Latest report - Renault Megane long-term test
10 November 2017
Author: Guy Bird
|P11D price £20,995|
|As tested £22,660|
|Official consumption 76.4mpg|
16th report - Front to back secrets
The great thing about testing a car for longer than the usual 36-hour press launch is the little things you discover that can make you like a car more, or like it less. My experience with the Megane Mk4 has been an overwhelmingly positive one, but it, too, has revealed tiny details that sit in the positive and negative camps.
Take the boot release, for example. No longer a physical catch or handle, most new cars today offer a touch-sensitive button, often clad in rubber and tucked away under the lip of the rear hatch or boot to make the bodywork less cluttered. The Megane is no exception, but the boot button placement is strange. Because it's hidden, you have to feel for it and, rather counter-intuitively, it's not quite central. In fact, neither are there two buttons placed on either side of the rear badge, like on some other cars.
Weirdly it's just off-centre, to the right of Renault's diamond logo. It took me a while to find and get used to the button, until I lifted the hatch and checked for future reference where it actually was. Realising the button was nestled just under the 'A' of the Megane on the boot, I now make sure my hand is lined up under that letter before opening.
The other odd thing it took me longer to realise, but that I now feel positive about, is at the opposite end of the car: namely, that the main front grille is fake. Now, I'm not a big fan of things pretending to be something they're not - the fake vents on the recent Hyundai Kona are one example - but on the Megane, the grille has been so graphically rendered, and the black behind the chrome so close to the surface, that it feels more like a design flourish rather than a deception that is intended to hoodwink the eye.
And I guess the fact that its a 'closed' surface helps with aerodynamics and thus fuel economy, with the engine getting the cooling it needs from the lower air intakes. So on this occasion, I think it's acceptable.
Our average consumption: 46.2mpg
15th report - Sitting comfortably
Once upon a time, you knew you were in the most luxurious version of a particular car because its seats would be leather. But there's a microtrend occurring in car interiors now, driven by designers looking at developments in contemporary domestic furniture - sofas, armchairs and the like - where the most original new materials being used are cloth or fabric, not leather.
The Peugeot 3008's smart grey 'men's suit-inspired' trim is one example, and our fourth-generation Megane long-termer, in a different sense, is another. The Dynamique S Nav trim version of the Megane may be leather around the hard-wearing edges of the seat but the main event, material-wise, is the larger middle seat-back and base sections that sport a particularly pleasing and distinctively three-dimensional 'dumbbell-style' pattern to their dark and velvety cloth.
Eye-catching from a distance and even better up close, the texture feels delightful when you brush your hand over the material. But despite its softness, it's wearing well too. The 'carbon black part-leather and cloth upholstery' also includes contrast stitching on the seams. The latter is designed to ape - among other things - upmarket female handbags that use the same approach. All these details suggest that Renault's design team has fought its corner hard, to create a premium-feeling car despite still very much competing in the mainstream hatchback market.
Beyond this talk of 'surface', the Megane Mk4's seats feel so comfortable that you don't even notice them, which is a sign of good cushioning, unlike the sportier, but often unpleasantly firm, versions from other brands. The net result for Megane drivers should be supremely comfortable motoring, fewer back complaints and thus more refreshed employees when they step out of the car at the end of each journey. Good for business, in other words
Our average fuel consumption: 48.6mpg
14th report - Smooth sailing
Sometimes it's the little people that notice the big things. Like the small friend of my youngest daughter, to whom we gave a lift to the other day. She remarked without prompting how much more spacious our car felt in the back, compared with her parents' admittedly older, but also - in exterior terms - much larger, estate car.
This is a testament to the improved packaging of the Megane's oily bits versus the space allocated to its passenger cabin, made possible by advances in engineering design over the years (and aided no doubt by sharper computer software).
Of course, the smaller you are, the bigger that difference might feel, but she and any rear passengers that have been in the Megane mk4 - and that includes 6ft 3in men with big feet - have also acknowledged the decent room and quietly appreciated the quality ride that helps everyone enjoy the space
We really noticed this positive attribute on a 70-mile homeward-bound trip from low-level camping in deepest Essex, with a boot full to the ceiling of camping gear (the tonneau cover had to suffer a staycation).
