Car reviews - Renault - Megane - Diesel sedan range
Amazing refinement, diesel torque and economy, large interior, huge boot, value for money, option of an auto
Room for improvement
Sedan is a little dull, no hatchback option for now
15 Aug 2007
SEDANS derived from hatches usually come out looking and feeling inferior to the models that begat them (Toyota Echo Sedan anybody?), but do not let this completely cloud your judgement.
Renault’s handsome and well-proportioned Megane sedan is certainly an exception.
Free from the awful ‘bum-wiggling’ ad that only served to add baggage to the under-rated (and still quite striking) Megane hatchback’s reputation, the sedan has clearly been designed and engineered from the beginning to be a three-box vehicle.
Backing this up is a longer wheelbase that liberates significantly more rear legroom than the hatch, a split/fold rear seat that is more comfortably reclined and a massive 520-litre boot.
But none of this endeared the sedan to us back at its local debut in early 2004, with “mediocre handling, lazy automatic transmission and springy steering” relegating the Renault to non-driver’s car status.
However, while the Phase II facelift of 2006 did address some of the steering and handling woes, it is up to the new dCi turbo-diesel powerplant to push the Megane sedan over the line and into driving pleasure.
While the Ford Focus, Mazda3 and VW Golf/Jetta all handle and ride with more fun and finesse, they either lack the Renault’s features or cost thousands of dollars more. And the Megane sedan is not too far behind dynamically, either.
The Megane’s rivals also have a hugely competitive engine to contend with.
Renault has been at the forefront of diesel technology for decades and the 96kW/300Nm 1.9-litre dCi turbo-diesel unit is a quiet, smooth, sweet and punchy little engine, feeling very undiesel-like in its refinement, but still providing an enjoyable amount of performance from low in the rev range.
This little powerplant also ticks all the right economy and carbon-dioxide emissions boxes, too, so why would you consider going petrol at all?
Unfortunately, we could only sample the dCi with the six-speed manual shifter, which is certainly no chore at all.
The optional four-speed automatic transmission – fitted to a detuned 96kW/260Nm 1.9-litre motor – is related to the gearbox found in the petrol Megane, so it could either be a brilliant match to the diesel engine, or it might feel out of synch, as we have previously found in the 2.0-litre petrol.
With virtually all its dynamic and mechanical issues sorted, people can now sit back and revel in the Megane dCi sedan’s strengths.
Chief among these, besides space, is a long list of standard features – including stability control, six airbags, ABS brakes and climate control air-conditioning.
Then there are the little things, like the nifty little sunshades for the rear-seat passengers, a chilled compartment box and a very obviously European cabin ambience. It is rather nice in there – if not overly abundant in soft-feel materials.
We believe that Renault was correct in waiting for the right car combo before it launched the diesel in Australia.
We would rather drive a Megane dCi than most new small sedans under $30,000, and even over a few medium-sized ones.
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