2016 Renault Megane range road test and review
SUBSTANCE and style is the mantra for Renault with its new Megane hatch.
With prices starting from $22,490, the French marque is looking for conquest sales as it pushes the message of being premium, but without the price tag.
There's little doubt this hatch offers some head-turning design.
Some Renaults of the past have been polarising, yet this fourth gen effort is a departure from the big-bummed style of a decade ago, displaying more stylish lines which is an extension of the DNA found in the lovely little Clio.
For starters there are two turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engines, with wagon and sedan versions to arrive next year.
This hatch derivative will be the volume seller, with the range topping GT-Line ($32,490) and most potent GT ($38,490) expected to be the most popular.
Renault has evolved into a niche offering Down Under with a passionate following, although with the marketing beginning to push pricing and a strong dealer distribution the marque's hierarchy believes there is a strong case for growth.
There is a sizable divide between the base Life and Zen models from the GT duo.
Entry-level buying can feel bereft of glamour, with some hard plastics and vacant looking dash spaces spoiling the party, although cabin space has been improved with a longer wheelbase (distance between front and rear wheels) and greater overall length.
All models come with a colour seven-inch touch-screen and most operations are straight-forward…with a few French caveats. Turning on the cruise control is done via a console-mounted switch and the stereo controls sit on a stalk behind the steering wheel.
Adults can fit in the rear, even those up around 180cm, but the space under the front pews is tight for feet.
Across the range the seats offer good support, but the GT does have some serious side bolstering and needs some extra effort during entry and exit.
On the road
Sprightly off the mark, the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine won't have you languishing at the lights.
It's the engine of choice in three of the four specifications, and feels much quicker than the standstill to 100kmh time of 10.3 seconds Renault quotes. Key to that is having peak torque at just 2000rpm.
Our test drives were across some of the worst roads available in NSW and Queensland, yet the Megane managed to offer reasonable ride comfort and cut a swathe through some seriously twisty and hilly terrain.
There was some wind noise, but the Megane settled well over challenging undulations, potholes and dips.
When it came to the range-topping GT, it's a noticeably stronger beast in acceleration and braking. Aided by four-wheel steering, it ripped through hinterland terrain with consummate ease backed by the punchier turbo four-potter to deliver a stirring drive.
Our primary complaint though was some unusual auto gearbox shifts between second and third gears, but the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts make it simple for manual control to offer an engaging drive for which the marque has become renown.
What do you get?
Life gets rear camera and rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring system, R-LINK2 multimedia system with seven-inch touch-screen and digital radio, leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control air con, auto headlights and wipers, front LED Daytime Running Lights, and 16-inch steel wheels with a full size temporary spare wheel - a rarity nowadays.
Jump up into the Zen and you get Edge LED Daytime Running Lights, 16 inch alloys, sat nav, front parking sensors and electric park brake.
You can add a $1990 sunroof pack, which also includes a sun visor with light and auto dimming rearview mirror, on both those cheaper variants.
When you get into the GT-Line things get more luxurious. Safety kit includes Blind Sport Warning, automated parking, electric sunroof, colour TFT instrument cluster, five drive modes, leather trimmed seats, Nappa leather steering wheel, heated front seats and 17-inch alloys (you can gets 18s for $900).
When it comes to the range-topping GT, you get the four-wheel steering, launch control, sport suspension and brakes, dual chrome exhaust, steering wheel paddle shifters, alloy pedals, 18-inch alloys, and alcantara leather with blue highlights.
The $1990 Premium Pack on GT and GT-Line includes Pure Vision LED headlights, and a funky 8.7-inch portrait orientation multimedia system with 12-speaker Bose stereo.
While Renault has its own R-Link system, it does go without smartphone mirroring devices Android Auto and Apple Carplay which have become commonplace in the latest offerings.
Safety includes six airbags, anti-lock brakes and stability control, but it misses out on emergency braking, lane departure warning and radar cruise control.
Fuel consumption should be in the realm of seven litres for every 100km for all models (although out spirited testing saw the figure closer to 10). They do, however, run on the more expensive 95 octane unleaded.
During recent years, Renault has been working to bust the myth of expensive ownership. 30,000km (or 12 months) between services is pretty appealing too.
Through having a strong spares supply chain, the marque maintains 40 of the most common parts are equal to or cheaper than most of the mainstream brands.
Pop the boot and there's a cavernous space, with the 434 litres surpassing a Mazda3 (408), VW Golf (380) and Toyota Corolla (360).
It grows to 1247 with the seats down, which means it beats some compact SUVs like the Honda HR-V. The result? It's great for carting bikes, boards and other equipment.
There are two (albeit shallow) cup holders in the console, and an excellent space in front of the shifter close to USB and 12-volt ports that is perfect for your smartphone.
Quite the looker, the dominant Renault diamond on the Megane's grille and beautifully refined lines offer appeal to broad age groups.
The GT gets the gong for most alluring however, with the combination of internal and external flair. You've got to dig deep to find nearly $40,000 before on-roads for this halo model though.
Changing opinions is a battle for any brand.
Renault is looking to maintain its airs and graces without becoming a commodity marque, yet also muscling in on the compact territory owned by Toyota, Hyundai and Mazda.
The all-new Megane certainly has some appeal which could sway opinion.
Offering a zesty drive in a good-looking package, it's easy to overlook some of its safety absences and trademark French quirks.
Competition is fierce in the small hatch segment, but the all-new Megane looks fresh for the fight.
Model: 2017 Renault Megane.
Details: Five-door five-seat front-wheel drive hatch.
Engines: 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power 97kW @ 4500rpm and 205Nm of torque @ 2000rpm; 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol generating 151kW @ 6000rpm and 280Nm of torque @ 2400rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic.
Consumption: 5.6 litres/100km (combined average); GT - 6.0L/100km.
Performance 0-100kmh: 10.3 seconds; GT - 7.1 seconds.
Bottom line: Life (m) $22,490, (a) $24,990; Zen (a) $27,490; GT-Line (a) $32,490, GT (a) $38,490. Metallic paint $600.
What matters most
What we liked: Zesty performance from the base models, super-sharp four-wheel steering in the GT, premium airs and graces.
What we'd like to see: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, some extra internal design flair on the base models, standard key over the credit card arrangement.
Warranty and servicing: Five-year unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist for the same period. Capped price servicing is available for $299 with the intervals at 30,000km or annually.
Driving experience 16/20
Features and equipment 16/20
Functionality and comfort 15/20
Value for money 16/20
Style and design 18/20