It was early evening, after lots of river-based rowing and rounders (and the odd argument), so we were all tired, but the car behaved itself impeccably over bumps, twists and turns, at high speeds and on
Renault's UK press department has distilled all its engineers' hard work into these choice words: "The dampers and bump stops have been revised, the front wishbone bushings are new, the rear suspension joints have been revised to improve absorption of road surface irregularities, and the rear beam axle has been modified to provide bigger micro-steering movements of the rear wheels when turning into corners."
That's reassuring technical detail, but in emotional terms, those improvements translate into the way we felt on our journey home - calm, comfortable and cosseted - in a vehicle that we trusted to get us home with minimum fuss, and maximum comfort and safety, as well as an enabler of great experiences and memories. Perfect.
Our average consumption 50.2mpg
13th report - Mix-and-match multipacks
The carmaker's retort is that option bundles allow them to offer added value to the customer, but sometimes this is seemingly to the detriment of choice. Case in point: the hands-free parking system can be bought separately for £350 from the Megane options list - and presumably needs quite a few sensors to make it work - but 360° parking sensors can't be bought as a single item, if you're still okay with parking yourself.
The nearest thing is the £400 Parking Pack - front and rear parking sensors and a rear parking camera - but that's standard on our Dyanmique S Nav trim anyway.
Better value, and also added to this Megane's options list, is the £400 Safety Pack Premium, which adds adaptive cruise control, safe-distance warning and AEBS (active emergency braking system) - already a proven accident avoider and thoroughly recommended.
Aside from these two packs, the only other two options are Flame Red metallic paint (£645), which I'd tick every time as it's a positive talking point everywhere the car goes, and a 15in emergency spare wheel (£120).
This last one is odd, because firstly, such wheels used to be standard; and secondly, Renault's PR admits it's one of the most-ticked UK options, which leads the cynic in me to believe it's only become optional to lose weight, and thus improve official CO2 figures and tax ratings. Still, Renault should be commended for not stuffing its test cars with endless options (£1,840 on our car) as much is standard already, even on this mid-range model. Just consider letting the customer unbundle a few more.
Our average consumption 44.4mpg
12th report - Can't beat the sound of the '90s
In 1994, Things Can Only Get Better by D:Ream was one of the year's biggest hits, sitting at the top of the UK charts for four weeks. John Major was the prime minister and the Renault Laguna 8V - my personal ride as a secondhand car a few years later - had a cool new feature that allowed the driver to adjust the stereo from a bulky but fairly well-hidden stalk on the steering column.
To turn the volume up, only a gentle pull on the top paddle behind the steering wheel was required. To turn the volume down - on countless a nasty track from 1994, perhaps Michael Bolton's Said I Loved You. But I Lied - a similar pull on the bottom paddle was all that was needed to silence the mullet-haired maestro. To mute the stereo completely, you pulled both paddles together, and if you wanted to get clever and change the radio station, a twirl of the ribbed wheel behind these paddles did the trick. Gently concave to fit two fingers, the paddles felt great and worked a treat.
Fast forward to 2017 and the Mk4 Renault Megane has touch-sensitive volume control available by pressing the plus and minus symbols embedded in the flat frame of the touchscreen. Sounds jazzy. But because the 'virtual buttons' are flush and flat, and the angle of the screen is quite vertical, it's hard to work without lining up your digit very carefully. Indeed, the haptic feedback is so poor that I've found myself using the two-button stalk controls hiding behind the steering wheel. On closer inspection, this control looks and feels exactly like the one on my 1994 Mk1 Laguna.
The Mk4 Megane's touchscreen has some lovely new graphics - and a colour sat-nav my old Laguna's designers would have loved - but someone forget to make the new screen intuitive along the way. Things may have got better on many fronts since 1994, but volume control doesn't appear to be one of them. Or maybe the Mk1 Laguna's Audio Remote feature was just 23 years ahead of
Our average consumption 48.2mpg
11th report - Let's get physical
While our Megane long-termer has brought considerable joy thus far, the central infotainment system is flattering to deceive. Initially lauded by some critics for its portrait shape, deliberately in tune with the orientation of almost all current smartphones, by comparison, the Megane's screen intuitiveness falls short.
