490 re­spec­tively.

Boot space in the sedan is 503L; the wagon dds 77L.

ON THE ROAD

This French duo is pretty much un­flap­pable on the roads around Al­bury-Wodonga. The ride is re­laxed with­out wal­low­ing and the steer­ing du­ti­fully fol­lows the de­gree of turn on the tiller with­out any kick­back or rat­tle.

The 1.2-litre per­forms du­ti­fully with­out be­ing a pow­er­house. Per­for­mance is on a par with the likes of the 2.0 in the base Mazda3, so there’s not much to com­plain about.

As with the Mazda, it doesn’t mind a sin­u­ous stretch of bi­tu­men. The Me­gane’s chas­sis pro­vides a solid plat­form so the sus­pen­sion can do its job of iso­lat­ing the cabin from road ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties while keep­ing the tyres flat on the road sur­face — it sounds sim­plis­tic but is a fairly com­plex ask and the Me­gane has it down pat.

If more en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ing ap­peals, the Me­gane GT wagon is the go. It ups the ante with a re­spectable 7.5-se­cond run to 100km/h and packs all-wheel steer­ing to im­prove the cor­ner­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

The set-up turns the rear wheels in the op­po­site di­rec­tion to the fronts at mod­er­ate speeds to sharpen turn-in re­sponse dra­mat­i­cally.

VER­DICT

The new­est ad­di­tions to the small car class won’t nec­es­sar­ily soar on the sales charts but they re­in­force Re­nault’s value-for­money rep­u­ta­tion. Prac­ti­cal, well-equipped and well-built — there’s no ex­cuse for not tak­ing the Me­gane for a test drive.

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