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Car reviews - Renault - Megane - 5-dr hatch range

Our Opinion

We like
Keener pricing, improved quality, less polarising styling, more standard equipment
Room for improvement
Less adventurous design, lack of engine torque, lack of Renault brand strength in Australia

28 Oct 2010

FIRST impressions on exiting the carpark in Renault's latest Megane hatchback are that the electric steering is absurdly light, but it quickly acquires weight with speed and proves to be one of the Megane’s several strengths.

There is excellent feel through the wheel. Unfortunately the test route was so undemanding that it was not possible to judge whether steering rack rattle under hard driving over bumpy roads could be an issue.

The brakes, which are huge (280mm discs up front, 260mm behind, and vented all round), work superbly. Pedal feel is just right. Braking is one of the areas where the Renault excels. It is capable of reaching a complete halt from 100km/h in 39 metres. Older readers may recall the old Renault R8 with its sensational four-wheel discs back in 1963…

The 2.0-litre engine is said to deliver 102kW when teamed with the manual gearbox (Dynamique only) and 103kW with the CVT, but this is due to a rounding anomaly. Nevertheless the former version is Euro 5 emissions-compliant while the CVT’s only meets Euro 4.

Maximum torque of both is a modest 195Nm achieved at a rather high 3750rpm. What this means in practice is that, in normal driving conditions, the engine is not operating optimally. Certainly, the CVT makes its presence felt often in hilly conditions.

In 2010 both maxima are low for a 16-valve 2.0-litre engine, especially one installed in a 1357kg vehicle (1292 in the case of the manual), but the chassis balance of the Megane is excellent and could easily use far more power and (particularly) torque.

When the diesel engine arrives sometime towards the end of 2011 it is likely to offer stronger performance, especially torque, along with significantly better economy. The advent of the diesel should also boost Megane sales as many buyers in this class now insist on diesel. It looks like a strange decision by Renault Australia’s former management not to have brought the diesel into its Megane mix from day one.

GoAuto had no opportunity to sample the six-speed transmission, which would be the keen driver’s choice, but the CVT teams satisfactorily with the engine to deliver acceptable rather than lively performance. Renault’s approach seems to be to make its sports models truly focused and hard-edged and to leave the mainstream models without any pretensions to serious performance.

Nevertheless, a little more urge would be welcomed by many prospective buyers, especially those downsizing from a locally manufactured six-cylinder sedan.

Noise, vibration and harshness levels are low, although hard acceleration produces the typical CVT drone, which lasts a long time especially if you are climbing a steep hill at the time!

The roads used for the launch drive were almost uniformly straight and smooth but the sharp steering feel at cruising speed and the quiet, supple ride were highlights. It has the relaxed feel of a larger model and would be an excellent interstate cruiser. The CVT models use 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle and the manual 8.2.

The new models ride on wider front and rear tracks. Bodyroll has been reduced. The Mégane’s specific roll angle, which defines body lean as it corners, is rated at 0.42° for lateral acceleration of 1m/s2. This is notably better than the European segment average of 0.45°. The old Renault 16, with its perilous lean (and debilitating torque), is a distant memory.

A wider accelerator pedal and increased distance between it and the brake pedal are typical of the engineering depth that has gone into the new Megane.

While a full road test under much more varied driving conditions will be needed before GoAuto can reach a final judgement, first impressions are of a thoroughly engineered, competent and generally likeable small car with more space and features than most rivals - but in need, perhaps, of just a little more performance.

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