The problem is not with the graphics, sharpness or size - key selling points when buying a TV - but with its interface and software design, or, put more simply, how easy is it to navigate through the various windows to find what you actually want quickly and without fuss.
In the Megane, almost every touchscreen manoeuvre seems to take at least one to two more touches than necessary. Case in point, our long-termer came with a rather dull and incongruous rendering of an analogue clock as the home screen, from which it takes three presses of various touchscreen buttons just to get to the map or input a new destination.
Equally, if you want more air blown through the vents, you have to coax up a small window 'handle' from the bottom of the main screen with a press, hold and upward-swipe. These are akin to the shortcuts for controls like the light and 'airplane mode' on an iPhone, but are not as easy to get right while driving. This movement brings up another screen where you have to continually press the plus and minus touchscreen buttons to get the fan to blow harder or softer, before pressing, holding and downward-swiping. again to remove the window (and perhaps reveal the turning you just missed on the map beneath).
In the old days, you just needed to turn a physical knob left or right. Tantalisingly but also rather annoyingly, there are two physical knobs below the touchscreen, but they only affect temperature for each side of the front passenger cabin, not how fast the air arrives. This isn't progress
Our average consumption 48.3mpg
10th report - Touring the estate
A recent airbag fault light on our Megane hatchback long-termer required a quick recall to Renault to check and also gave us the chance to test the exact same spec car in its estate guise - or to give its grander product name - the Sport Tourer.
The good news is that unlike the previous generation, this Megane Sport Tourer actually looks sporty and capable of touring. Where the old model sprouted awkward 'clip-on' C-shaped rear lights and frumpy proportions, the new model feels much more coherent, from its sloping roofline and slimmer side window graphic to its integrated and horizontally-angled back lights.
Of course, svelte rooflines normally don't do much for interior storage space and while it's true that the new Megane Sport Tourer offers fewer luggage litres than its predecessor - 521/1,504 versus 524/1,600 min/max - the difference in the usual 'seats up' figure is pretty minor, while the max 'seats down' space is rarely used to its absolute anyway.
The Sport Tourer also boasts a 1.75m max load length - the hatch can only offer 1.58m - but the latter still offers a decent 434/1,247 min/max litres of boot space from a wide and accessible opening too. Indeed, the potential psychological pain of a trip to Ikea was largely neutralised when we found out how well the furniture we had bought actually slotted into the hatch's rear end, while keeping my teenage kids comfortable enough in the back seats to offer a thumbs up on the proceedings, rather than having to use that same gesture to find a separate way home.
Official economy and emissions figures for the 110hp dCi Dynamique S Nav hatch and estate are identical (76.4mpg and 96g/km CO2) but the £1,300 hike between hatch and pricier estate is significant (£21,340 versus £22,640).
That could be a clincher. Unless you really lug long loads regularly - most lumberjacks need something a bit more commercial and rugged - the less expensive hatch is probably the better-value all-rounder. But if you still really like the idea of a sportier estate, Renault does now genuinely offer one.
Our average consumption 48.5mpg
9th report - Blippin' great
Just like some hotel owners, who think a plastic card to open their rooms makes their residence more modern than those with traditional metal keys, many car brands have been jettisoning old-school openers for variously pocket-sized 'blipper' fobs to allow 'keyless' entry for years. But not all were created equal, or work as well as each other.
Renault was an early-adopting brand in this tech, with a chunky credit card-shaped key on the 2001 Laguna II. But it was too thick to fit into most wallet credit card slots and was made of cheap-looking and dull-feeling plastic. In comparison, Renault's curvy new number - introduced on the 2015 Kadjar - is a visual and functional cut above. The gloss white with chrome trim exterior and integrated badge reflects the brand's more upmarket aspirations, its smooth, small shape fits into pockets easily, and the thing really works.
