RE­NAULT ME­GANE

OF­FERS LIM­ITED RE­SIS­TANCE TO GOLF’S DOM­I­NANCE

Wheels (Australia) - - 2017 Car Of The Year - NATHAN PONCHARD

FOL­LOW­ING the Clio’s im­pres­sive top-three fin­ish in 2013’s COTY, we ex­pected much from the new-gen Re­nault Me­gane. By hon­ing the Clio’s im­pres­sive driv­e­trains and in­tro­duc­ing a host of fresh tech­nol­ogy and a strik­ing new de­sign lan­guage, Me­gane IV should’ve been knock­ing on the door of bril­liance.

In­stead, it’s a case of quite near (if we’re talk­ing about the rorty GT) but still some dis­tance be­hind where the small-car bench­mark sits in 2017. Or even 2013, be­cause the Mk7 Volk­swa­gen Golf re­mains the hatch to beat. And the new Me­gane sim­ply isn’t up to the task.

Mea­sured against the five pil­lars of COTY cri­te­ria, the Me­gane per­forms well in four of them – Tech­nol­ogy, Ef­fi­ciency, Safety and Value. It brings to the ta­ble a pair of punchy di­rect­in­jec­tion turbo en­gines, each tied to re­spon­sive new seven-speed dual-clutch gear­boxes (or a six-speed man­ual on the base donk) and even four-wheel steer­ing on the $38K GT. And there’s a gen­er­ous smat­ter­ing of tech in ev­ery vari­ant, from stan­dard rear day­time run­ning lights on all mod­els (see side­bar) to tablet dash­board touch­screens on up-spec vari­ants and other bits of tin­sel to add some show­room sparkle.

Given the per­for­mance of the GT’S 1.6-litre turbo (7.1sec to 100km/h), its 6.0L/100km com­bined fuel num­ber is par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive, and given the wealth of stan­dard equip­ment in low-end vari­ants, plus a five-year war­ranty and fixed-price ser­vic­ing, the Me­gane range ap­pears to of­fer gen­uine value for money.

But the first stum­bling block is no col­li­sion warn­ing or au­ton­o­mous brak­ing tech on any vari­ant, even as on op­tion, though Re­nault’s ex­cel­lent safety cre­den­tials sug­gest the Me­gane is oth­er­wise ‘safe as houses’. And then there’s the cru­cial as­pect of ‘func­tion’, and here Re­nault drops the ball.

The GT is ex­empt from much of the crit­i­cism, see­ing its Re­nault­sport-tuned chas­sis and four­wheel steer­ing add gen­uine in­volve­ment and pre­ci­sion. It proved grippy and quick on all sur­faces, and ef­fort­lessly con­trolled through the emer­gency lane change, though its ride is overly firm and re­fine­ment isn’t great. “A lov­able rogue”, as By­ron de­scribed it, with enough flair to over­come its lack of ul­ti­mate pol­ish.

The $27K Zen, on the other hand, was much less con­vinc­ing. In a class over­flow­ing with tal­ent like the Golf, 308, As­tra and Im­preza, the boggo Me­gane is your stereo­typ­i­cal also-ran. It lacks the dy­namic co­he­sion and con­trolled sup­ple­ness of its smaller Clio sta­ble­mate, let alone its best ri­vals, and comes across as an unin­spired French hack de­signed to suc­ceed on pa­per, rather than daz­zle on the road.

It seems like Re­nault spent the ma­jor­ity of its time de­vel­op­ing the GT (and hope­fully the forth­com­ing Re­nault­sport ver­sion), and then rushed to the fin­ish line with the 1.2-litre vari­ants. The Me­gane Zen isn’t a bad car by any means – cue its in­ter­est­ing de­sign de­tails, zesty driv­e­train, and gen­er­ous front seats – but it lacks the pol­ish of a Volk­swa­gen Golf, and the panache we’d ex­pect from a brand like Re­nault.

SPECS BODY Type 5- door hatch­back, 5 seats Boot ca­pac­ity 434 litres Weight 1265 – 1392kg DRIVETRAIN Lay­out front en­gine ( east-west), FWD Engines 1198cc 4cyl turbo ( 97kw/ 205Nm); 1618cc 4cyl turbo (151kw/ 280Nm) Trans­mis­sions 6-speed man­ual; 7-speed...

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