Yes, it has physical lock and unlock buttons like a normal blipper but it also opens and closes without fingers and thumbs when you get within about 10ft of the car, using infrared tech. Almost more important, the car visually and audibly lets the key holder know it has sensed their presence in advance, certainly well before you touch any door. And when walking away from the car, the mirrors' folding, flashing and clear beeps tell you it's locking with such consistency that you no longer look back to check.
Loads of brands now offer variations of 'keyless go', but too many intermittently get confused or only allow the user to open the driver's door first, or don't give enough feedback to reassure that it really will open when you tug on the handle. When I asked my 12-year old daughter to fetch something from the car in such a manner, she came back declaring it "awesome". I've used more of these systems so might be tougher to impress, but I still think this version - standard across the range - is a 'blippin' great' example.
Our average consumption 55.2mpg
8th report - Grandma loves it (and we do too)
You probably know the dilemma: Two narrow lanes at a red traffic light but only the right one filled with another car. Choose to sidle up alongside the other car and it might seem like you want a drag-race (even if you actually only want to turn left).
So at this point you can either a) try to make friendly eye contact with the driver and/or passenger to the right or b) ignore them completely, look straight ahead and rev the engine to raise the tension further. I was wavering between the two eye-contact approaches - there's no aural threat to be had in hard-revving a 110hp 1.5 dCi diesel - but truth be told I was mainly looking ahead, when I felt the heat of a pair of staring eyeballs from the higher-riding passenger of the car no more than three feet from my head.
Sensing the need to avoid needless confrontation I turned to the passenger to smile and was confronted by an even bigger one back from a grandma who exclaimed: "Nice car, and a lov-er-ly colour too". The lights changed, I turned left carefully and my day was made. This is the power of design, and colour and trim done so well that anyone can feel them.
The following week one of the guys I play football with, and who drives a Porsche 911, commented on the Megane's shapely curves too - something Renault is doing really well - creating interesting volumes without the need to add loads of design cuts and slashes in the bodywork. What's the point of this anecdote for business?
That good design pleases drivers, makes them happier and affects the bottom line in residual values, born out by Kwikcarcost, which gives the curvaceous new Megane a 31.5% RV, versus 30.1% for the still smart Kia Cee'd and 29.3% for the nearest Ford Focus. Good design sells, and also pays. Just ask Grandma.
Our average consumption 56.4mpg
7th report - Comfort versus fun
It's now in its fourth generation, and the Megane has some impressive new looks, a spacious interior and multiple advanced safety technologies - but the most important question is, what is it like to drive?
Luckily for the Megane, its positives outweigh its negatives when it comes to the overall driving experience. The interior has become a little more premium in terms of material quality and spaciousness. But was the choice by Renault's engineers to prioritise aspects such as comfort and space over driving excitement a wise one?
Our Megane is the 1.6 dCI 130, a punchy little engine that is a good performer whether whizzing around town or on longer journeys, but unfortunately lacks slightly in the driving excitement that can be easily found in the Golf or Leon rivals.
Refinement is an area that Renault has concentrated on with the Megane - and it shows. A real positive when driving the Megane is the absence of wind and engine noise, even when driving at speed, and inside the car feels far more premium than any Megane before it.
Steering feel has also improved by adjusting the electronic power steering, which Renault claims makes the car more consistent to drive. The promised comfort of the ride is granted, as the Megane is able to filter out the majority of road imperfections with ease.
One thing that is instantly noticeable on the Megane is its handling. Everything is incredibly light, from the steering to the gear changes, even the pedals. It makes driving around the city easy, and when you hit those open roads there is some grip to be exploited, but spontaneous changes in direction are hampered by the lack of communication between wheel and road, meaning the car has more body roll through the corners than most of its rivals.
Now, let's talk about this Multi-sense button, which is standard on the Dynamique. According to Renault, pressing the magic button will modify the engine response, engine sound and steering weight. It comes with five options: Neutral, Sport, Comfort, Perso and Eco. Unfortunately, apart from providing five different (and pretty funky) light ambiences, we had a difficult time noticing any difference in the drive at all.
What the car quite obviously lacks is a sense of fun, especially in light of its rivals. While it can be argued that this is made up for when considering the other aspects that set it apart, such as premium looks and a good quality interior, we're just not sure whether this is enough.
Our average consumption 53.9mph
6th report - In for a comfy ride
What's the first thing you do when you live in London and get a new car? Get out of London! That's what I did anyway, and it turned out to be a great way of testing out the practicality of our long-term Megane.
In such a competitive class, the first thing to note is that the Megane makes use of its exterior dimensions well. While it is no longer shaking its ass, its boot space has not lost out, reaching 384 litres, which is, in fact, a good deal bigger than most of its rivals including the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.
With the seats folded down, that boot space is increased to an equally impressive 1,247 litres - great for a road trip to the countryside on a bank holiday weekend. Packing the bedding and picnic food galore was when the hurdles began. Firstly, the back seats don't go completely flat, making it difficult to fill the extra space with large items. Secondly, despite its large capacity, loading the boot with heavy items was made tricky by the high lip, which often got in the way.
When it comes to storage, however, the Megane has plenty. There are two holders in the centre console, one in each door, along with a generously sized glove compartment. The door bins are big enough to fit other things in too and are carpeted to stop loose items rattling around, which is a nice touch. The tray in front of the gear stick has a USB port and 12V connectors so you can charge your phone and have enough space to leave it there while you drive.
There is also a decent-sized cubby under the front armrest and one under the steering wheel.
As for comfort, the position of the front seats seems slightly unnatural at first, but you soon get used to it. On the plus side, they are very padded and comfortable - perfect for that long commute or countryside road trip. Head and leg space is decent for passengers in the front, but space in the rear for knees and feet is a little tight.
Our average consumption 53.9mpg
5th report - It wasn't me
I'm in danger of exposing my childish side here - as an editor I'm supposed to be very sensible and mature, after all - but I have to admit that even after a 250-mile round trip in our long-term Megane, I still find the noise the lane departure warning system makes when you venture too close to the line absolutely hilarious.
It's almost as if the car is fitted with its own whoopie cushion and can leave more prudish passengers almost blushing - until you correct them that it's the car that made the noise and not you. It's been a source of much amusement with family and friends and something that never fails to raise a smile with me either.
Joking aside, however, there's a very serious benefit to this system that's potentially life-saving too.
Lane departure warning is among the most important safety systems fitted into cars today and can be a good sign for when the driver is starting to get tired or feeling distracted when behind the wheel. And the best news is that it's standard in our long-termer's Dynamique S spec too.
The system is a little over-cautious at times, but the settings can be easily altered via the touchscreen to low, medium or high sensitivity, and the volume can also be adjusted - especially useful if you're chauffeuring business clients or your mother in-law who may not find the car's apparent bout of flatulence very funny.
You can turn the system off too, along with other advanced safety systems on offer in our long-termer, although we wouldn't recommend it.
Another of our favourite safety features is the automatic high beam which helps improve visibility when driving at night, automatically adjusting the beam for oncoming traffic. I live out in the country where the lighting at night isn't great in parts and this system has
My commute to work involves a lot of motorway driving, so adaptive cruise control has also been very handy and made tackling the M25 on a Monday morning a more relaxing affair. This system can also be easily altered via the controls on the steering wheel to adapt the following distance to the car in front.
The average mph figure indicated when using the sat-nav is a useful touch too, especially when travelling through road works with average-speed cameras, and I like how the distance control alerts you to the stopping distance, measured in seconds, between you and the car in front. It's displayed through the driver's TFT display.
It's not surprising that the Megane achieved a five-star score when it was tested by Euro NCAP, and the majority of these systems form part of a pack costing £400 - very reasonable in our book, although some of the Megane's rivals will offer parts of this kit as standard.
When it comes to parking, though, Renault has been more generous, with a rear parking camera and front and rear parking sensors available as standard equipment on our test car. Our Megane also comes equipped with hands-free parking, all-round sensors and blind-spot monitoring as part of pack for £500 - another bargain.
Helping me to squeeze into the most difficult of parking spaces, the hands-free parking system manoeuvres the car into perpendicular and parallel spaces with ease.
It's also easy to activate by pressing a button just below the infotainment screen, displaying an available space clearly on the driver display, and it's even simpler to use, with the driver just needing to control the accelerator, gears and brakes. The only tricky part is trusting the system and accepting that, in almost all cases, the car will park itself better than you can.
Our average consumption 53.9mpg
4th report - Kept in the dark
The black synthetic leather and cloth upholstery that comes as standard on Renault Meganes in Dynamique S Nav trim makes the cabin feel a bit dark and dingy when you first park your bottom on the driver's seat - particularly as it's combined with the black plastic that, at first glance, seems to be everywhere else.
It's not all doom and gloom inside. As mentioned in the previous report, you get an impressive light show from the coloured LEDs that surround the instrument binnacle, while the central infotainment screen also brightens things up. The flashes of chrome dotted here and there, the pale roof lining and the white stitching on the seats help lighten the mood a bit too. But despite all that it still feels a little too dark in there at first acquaintance.
It must be said, however, that black is, at least, a very practical colour, especially when it comes to hiding the muck that three kids seem capable of depositing (no matter how many times you tell them not to). I'm also sure you'd get used to the monochrome colour scheme pretty quickly. I've got to remember, too, that I've just jumped straight out of the Jaguar XF - a car worth, quite literally, twice as much, but one where the cream seats hid no stains at all.
Renault's simplistic approach to colour schemes extends to the uncluttered layout of the cabin and the ease with which, in my opinion, you can access, the driving assistance functions via the touchscreen infotainment system. And in this context, the decision to keep things simple definitely isn't a black mark.
Our average consumption 53.9mpg
3rd report - Let Megane entertain you
The latest Megane is a technological tour de force - from its auto dip/main-beam headlights, all-round proximity sensors and anti-bumper crunching rear-view camera, to the host of onboard gizmos and gadgets.
Unlike previous Renaults, which had a reputation for suffering from annoying and costly downtime for fleet users due to various electronic gremlins, the latest tech appears - according to service bay warranty audits at least - to be pretty durable. While some features, like adaptive cruise control and safe-distance warning, have obvious safety and potential cost benefits, others are purely aesthetic and entertaining, but sometimes frustrating too.
Take the multi-colour ambient interior lighting. Having chosen your favourite hue for the instrument panel, if you select one of the various driving modes, it overrides that with a virtuous green halo in eco mode, it turns blue in comfort mode, purple in sport mode and monochrome if you don't select one at all. You then have to revert back to the available choices in the infotainment screen the next time you start the car to restore your colour choice.
Too many functions require potentially distracting, finger-fumbling, touch-screen operations when on the move, including altering the air-con's fan speed and ventilation direction. Rather incongruously in this digital environment there is an analogue clock, but it, and the temperature gauge only display when the multi-mode screen is inactive.
Automatic halogen headlights are a boon, even if their response time in adjusting to oncoming headlights is not as rapid as those on some other brands' cars. Furthermore, when the lights are in auto mode, you can't override the system, which means you may well accidentally dazzle fellow road users. Compared to the optional £500 LED equipment, our car's dipped beam reach and spread are a tad underwhelming.
It's worth turning the central infotainment screen blank during night driving too - a task that takes ages to work out how to do via various menus - and using the steering wheel controls to bring things like fuel ecnomy and sat-nav prompts up on the instrument panel, as this eliminates annoying reflections on the windscreen after dark.
Another annoyance is the car's fuel economy. Over 1,840 miles, I've registered an average of 56.1mpg. Although a good result overall, it's a massive 20.3mpg shy of the laboratory-induced official combined figure.
By Hugh Hunston
2nd report - Renault rides to the rescue
Our planned long-term sojourn with the mid-range Megane became a tad shorter overall courtesy of a mindless vandal who, on Christmas Day of all days, wrenched the nearside door mirror off its mountings, leaving it dangling by its life-support cables, rendering the car out of action for, in an apt coincidence given the time of year, 12 days.
While the legal guidance suggested that it was still possible to drive the wounded Renault, it did not seem wise or safe to have impaired rear vision, plus there was always the likely attention it would bring to the police.
Renault stepped into the breach with an equivalent trim level 130hp silver substitute hatchback, although it was packed with additional kit including £1,000 in leather upholstery, a £500 excellent, door-flexing seven-speaker Bose sound system, and LED headlights also costing £500.
The superior stereo included a substantial boot-mounted subwoofer, which ate up the space usually reserved for the emergency spare wheel. The LED headlights were a definite boon, however, quite literally eclipsing the rather average long-range performance of our original Megane's halogen system.
With a £22,195 P11D, £1,200 above the 110hp equivalent and one tax band higher due in part to the elevated 104g/km CO2 rating, the quicker, more muscular and flexible counterpart nonetheless topped 60mpg over the couple of hundred of miles in our care. That might be down to driving style and applying the Eco setting, but the less powerful counterpart over its first 1,500 miles is hovering around the 54mpg average mark.
So that we could resume the test routine with the original car more rapidly, Renault replaced the mirror in-house. Considering all the gizmos built into a modern 'smart' mirror module, including folding and heating mechanisms plus blind-spot alert, the nominal cost did not seem outrageous: it involved a bill of £136.16 for the replacement unit and £43.20 (30 minutes) labour charge.)
By Hugh Hunston
1st report - Megane joins the fleet
The fourth-generation Megane hatchback, of which we have recently taken custody, has arrived more than two decades, and 500,000 British market sales, after the original model appeared. Renault's number-crunchers anticipate the business sector to account for half of sales volume.
Bigger than its predecessor, Renault's C-sector mainstay maintains the sharp, sculpted look applied by design boss Laurens van der Acker that we've seen on other recent Renualts and which is contributing towards the brand's current upward sales momentum.
Form has to follow function and cost-effectiveness for corporate drivers and fleet managers. And over the first few hundred miles our newcomer, in Dynamique S Nav dCi 110hp form, looks capable of holding its own in a hugely competitive fleet sector.
This mid-range model's £20,995 P11D encompasses generous standard equipment levels, including sat-nav, cruise control, auto headlights and wipers, 17-inch alloys, automatic climate control and an 8.7-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
Separately there are £1,650 worth of options too, with premium parking and safety packs contributing £900 of that. This is on top of hands-free parking, all-round parking sensors, AEB, and distance warning alerts, which are also included in the pack.
Renaults have come a long way from the mid-'90s poor quality and reliability syndrome, with the Megane closing the gap on VW's Golf for fit and finish. But its interior still lacks the German's interior material class and tactility, with irritating details like cruise control switchgear concealed behind the steering wheel.
It doesn't take long to get your head round the R-Link infotainment system, controlled from the high-mounted i-Pad-style screen, even if using the climate control involves some distracting manipulation of the touchscreen.
We suspect the interior design may be a sense of the designers doing things becuse they could, rather than they should. The emphasis on digital displays and the way the centre console is laid out isn't ideal. Meanwhile the cabin ambient lighting may not be to everyone's taste either.
As a driving proposition, our Megane is refined and responsive, while the tax-friendly 110hp 1.5-litre dCi diesel emits 96g/km CO2, which results in a 21% 2017/18 BIK rating. This puts it right up with rivals such as the 1.6-litre diesel Vauxhall Astra.
The S Nav specification upgrade involves smart 17-inch alloys and, unusually, moving up a wheel size does not compromise the pliant and comfortable ride. Electric power steering is much improved even if it lacks the feedback you'd get in the Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra.
Inside, back-seat legroom is traded for a substantial 434-litre boot, while high-mounted rear headrests restrict rear visibility.
In the real world, the official 76.4mpg fuel consumption seems unattainable and, probably due to experimenting with eco and sport driving modes, I've only managed an 48.7mpg average over the first 731 miles.
The cleverly executed integrated fuel-filler system, which dispenses with a fiddly screw-on cap, also prevents misfuelling at the pumps, although it's not easy to accurately brim the tank.
So far, it's impressing with the generous equipment levels and spacious boot. We're hoping the fuel economy will improve over the coming months and miles, however.
By Hugh Hunston